Since joining the staff at the Center in 2011, I have had the privilege of getting to meet some really fantastic people. Hearing their stories, discovering their passions, and witnessing the impacts of their generosity is continually uplifting. I hope to share these wonderful and encouraging stories from the vibrant individuals that support the Center and are part of a diverse community leading the way to make our mission a reality. I hope that you like meeting them, learning from them, and that you might find a bit of inspiration along the way.
It was 2005. Eric was living in the Netherlands with his wife Elsie and their young son Robert. That same year, the Crawfords returned to Milwaukee to visit family, and it was during this trip when Eric discovered the Urban Ecology Center. He had been on a bike ride along the Oak Leaf Trail when he happened upon the Center and decided to stop in to check it out. Instantly, recalling the neighborhood from his student years and with his newly gained perspective from living in an environmentally progressive community in the Netherlands, he understood the Center’s significance.
“We believe in the mission of the Center as a way to teach people to heal our planet, or at least, leave it cleaner than we found it.” says Eric. A year after that first visit, the Crawfords moved to Milwaukee to be closer to family, and now the entire crew has gotten involved with the Center in one way or another.
As a family, the Crawford's are often spotted biking to the Center’s festivals and special events. For several years, the trio has volunteered for the Teen Adventure Challenge at the Hubbard Park check point. Even as a four year old, Robert could be spotted wading in the river holding the clipboard guide for teen participants. Eric and Elsie believe that spending time in nature with role models to learn from is a valuable experience for kids. With this in mind the Crawfords also enrolled Robert in the Outdoor Adventures Summer Camp which allowed him to get dirty and see the city from a different perspective – the urban wilderness.
It's not a stretch to see why for the last two years, Eric and Elsie jumped in to help as a host family for the Center’s annual fundraising event, A Hoot in the Night, which raises scholarship funds for kids from low-income families to attend Summer Camp. Scholarships allow kids, who otherwise might not have the same opportunity as Robert, to experience the wilderness and continue learning during the summer months. (Eric and Elsie asked me to encourage you to learn more about the event and consider coming this year. Click here for more information about A Hoot in the Night.)
While the family has enjoyed participating in and volunteering for the Center’s programs, Eric amped up his involvement nearly as soon as he arrived back in Milwaukee. He has served as a member of the Board of Directors and on the Human Resources committee since 2008. With a graduate degree in Human Resources and Industrial Relations, Eric has provided a wealth of constructive guidance and insight on how to preserve the unique employment culture of the Center as it continues to grow. He has also been an amazing advocate of the Center, introducing it to family and friends.
Understanding the significance of the Urban Ecology Center, and what it has done for Riverside Park and the surrounding neighborhoods keeps the Crawford's motivated to share this place with the people they meet. Even through their involvement in other community based organizations, they have spread the word about the Urban Ecology Center. Perhaps, one of their favorite experiences at the Urban Ecology Center was leading a tour of all three branches for a group of Israeli ecologists. “Besides a lot of activities and events, what stood out the most was being part of a teaching moment on food with a class at the Menomonee Valley branch,” Eric recounted. The group was visiting Milwaukee through a program with the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, another organization which the Crawfords support. The group was here to learn about sustainability best practices in order to start a similar program for underserved communities in the city of Tiberias, so naturally the Crawfords brought them to the Urban Ecology Center.
Eric and Elsie walk the talk. Even Eric's business Cream City Ribbon is a locally-based company making an environmentally friendly product. The Crawford family’s conscious lifestyle choices that tread lightly on our Earth and their support of community organizations that matter have made them positive role models for their son Robert, family, friends, and me too.
I hope you have enjoyed meeting Eric, Elsie and Robert. They inspire me in my work through their giving, leadership, and vision.