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Allie Crawford Applies Her Experience and Expertise to Older Adults

Alexandra “Allie” Crawford has been working in parks and recreation since 2014, during which time she has created and delivered recreational activities for citizens in Greensboro, Durham, Winston Salem, Burlington, Hillsborough and Chapel Hill. She earned her master’s degree in parks, recreation, tourism and sport management at NC State in 2022 and is currently the the volunteer coordinator at the Orange County Department on Aging (OCDoA).

The primary objective of OCDoA is to provide supports, resources and programming that engages, inspires and educates the older adults of Orange County and their networks. Crawford’s job includes recruitment, orientation and training and opportunity placement for volunteers. OCDoA programs are designed to connect people to meaningful volunteer experiences including making telephone calls to check on safety and comfort; providing home repairs with little to no cost; supporting the meal program; providing transportation support; and income tax preparation.

“Getting to serve older adults is rewarding in a different way,” explains Crawford. “You get to hear about the stories of their life and offer them services that make a difference in their life in new ways. We have a LOT of interest in end-of-life choices, LGBTQ+ programming, caregiver education and support, intergenerational programming, and so much more. Our older adults are VERY active.”

Previously a recreation program coordinator with Orange County Department of Environment, Agriculture, Parks and Recreation, Crawford planned and managed special events and various community engagement programs before becoming the volunteer coordinator for OCDoA.

“I realized that while each department targets a specific age range, they offer similar services and programs – which made it seem like more of a skip and less of a “jump” career wise,” said Crawford. “Also, OCDoA is well known in the county for being an amazing place to work.

According to Crawford, aging services is a rapidly growing field that will require a diverse and passionate group of professionals.

Volunteer Connect 55+ staff and Orange County Sheriffs Office prepping and delivering meals on Christmas eve for homebound seniors in Orange County, NC

“It is imperative that up and coming generations are willing to dedicate the time and energy needed to provide these resources and supports to a growing aging population,” said Crawford. “I never considered this age group before, but having begun my journey with these participants — I highly recommend working with aging adults as a career choice.”

Discovering the Joy in Community and Therapeutic Recreation

Born in Cherry Point, North Carolina, Crawford is a self-described military brat, and has lived in Cary, Jacksonville, Newport, Greensboro, Whitsett, Raleigh, and Swansboro for starters.

“I grew up not knowing that Parks and Recreation was a profession at all; in fact, I didn’t know it was a career option until halfway through college,” said Crawford. “After taking some intro to Community and Therapeutic Recreation (CTR) courses at UNC-Greensboro, I fell in love and have not looked back.”

“What intrigued me the most about CTR was the internal gratification that I felt each time I designed a program or led a special event. There is just something about that magical moment where all of your planning and hard work come together!”

Picking NC State for an Advanced Degree

As a born and raised UNC fan, it was hard for Crawford to come to terms with even the idea of going to NC State, but she’d heard from many colleagues that the online PRTSM program was one of the best.

“I had heard from many colleagues that the online program was fast paced, fun and well suited for the working professional,” said Crawford. ” I was not disappointed by what I found.

“It’s hard to pick just one course as the best, but my all time, favorite course was PRT 500 – Conceptual Foundations of Recreation; it was the most thought provoking course I took, and really had me rooted in the program. Dr. Lee did an excellent job keeping all of us engaged.

Endorphins and Electricity in Event Management

On a professional level, Crawford has coordinated festivals, fairs, fun-runs, black parties, weddings, fundraisers, and community events on various levels of size and complexity. Her favorite thing about event planning is the “buzz” before an event starts – that feeling of excitement when she sees an idea come to life.

“When you have all staff on deck, volunteers at the ready, supplies set out and a long day ahead of you; the electricity in the air makes me so excited,” said Crawford. “I love the big stage with headliners, the kiddo area with inflatables and games, the vendor lineup with local goods and the AMAZING food options. The smiling faces of all of the visitors; the laughter in the air; the vendors that come back year after year, and the memories made by all. That’s what its about for me – not the revenue, nor the attendance.”

In addition to her work at the Orange County Department of Aging, Crawford also does assists with day-of coordination of events at Exceptional Events in Burlington. Created by a former classmate at UNCG, Exceptional Events plans and coordinates parties, weddings, black-tie gatherings, corporate gatherings, and more.

A Proud Advocate for the Profession

Since 2014, Crawford has been a member of the North Carolina Recreation and Parks Association (NCRPA). She has given educational presentations on topics including art based learning, university and community partnerships, volunteerism and programming for older adults. She also served on the planning committee for the past three and gained a deep appreciation for the work involved.

“Serving on NCRPA’s planning committee opened my eyes to all that it takes to pull off an event of that size and nature,” said Crawford. “The benefits of volunteering and attending are invaluable and the networking has given me both career opportunities and friendships that last beyond the workplace.”

Crawford at the Fall 2022 NCRPA Conference in Greenville, NC.

At the Fall 2022 conference, Crawford taught two sessions: Meaningful Programming for the Aging Population and Volunteerism 101.

When she’s not planning programs for older adults, helping out with weddings, or delivering educational presentations, Crawford loves to cook, explore and travel around North Carolina, hike trails with her dog, hang out with friends, and binge watch netflix with her husband.