By: Director of Athletic Communications and Public Relations Kevin Ruple
"I always wanted to give back on a larger scale," said 1996 Baldwin Wallace University graduate and Cleveland Custom Homes President and Owner Jeff Crawford via telephone from his home in Avon. Thus, Crawford's latest effort with the Cleveland Home Builders Association and the 2020 St. Jude Dream Home Raffle will culminate with a lucky winner being drawn at the end of June.
His philanthropy began during his final year at BW. One of Crawford's criminal justice classes went regularly to the Berea Children's Home, now Ohio Guidestone, to do activities and play games with the children. The interaction and smiles that were created left a lasting impression that continues today.
That experience also led Crawford to a history of community service that began when he worked in logistics for Ryan Homes for 15 years alongside BW grads and football teammates Brandon Felger '96 and Dustin Hemming '97. Every year, the trio would organize a pair of projects for Habitat for Humanity.
When Crawford left Ryan Homes and started Cleveland Custom Homes in 2012, he added BW teammate Brian Laux '98 as his Project Manager, and the duo continued working with Habitat for Humanity. That's when an opportunity to do even more for the Greater Cleveland community occurred.
"St. Jude's was looking for a new sponsor group in 2015," said Crawford, who has been married to his wife and childhood sweetheart, Christine, for 22 years. They met 28 years ago in Lakewood and they have worked as a team ever since. "They approached me about forming a committee and raising the $2 million necessary to build the home. It was a serious challenge, but we said we'd give it a shot."
The St. Jude Dream Home Program is run throughout the United States and in 44 locations.
Crawford and his Cleveland committee are in their fifth year of helping to organize the event. It includes obtaining the necessary infusion of money, building and construction contracts, legal advice and counsel, and hosting events, including a gala and several golf outings. He feels the Cleveland Area Committee is doing extremely well.
"This is an honor and a privilege to help raise money for the kids and for kids who really, really need our support and love," said Crawford, who has three daughters, Lexi, 16, Addison, 13, and Lincoln, 7. "St. Jude pays for the land and for the kids treatment, and we ask the trades, vendors and suppliers to pay for the materials and labor.
"Tickets cost $100 and we sell 2,000 tickets," explained Crawford. "Our gala and golf outings probably raise between $50-100,000, so we are very active throughout the year.
"The first year, we struggled getting totally organized and raised 60% of our goal," said Crawford, "but the last four years, our committee of 12 people has worked tirelessly to achieve our goal of $2-million for the kids, and I am so impressed and so proud of everyone's hard work and passion."
Crawford credits three of his former coaches, the late and legendary BW football coach Bob Packard and Lakewood football great Ken Fell and baseball mentor Ken Ciolek, with preparing him for a life of work and giving back.
"I am so thankful for the people in my life who were instrumental in teaching me best practices," said Crawford. "Coach Fell and Coach Ciolek helped me mature in high school and led me to Coach Packard. Coach Packard taught me effective leadership habits through athletics that I utilize today. Combined, they taught me to work to reach my potential every day, including today!"
In addition to his annual commitment to the St. Jude Dream Home, Crawford continues to contribute time, money and effort to Ohio Guidestone. Every summer, Cleveland Custom Homes returns to Berea and the Ohio Guidestone campus to renovate a room.
"We want to bring some joy and excitement into their life. I want to see the smiles on the faces of those kids just like I did that first day as a senior in college at Baldwin Wallace."
Jeff Crawford's brother, John '96, also gives back to the community. He is the Assistant to the Principal at Our Lady of Angels Catholic School in Cleveland. He has been at Our Lady of Angels as a teacher, coach and now Assistant to the Principal for more than 20 years.
"I love my brother," said Jeff Crawford. "He's just like me in the fact that he loves people. He loves to give back as a teacher and a coach and as a father. He still coaches his two sons, who are nine and 12 years old in football, baseball and basketball."