Community Foundation of St. Joseph County

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Don and Nancy Crawford

Enduring Stewardship

Nancy and Don Crawford

Years ago, Don Crawford thought he’d be a dairy farmer. Don and his wife Nancy went so far as to purchase a piece of land in New York State, picturing it as a future home for Holsteins.

But instead his path led to banking. Don worked for Mishawaka Financial for 35 years, retiring as vice president and treasurer of the company. His wife spent 25 years with Ameritech as a service representative. Both are South Bend natives who moved to Mishawaka in the mid-1950s when Don finished his service in the Navy. They’re a couple known for service to the community: Don has been a member of the Mishawaka Lions Club with perfect attendance for 50 years, and he’s served as a Mishawaka City councilman and on the boards of the Mishawaka Public Library and Bethel College. He and Nancy have been active members of the Coalbush United Methodist Church for more than half a century. For many years, Nancy was a primary Sunday school teacher and a volunteer reading helper at Beiger School.

Don and Nancy share a love of Japanese culture. They’ve hosted five Japanese exchange students over the years, as well as students from other countries, and have been to Japan more than a dozen times with their two sons and four grandchildren. Through their friendship with Helen Amos, the elementary teacher responsible for Mishawaka’s sister-city relationship with Shiojiri City, they’ve become honorary citizens of Shiojiri.

Because of this relationship, the Crawfords talked to Mayor Beutter about developing an authentic Japanese “strolling garden” in the area opposite the Merrifield swimming pool. With support from the Mayor, the City, the Lions Club, and many other generous corporate and individual donors, the 1.3-acre Shiojiri Niwa was created. 

For more than 25 years, Don has taken near-daily walks through the Shiojiri Niwa, doing his part to help make sure the park is well maintained. His commitment to the Shiojiri Niwa is bigger than simply picking up pieces of trash: In the late 1990s, the Crawfords established the Nancy and Donald Crawford Fund for Shiojiri Garden with the Community Foundation. This endowed fund—which has grown substantially since it was established—ensures that this peaceful garden will be cared for long into the future.

The Crawfords didn’t stop there. Recently, they created the Fund for Beutter Park with the Foundation, which provides that same kind of permanent support for the riverside park named in honor of Robert C. Beutter, a friend of the Crawfords who served as Mishawaka’s mayor for 20 years. Although the Fund for Beutter Park is starting small, the Crawfords hope that it will attract additional donations from others who care about the future of Mishawaka’s green spaces and wish to honor Bob.

The environment is very important to the Crawfords, but they care deeply about other issues, too. For many years, Don has been a tireless champion of improving fine arts education in Mishawaka schools. Don and Nancy find the Community Foundation to be the perfect vehicle to ensure that all the causes to which they’ve dedicated so much time, talent, and treasure receive support forever. They’ve used a variety of tactics to cement their plans, including gifts of cash and stock, matching gift opportunities, and charitable gift annuities.

The Crawfords still own that land in New York. The Holsteins never materialized, but in recent years, Don and Nancy have added a pond and a rustic cabin. It’s become a place that the their children and grandchildren love, too, and will cherish long into the future—like the enduring family legacy that the Crawfords have built through the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County.