The Beauty of Giving

Jurate Krabill invests in her passions for all to enjoy.

Sitting outside on an unusually idyllic August day, Jurate Krabill is chatting about herself — a subject she’s not afraid to let people know makes her a little uneasy.

 “I’m a little uncomfortable,” she says. “I’m not a limelight person.”

She has become a part of a growing area in the United States: female philanthropy.

The path she’s taken to get to where she is has been long and winding, but it’s a story she’s willing to share.

Krabill was born in Lithuania and as a girl moved to Canada with her family following World War II. She studied nursing in Chicago and became a nurse in the United States. She’d end up spending 25 years working in operating rooms and 20 years working in senior citizen nursing homes.

“I loved working in the operating room, so that’s why I did it. Most of it was pure emotion,” she says. “I didn’t like the thought of doing patient care, because that’s one-on-one. And that wasn’t my thing. I liked the excitement of the operating room.”

She eventually made her way to California. That’s where she met her future husband, Don Krabill.

The pair met on Halloween in 1966 in a bar called the Oar House. As she describes it, it was the kind of place where peanuts would intermittently drop out of a chute into a barrel, and you’d be just as likely to meet a Hollywood actress as you would a group of Australians partying the night away. A year later, she and Don were married.

“There’s a quiet about the Island Garden. I like the sound of the running water, and the waterfall there. It makes me relax.”

— Jurate Krabill
    Wellfield philanthropist

Don hadn’t finished college (which was a problem for Jurate’s old-world family). So the pair moved to Goshen where Don attended Goshen College and she worked. She looks back fondly at her time working in Goshen.

Don attended college on and off, and they eventually decided to move to Iowa where Don would work on his father’s hog and turkey farm.

“I would never, ever live in Iowa now,” Krabill says with a laugh. “Especially out in the boonies.”

Eventually, the pair wanted to set back out on their own so Don took a job in Elkhart selling buildings and grain bins and the pair officially moved here in 1972. He worked at a few other places through the years, but he eventually decided to start his own company. Don served as president of Geocell in Elkhart for 38 years.  Through the ensuing decades, Don was very active in the Elkhart community as a board member of many local organizations, including Women’s Care Center, Stanley Clark, and Elkhart General Hospital.

Then, one day in 2013, Don found out he had cancer.

Don was a steadfast husband, and he knew that he’d want his wife to be able to continue to help the community where they had both made a life. So, as part of his work with Elkhart Rotary Club, he decided to work with the Community Foundation to create a donor-advised fund for her to be able to continue that philanthropic work.

“Don’s life was, he loved, being a part of the community,” she says. “And helping build the community.”

Don knew that his wife had a fascination with Japanese culture and lifestyles and engorged herself with books on the subject.
He knew that she also loved their home designs  and floral arrangements. The spark hit Don to work with the Community Foundation and Wellfield Botanic Gardens to create a Japanese island garden.

“When he said he donated for that and told me what it was, I was shocked,” she says. And, basically, probably in tears. Because I’m a good crier.”

This year, Wellfield has completed the work on the island garden and has officially named 2020 “Kisetsu: The Year of the Island Garden.” Eric Garton, the Robert and Peggy Weed executive director at Wellfield Botanic Gardens, views the island garden as a legacy that countless generations will enjoy.

“Wellfield means many things to many different people. Having community members like Don and Jurate understand the importance of investing in a true ‘quality of life’ amenity like Wellfield Botanic Gardens is a testament to their personal and business success. Improving Wellfield is improving our community,” says Garton. “Though Don was never able to see the Island completed before his passing in 2014, Jurate has continued to steward their shared vision to bring an authentic, high-quality Japanese garden experience to Wellfield.”

Krabill says that it’s the peaceful tranquility of the gardens that she enjoys
the most.

“There’s a quiet [about the island garden]. I like the sound of the running water, and the waterfall there. [It] makes me relax,” she says. “At home we have a fish pond that the water’s running, and I enjoy that — the peace and quiet. I hate traffic sounds.”

Her philanthropy doesn’t end there. She also gives to Child And Parent Services and has given to the new Elkhart Health and Aquatics center for outdoor beautification.

“I feel that if I can help people in things that I like the sound of, then I’ll do it,” she says. “Not just to be giving, but I have to like the things I’m involved in.”

Krabill says that she likes to understand and know an organization before she gives to it; she likes to connect with an organization’s mission. And that’s an important part about philanthropy: being able to support things that a person cares about the most — the things that bring people happiness.

She may not view herself as a trailblazing female philanthropist in Elkhart County, but she certainly has the qualities.

“If you need some help with something, ask,” she says. “I may not agree, but if it’s something I like too, I’ll help.”     

This story initially appeared in the 2020 Annual Report published by the Community Foundation.

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