Skip to main content

People who make a difference – Wendy Crawford

Coordinator, volunteer, mentor – Boys & Girls Club of Shawano, Leadership Shawano County, Shawano Community Foundation, Shawano Country Chamber Board, Mountain Bay Trail

share arrow printer bookmark flag

April 21, 2023

B_hdsEAbfucSHAWANO – Following in her mother’s footsteps, Shawano County resident Wendy Crawford said much of her life has been dedicated to volunteering and giving back in some form.

“I started volunteering when I was in high school and have continued ever since,” she said. “My mom was an active volunteer, so I followed in her footsteps. She was my model of service to the community.”

Credited for being a driving force behind bringing both Leadership Shawano County and the Boys & Girls Club of Shawano to her hometown, Crawford said seeing a project through is something she’s always been inspired to do.

After working and living in Chicago in her late 20s and early 30s, Crawford said she returned to Shawano, got married and picked back up where she left off.

“When I noticed an ad for a program coordinator for Leadership Shawano County, which is a Shawano Country Chamber of Commerce program – the job description fit the skill set I had been using all of those years,” she said. “This gave me a unique opportunity to dig deeper into the community.”

Crawford said volunteering became “interesting” for her when she began heading up the Leadership Shawano County program – which partially focuses on service projects.

“I worked with many different teams,” she said. “Part of my job was to lead these groups through service projects.”

Crawford said she guided group after group through the nine-month program – but her involvement in the projects didn’t stop there.

“When it was time for a Leadership Shawano County class to graduate, I stayed on as a volunteer for many (of the projects they were working on), and I’m still involved,” she said. “I tend to get invested, especially if the idea is grassroots, and I was there from the beginning.”

One of these projects was the launch of the Boys & Girls Club of Shawano – an initiative she was involved in from concept to opening.

“I am mission-driven by the need to have mentors for our young people in our community,” she said. “We had been hearing about the need for a Boys & Girls Club in our community for many years. But, I think, when people looked into the process and found out it was a multiple-year, multiple-phase project, it was just too big.”

Crawford said Leadership Shawano County took a different approach.

“We said, ‘What if class No. 1 would take it as far as they can, do all the steps within nine months and then turn it over to the next class to take it as far as they can in nine months,’” she said.

// Crawford

Crawford said it took three years to open the doors of the club in Shawano – which is a charter of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Green Bay.

“Three classes of Leadership Shawano County were successful in partnering with the Boys & Girls Club in Green Bay and bringing the Shawano charter here, and that started 10 years ago,” she said.

Crawford said she has witnessed first-hand the difference the Boys & Girls Club has had on the youth in her community.
“We’re now building (opportunities for) young people, helping them create confidence and helping with that social-emotional need,” she said.

Crawford served on the board of the club for several years before stepping back.

Not one to sit back, Crawford describes herself as “altruistic by nature.”

“I get a lot of energy out of being with other people, being creative and coming up with a solution and then following through with a solution,” she said. “There’s something about that process that I find intriguing, and the end result is simply rewarding.”

The Mountain Bay Trail Center is another project Crawford helped get started a handful of years ago through Leadership Shawano County and continues to work with today.

“The Mountain Bay Trail runs from Green Bay to Wausau – with 53 miles running through Shawano County,” she said. “We are raising money to not only help maintain the trail but also open up a trail center with bathrooms in the heart of Shawano.”

Crawford said the team behind the project will be kicking off a fundraising campaign soon.

“It’s so rewarding to see an idea come to fruition,” she said.

Making a difference
Crawford said she’d much rather be a participant in her community than a bystander.

“I believe healthy communities require community involvement,” she said. “It’s fun and rewarding to feel part of the community.”
Crawford said she doesn’t look at volunteering as work and encourages others to also look at it “from different eyes.”

“Instead of looking at volunteering as something more to do, or a lot of work – look at it as an opportunity to use a skill you enjoy using,” she said. “I can’t speak highly enough about the camaraderie and the friendship and the fun we have.”

Just as she looked to her mother as an inspiration to give back, Crawford said her daughter has also followed a similar path.

“My daughter – who is now 27 – as soon as she was able, she would come with me for whatever volunteering I was doing,” she said. “She has chosen a career and a life of service – working as a social worker. She is also involved with extracurriculars involving service to people in our community.”

Crawford said she’s a little nervous about the future of volunteering and giving back.

“Baby boomers seem to still hold many – and I’m not going to say all – but many of the positions in volunteering,” she said. “We have the young professionals’ group that continues to be those models for volunteering, and I’m so grateful for that group.”

But Crawford said more is needed.

// Crawford, right, said the camaraderie, friendship and fun she’s experienced through volunteering is second to none. She hopes sharing her stories will inspire others to give back. Submitted Photo

“As baby boomers retire, not all of them stay around or continue to be active,” she said. “So, I think there’s going to be a real hardship (for volunteers), if it hasn’t started already.”

Crawford said she hopes “young people are watching.”

“I hope the younger generation can feel the satisfaction I’ve had from service to the community,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to try something new. Volunteering, connecting with people and helping communities certainly feels a lot better than wasting a bunch of time on my iPhone.”

Crawford said she has always been intentional when it comes to volunteering.

“We all have time,” she said. “It’s the decision on how we spend our time that matters.”

Crawford said the volunteering she has done and continues to do, isn’t about her.

“But, if sharing my story serves as a catalyst for others to get out there and volunteer, then it’s worth it,” she said. “Hopefully, spreading the word will spark others to do it.”

Never-ending giving
Although retired from her day-to-day job, Crawford said she doesn’t plan on slowing down.

“I’m retired, but I don’t want to sit in a rocking chair,” she said. “My version of retirement is never slowing down. It’s being able to continue to use the skills I have and the networking I’ve developed to make our community a better place. I need to wake up with purpose, and I certainly found purpose in our community.”

share arrow printer bookmark flag

Trending View All Trending