A Soul for Service
By Lena Basha
Volume 140, No. 1, January/February 2006, Page 5

Joni Crane accomplished a huge feat this year, but don’t expect her to take much credit for it. After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, Mrs. Crane wasted no time finding out what she could do to help.

She learned that the schools in the region—in particular, in Alexandria, La., which took in many displaced students from New Orleans and other cities—were overcrowded and short on supplies for the influx of displaced students.

From her home in Vernal, Utah, more than 1,500 miles away from Alexandria, Mrs. Crane got to work organizing a relief effort. On October 7, 2005, a 48-foot tractor-trailer pulled into the parking lot of the Rapides Parish School Board after 30 hours on the road. Inside the truck were cases of notebooks, backpacks, pencils, glue sticks, crayons, textbooks, even nap mats and toys—all donated by Crane’s friends, co-workers, neighbors and fellow DAR members of the Color Country Chapter, St. George, Utah.

“I helped a lot of good people do what they would have done anyway, they just didn’t have a way to get it there,” she says. “When you surround yourself with good people, you can’t stop good things from happening.”

Daughters from the Centennial State Chapter, Greeley, Colo., where Mrs. Crane had just moved from last spring, were very generous, too.

When you pass the hat for a good cause, you’ll always get a response—but not one this large, she says. “These ladies poured out their hearts and donated more than $700 at one meeting.”

Mrs. Crane is no stranger to charitable work. In 1999, living 20 minutes outside of Columbine, Colo., she volunteered with Project Linus, which provides blankets to seriously ill or traumatized children. When the Columbine High School shooting happened, she offered 100 blankets to the school.

“It dawned on me while watching it unravel on television that blankets would bring a lot of security to these teenagers,” she says. “But when I dropped them off at the churches near the school, they told me, ‘Do you really think they’ll want them? These aren’t babies. They’re teenagers.’”

Her hunch proved right, however. The next morning, Mrs. Crane got a call requesting more blankets as fast as she could get them. After placing an ad in the paper soliciting volunteers, more than 1,000 people came to the church to help her sew blankets for three days straight. In the end, the volunteers delivered 1,600 blankets.

“My husband always tells me, ‘Joni, you cannot save the world.’ My response is always, ‘Well, I can save a little piece of the world.’ I don’t think we’re using our talents to the best of our ability by saying someone else will do it.”

That’s the same mentality she had when she moved to Utah and immediately got involved with her DAR chapter. Now she serves as the State Chairman of the following committees: Program; Public Relations/Motion Picture, Radio and Television; and Volunteer Information Specialists. Mrs. Crane is also the State Vice Chairman of the Membership Committee. She has even created the Utah State Web site—and six individual Web sites for Utah’s nine chapters.

“I’m hoping to get people enthused, just like my old chapter got me excited about the DAR in Colorado,” she says. “It’s not a lineage society in which we just pat ourselves on the back because we have these impressive bloodlines. The reason DAR stands out is because of its mission: patriotism and preserving the memory of the Patriots through education.”

Credit: Photo by Lezlee Whiting

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