As Siham Baladi, owner of Silver and Beyond, stands surrounded by beautiful pieces of jewelry and enchanting gifts, she doesn’t wish for material items this holiday season, but rather peace for all. “I go out in the mornings to run and I feel like I am begging God for peace. It is madness what is going on (in Syria),” Baladi said. “My heart is broken for all these people, for all their losses, their businesses, their livelihood.” Baladi, was born and raised in Aleppo, Syria a country that is being torn apart by a devastating civil war. Baladi has lived in the states for decades but still considers Syria home. “My heart is broken for every child, to a trillion pieces for everyone. It (the war) has destroyed the past, present and future of the country, of my home. What I want this Christmas is nothing but peace.” Baladi’s brothers still reside in Syria and she admits every time she speaks with them, she worries it may be her last. “I got a phone call from my bother saying, ‘Don’t worry if you see pictures on the news, we are all fine!’ An explosion happened at a building by his home, our parents old home, and it broke every window, all the glass in his house broke,” Baladi said. “Here I am just trying to get through the day. You get emotional and scared but I know I have be strong for them, for myself.” Baladi stops to compose herself before carrying on to share her view point of not only the war, but of finding peace. “People live in a small box. When you don’t travel and you don’t go outside your area, you don’t know. You can’t just get the news from CNN. You have to care for others. We can live in peace, with everyone being different if we care about each other. If you think about it that way, the world is really just a small village. We are all connected,” Baladi said. Baladi lives each day following these beliefs and putting them into practice. She warmly greets each guest in the store and cares for each of them as if they were her only customer. She fills her shelves with decedent pieces of jewelry from all over the world and places them along side handmade cards from the children at St. Vincent, cookbooks from Haven House and the Christmas tree she puts up for the Boys and Girls Club. “I work with many community organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of Lansing,” Baladi said. “And we sell many things in the store that go back to charities. We sell Haven House cookbooks and we sell nice cards from St. Vincent. They are thank you notes from the orphans.” Baladi works closely with many community organizations and finds inner peace in giving back to those in need. She prepares every holiday season for her big event with the Boys and Girls Club and finds time year round to be involved in making her community a better place. “I am getting ready for my big event. I sponsor The Boys and Girls Club Giving Tree. We get a big response from the community. I have families that go out of their way every year. They tell me they don’t need material things anymore so they give to others. There is a big need out there for people like that. I want peace; this is what I want for Christmas. I want happiness for every child; I want every child to have (a) good life. These people who give, I tell them, ‘You are my Christmas gift.’” Baladi was awarded the Crystal Award in 2011 for her involvement and dedication to the community. The Crystal Awards, hosted annually by the East Lansing City Council, honor individuals, businesses and community groups that have made an outstanding contribution to community life in East Lansing. Award recipients are recognized for their dedication and contributions to enhancing the East Lansing community. They demonstrate a passion and commitment to creating a healthy and vibrant community and serve as an inspiration to others. “They surprised me in the lobby because I couldn’t go to the event,” Baladi said. “We were supposed to have a meeting here and they were like ‘we need to go outside’ and I was like ‘why are the people here?’ and they all yelled ‘surprise!’ I was shocked. It was nice and the best honor to have. I didn’t even know. It was a big honor. I honestly don’t except anything from anyone, I just want good things for everyone.” She shares this dedication to community with her family and has raised her children the same way she was raised with the help of her dedicated husband. “My mom and dad raised us like that, to be involved, to help others. My brothers are like that too. They work with organizations as well. You learn from the very beginning to give; it is part of how children are raised. My husband and I tried to teach our kids the same,” said Baladi. “My husband is a professor in civil engineering at MSU. We have two kids, Michelle who is a doctor in pharmacology and my son Michael works for the government and lives with is wife Heather and my grandson Nolan. They are my happiness.” Baladi’s family is her support system and her daughter was the driving force in her starting Silver and Beyond located in the downtown East Lansing Marriott Hotel. Opening the doors in 2004, the boutique has since grown to almost double its original size and has loyal customers from all over the world. Baladi’s warm smile and infectious spirit captivates many of her guests and is showcased in all of her personally selected merchandise. “I had the opportunity to open the store and Michelle would say, ‘Mom you can do it, you have always wanted to own your own boutique.’ And I would say, ‘No I’m old. I’m 50.’ But 50 is the new 20 now! When I opened in 2004 I was so scared, I felt like I would last six months. Now it is 2013,” Baladi said. “I keep learning and I do it with passion and I treat my customers like they are coming into my house. I have customers from all over. I’m very international in a way. And now from the store and through my customers I travel everyplace. Some of them are like family.” Family of all kinds has always been important to Baladi, but now more than ever she values the time she has. She cherishes every conversation, every holiday and every moment she gets with them. “It is about spending time with them and telling them you love them and how much you appreciate them. You just don’t know when something bad is going to happen,” said Baladi. “When I hear people complaining about having to cook for a whole family … I wish I could shake them. I would tell them it’s about hugging them and creating memories. You don’t appreciate the moment. So many people put emphasis on the running around and decorating. I used to do that, but it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have family.”
Ami Iceman-Hauter is the Brand Manager at M3 Group in downtown Lansing. Iceman is a graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelors degree in creative advertising.