Dorothy Crawford: Investing in the Future

Dorothy Crawford learned through lean times about the need to be prepared.

Born in 1918 in a small rural community in northwest Alabama, "Dot" Crawford was the daughter of a mail carrier and a former school teacher who, during the Great Depression, recognized the importance of canning or drying their fruits and vegetables. "You thought about the winter in the summertime, when you had plenty of produce," she says, "so you'd have something to take care of you in the winter." 

That same principle underlies the Macon County Community Foundation, an NCCF affiliate in the western town of Franklin. "The community foundation is there to take care of you if you plan it right," Crawford says. "And don't get into your principal,” she adds. “ Just use your income every year and don't deplete your principal."

Macon County Community Foundation

Formed in 1992, the Macon County Community Foundation has awarded a nearly $1 million in grants and scholarships to the local area. One of the Foundation's first funds was a scholarship endowment Crawford created at Franklin Church of Christ-McCollum Drive with funds from her father's estate. Crawford also created the Macon County Unit 108 American Legion Auxiliary Scholarship. "He believed in education," Crawford says of her father, who died in 1980.

A life of social work

Investment in education was a key to her own future. After two years of junior college in Nashville, Tenn., Crawford received a bachelor's degree in accounting and psychology from Pepperdine University in California. Wanting to return to the south as a social worker, she received a certificate in 1941 after one year at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she met her future husband, John Crawford, who was studying accounting. 

After a short stint working as a social worker for Davidson County and in Lauderdale County, AL, where she grew up, Crawford moved to Texas, where her husband was stationed at an Air Force base and where they were married in March 1942.

After war, the couple returned to Franklin, John Crawford's hometown, where he got a job as a postal carrier and Dot got a job, on Feb. 15, 1952, as a social worker for the county. She was named director of the county department of social services in 1959 and retired June 30, 1984, six months after her husband retired.

Retired volunteer

In retirement, Dot Crawford has led a busy life as a volunteer. In addition to her former service on the board of directors of the Macon County Community Foundation, including a stint as chair, she serves as Franklin's representative to the Affordable Housing Group in Charlotte and as a delegate to the North Carolina Senior Tar Heel Legislature, which she previously served as speaker. Now in her 90s, she still travels frequently for volunteer work throughout the state. John, who is nine months her junior, always is behind the wheel. "My husband drives me everywhere," she says. "He says, 'I just drive Dot.'"

A vision for the future

Dot Crawford admires the philanthropic vision of the late Lewis R. "Snow" Holding, who was chairman and CEO of First Citizens Bank, co-founded the North Carolina Community Foundation and once took a nap on the couch in her living room during a visit to Franklin to help organize support for NCCF’s local affiliate.

The Foundation has made people "more conscious of thinking about funding for things in the future," she says. "We think about today but we don't think about tomorrow." And thinking about the future is critical, she says, because "freedom is not given to us if we don't plan for it." She also recognizes the value of Holding's strategy of creating a statewide foundation to provide centralized, back-office support for local endowment funds in rural counties that otherwise might not have an ongoing source of philanthropic assets. 

Services provided by the Foundation's central office leave leaders of the local funds free to focus their time and energy providing advice on grants and developing relationships with prospective donors who can create new funds. Crawford says the Foundation "helps make sure there are funds for the future."