What does it mean living in this world, but not of the world?
Jim Craft believes living attached to the things and rewards of this world will never bring contentment.
Real satisfaction, he says, only comes from living for a higher purpose.
“I came to this after watching people’s lives and experiencing my own, and my faith,” Craft says.
First as a child, he saw his mom and stepdad living for the world’s pleasures, and observed not only were they not happy, but their selfishness spilled over on the family’s children. His dad walked out, then his stepdad didn’t want Craft around, and his mom wasn’t capable of being a parent.
Craft’s life changed when at 9 he went to live with his Uncle Gus and Aunt Amy.
“They were good people that lived for a higher purpose than their own. I began going to church with them, and at age 13 our pastor offered me a job to work along side him on his handyman side jobs,” he recalls.
“This was really hard work — packing roof shingles up a ladder on our shoulders, digging deep holes in hard dirt — but I loved it. I not only learned home repairs, I learned so much about life and living for God’s higher purpose from Pastor Poet.”
Craft said he learned from his role models, his pastor and his aunt and uncle, “but I didn’t really start living it until much later.”
“I began to find some contentment in making good money at a business, until I felt I couldn’t work for them because of their ethics.
“I sat down at lunch and a newspaper ad seared through my brain almost, the letters became dark and BOLD, it read ‘Needed: One-year term activity director for nursing home.’”
“Before I knew it I was calling for an interview. But when I got there the lady said I didn’t have a degree and they couldn’t interview me.”
Craft wouldn’t give up, though.
“The next day I called back and the next, but I was always rejected. So I called and asked for an appointment with the nursing home owner. I went in and laid out just what had happened. He said, ‘Well, son, I am not going to get in the way of God’s plan; job’s yours.’”
So Craft gave up his well-paid, titled job and took the minimum wage nursing home position.
“I loved it, and felt so fulfilled, I used to tell people I had 86 girlfriends that were all about 86 years old,” he says.
“To me, living for a higher purpose means loving God by loving and helping people and the joy follows. It helps me by having Jesus as my personal role model.”
After the year was up at the nursing home, an idea came to him about building 1910-style homes and it took off. Craft remembers it as a special time, teaching the business to his son, Jake, and then handing the business over to him.
Craft sits on the couch relaxed, in the home he shares with his wife Anita. He finds much humor in life, he says, “If you can laugh at yourself, you will always be entertained.”
Many in the community can easily recall Craft’s caring and compassionate nature.
“Jim is an exceptional listener,” says Michaela Marx Wheatley, the South Whidbey director for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“He’s been a real active Big Brother for us for over 10 years. His little brother is now a sophomore in high school and often credits Jim with some of his successes, and he also volunteers as a Big Brother,” Wheatley says. “Besides being a supporter and confidante for a kid raised by a single mom, Craft helps us with practical stuff like teaching driving, planting trees, speaking for us, barbecuing for events and building outdoor furniture for us.”
Craft says the world might cause us to think we are not enough to help, and uses his volunteering as a Big Brother as an example. Don’t think you’re too old to help, he says.
“There is a long list of kids waiting for a Big Brother or Big Sister, they don’t care about your age, they just want someone to hang with and care about them,” he says. “You don’t need to have any special skills, and you will get back so much more.”
He says volunteering and helping others, helps us to have less regrets in life.
“I know it’s been said never say you have regrets, but how is that possible? We don’t want to dwell on our mistakes, but surely everyone has some regrets.
“My main one would be that I didn’t spend enough time with my son when he was young. What I can do is spend the time with him now,” he says. “I also regret not letting my Uncle Gus know how much be meant to me before he died. But I can let others know.”
“Jim inspires me in how he cares for people,” says Pastor Dick Jeffers. “He is an amazing example of someone who willingly gives his life away to others. He has a genuine ‘servant’s heart.’
“What inspires me the most is that when he’s doing something for others it’s done with great joy. It’s never a duty, an obligation — it’s just his way of saying you matter to me.
“Love is a great motivator and Jim is motivated by his love for Jesus and his love for others,” Jeffers says.
Craft can usually be found all over the South End; helping out here, helping out there.
Craft says, “I get to wash pots and pans at the CMA church soup kitchen, where they serve free lunches. This is such fun. I am a real good scour-and-scrape-dirt-and-grease-off guy,” Craft says.
“So when I was asked to do this for another great organization, Pregnancy Care, I brought all my washing tools. Only I didn’t know what to do, I should have brought Q-tips, they were all these dainty little cut glass things, with stems. I couldn’t even get my big old hand in them.”
He laughs. “Mavis said I did fine, I only broke three of them.”
“There are a number of churches locally, and they all do a lot of good. Anita and I were fortunate to be able to be part of starting the South Whidbey Community Church, my wife still attends there, I attend the Christian Life Center. Why? Well the short answer is I began to butt heads over leadership with a close friend at church, and I decided one of us needed to think of changing churches, guess that was me,” he smiles.
He believes in “liberty in the nonessentials.”
“I think too many people break up over small differences. To me if the main mission is the same, then we can disagree, without being disagreeable. Sometimes we need to step aside if that is best for all, but that doesn’t need to be a break-up.
“I have another friend and neighbor, and we get together almost every week, and disagree on everything. People at the café say we are down right entertaining. But we agree on the main important premises in life, and we remain close friends.”
“I always think of Jim as a ‘giver,’” notes Steve White. “He always seems more willing than most of us to be helpful with both those individuals that he can help, and in his community and church. Willing to take on things that will obviously take some time.
“He has his priorities right, ‘stuff’ is last and people are first,” White says.
Born: March 11, 1947 in St. Helens, Ore.
Family: Raised by Aunt Amy and Uncle Gus, both deceased. Siblings: One sister, one brother, eight half-brothers and one half-sister. Married Anita on Sept. 11, 1983. Children: Son Jake, from his first marriage, and his wife Suzanne. Grandchildren, Sophia and Maya.
Years on Whidbey: Nine.
Hobbies: Volunteering, woodworking, boating, racquetball, reading, crabbing, oystering, fishing and hunting.
A few people you admire:
“Anita Craft, Pastor Dick Jeffers, Marylin Jeffers, Darrell and Lois Wenzek, Tony Marthaller, Michaela Wheatley, Art and Connie Angst, John and Beth Groce, Kenon and Sherry Simmons, Roy and Marylin Simmons, Ethel Simmons, Dr. Painless Perkins and Light-touch Laurie, Bill and Nancy Thompson, Sam Aaran, Ed Donnely, Ken Price, Tom Rowland, Matt Hassrick, Coach Jim Leierer, Ken Smith, Steve Hochenedel, Stan Walker, Tom and Irene Talbot, Steve and Sue Parrick, Keith and Kim Sorenson, Ken and Rae Goff, Mike Goodman, Matt Nichols, Dr. Tom Johnson, Gaylord and Heather Porter, Steve and Wanda White, and Wanda White of Langley, Cheryl Petosa, Doug and Nancy Kreger, Mavis Radcliff, Sharon Giberson, Linda Hawthorne, Dick Waltz, Peg Mott, Rick and Dinah Zapata, Bruce Forbes, Jeff and Michelle Green, Nancy Humphries, Patty Sargent, Susan Jones, Elizabeth Birchfield, Jaimen Henderson, Jim and Char Henderson, Claire and Shelley Rassmuassan, Don and Kathy and Scott Campbell, John and Jan Ericksen, Sandy Greene, Brad and Nancy Thompson, Leann Larson, Danny and Karen Robinson, Jean Babcock, Joan Jones, Reg and Gerd Leffler, Roy Berry Chet Habel, Jean Matheny, Norma Mydinski, Archie Nichols and ‘the Three Sistas,’ Lonnie, Laurie and Dawn.”
What if someone comes to you for help and thinks they have a real problem yet it’s really just a normal part of living?
“Ahh, now here is a chance to show them a different perspective on their problem, and help lighten their load that way.”
Who is your hero?
“I am a student of my Christian faith and the reason I volunteer is that all Christians are called to do works of mercy and compassion. It is important to me that all that I do is to glorify God, not myself. The hero in my world view is Jesus and I don’t want to take credit for something he has done in my life.”
What are your shortfalls?
“I am blunt, ungracious, I blurt things out. There’s lots more, but that’s a start.”
Anyone you have had a hard time forgiving?
“Yes, and each time I thought I forgave them it my anger cropped up again about what they did. I found I had to keep forgiving them over and over and over, until finally it stuck.”
Who would you like to meet?
“Franklin Graham, I admire his ministry, ‘Samaritan Purse.’”
What others say about Jim Craft
“Jim has been involved in a ministry of helping others with building projects. My wife was a personal recipient of the kindness of the ‘Pass It Forward Ministry.’ Jim was one of the two men (Stan Walker the other) who came and helped install a floor for my wife in her flower barn (where she does her arranging work). I have watched him assist others in room set up and take down, always with a smile. He has a heart of a kind helper and encourager.”
Darrell Wenzek, Pastor of South Whidbey Community Church
“I doubt there is a day that passes without Jim Craft helping someone by one means or another. He often helps people accomplish something they haven’t been able to do for themselves. It can be some small physical task such as repairing a handrail, or it can be something big that will have a lasting impact on their lives. He will help anyone with no strings attached because he loves people and wants the best for them.
He is a leader with a servant’s heart. I think Jim has directly or indirectly helped hundreds of people in his years here in our community.”
Stan Walker, South Whidbey resident
“Jim is motivated by his love of Jesus Christ. Some of the projects he has helped with: He installed a grab bar in our shower and helped build a cement path in our yard. He helped build a stage for the CMA church and is also helping to add a consulting room at the Pregnancy Care Clinic. I think he is also doing some construction work for Christian Life Center. He has built shelves for the soup kitchen at CMA and also helps with the dishes there. A genuinely nice guy.”
Dinah Zapata, fellow volunteer
“Jim Craft is one of the sweetest men we know. We first became aware of this when his aunt, Amy, became ill and we watched Jim and his wife, Anita, take care of her as she was failing. Jim always treated her with such tenderness and respect. Jim loved her sincerely and it showed. We should all treat our mothers so well.
Bill asked Jim to help him with a project, but then Bill had to undergo chemo. Jim ended up taking over the whole project, and never once acted put-upon. He was cheerful the entire time. We will never forget it, not just what he did, but the cheerful way he did it.
Jim also volunteers for Samaritan’s Purse — the last trip was to Memphis in 100-plus degree weather, sleeping in a trailer to help rebuild folks’ flooded homes.”
Bill and Nancy Thompson, volunteers
“Jim really brings out the good in people with his cheerful personality. Jim has inspired me to become a Big Brother myself in our school-based program.”
Trent Petosa, Jim’s Little Brother
“Jim Craft is a great example of a person who serves others from his heart. Being around Jim, you sense his deep understanding of the gift of grace.
While others talk about what should or could be done, Jim is already doing it.
Jim gives freely of his skills and talents as a carpenter to help others in his community. Jim is one of those amazing guys who sees a need and responds with his heart and talents to fill the need.”
Tom Talbot, community volunteer
“I mentioned to someone I didn’t have a door going down to my downstairs, and felt if there was a fire this wouldn’t be safe. Before I knew it Jim Craft and Stan Walker showed up and installed a door, and they happily asked what else they could do.
Jim also volunteers helping many others I know. When we lost our pots-and-pans dishwasher at the CMA soup kitchen, we were trying to figure out what to do, when who shows up? That’s right, Jim Craft. He’s been doing it cheerfully every since. He must have a direct line to God or something because he just shows up when his skills are needed.”
Norma Mydynski, community volunteer
“You can’t ask for a harder worker than Jim, and he volunteers his service in anything he is asked to do, or if he sees a need. While he washes pots and pans in the kitchen he’s so jovial. He’s just a pleasant man in every way. And he’s eager to help at anything. When he was a greeter at one of our fundraisers for a clinic he made everyone feel so welcome and so good. He’s a joy to be around.”
Mavis Ratcliff, community and church volunteer
“Where ever Jim goes he is there to help. If someone needs something he just rolls up his sleeves and goes to work. No job is beneath him. When our church outgrew the space we had and we rented the place next door, he totally took on the remodeling of it for us. What a servant’s heart.”
Kenon Simmons, volunteer firefighter, owner Simmons Glass