Weaving Together a Love of 4-H

Published: August 1, 2022
Nancy Towner basketry

How a longtime 4‑H’er designed a pretty unique “gift basket” (with an IRA!)

Nancy Towner grew up in a 4‑H family – and it was a big one! One of 15 children, with parents who were life-long 4‑H’ers, Nancy says 4‑H was (and still is) a huge part of her life.

“4‑H is just woven into the structure of our family and we’re all so grateful for the many experiences we’ve had thanks to 4‑H,” says Nancy, who lives in Vermillion County.

An active 4‑H mom in the 1980’s, Nancy encouraged her daughter Nicole to take on new and challenging projects. One day, Nicole said something that would launch a new chapter in Nancy’s life: “Mom, I want to learn how to make a basket,” recalls Nancy.

Nancy “didn’t know the first thing” about basketry, so she bought a kit and Nicole tackled her project with Nancy deciphering the directions. Nancy realized she enjoyed the craft, so she visited the library, bought books, honed her skills, and then word got out she would help other 4‑H’ers from the local club. At first, she held class inside and outside her home, but in 1999, her husband Chet, with other family members, built a workshop on the Towners’ property.

Nancy Towner basketry

At 320 square feet, the workshop is a crafters dream, stocked with essential tools like sharp scissors and awls, as well as basketry materials ­— including rolls of seagrass in more than 40 colors that go far beyond the rainbow.

Basketry has become a Towner family tradition, with Nancy’s daughter, Nicole Towner Floyd, turning her basketry hobby into a business, opening Liberty Tree baskets in historic Bridgetown. For his senior project, Nancy’s grandson, Dakota Floyd, a longtime Vermillion County 4‑H’er, crafted an intricate woven table top, chair seats and backs for an antique table and chair set.

Hundreds of Vermillion County 4‑H’ers have completed 2,367 projects since 1989, making everything from simple baskets to woven nightstands, chairs, screens, headboards, hope chests and cradles for dolls and babies! Young basket makers start with basic patterns but soon create unique designs from scratch, learning important 4‑H lessons along the way.

“A girl asked me, ‘Do you think I can make a doll house?,” says Nancy. “I told her, ‘Yes, but now you have to figure out how.”
For Nancy, this memory exemplifies a top 4‑H value: learning by doing and figuring things out for yourself.

“This is why I’ve always loved 4‑H and make sure I donate to the Foundation. 4‑H helps young people stand on their own two feet and dream beyond the box. That creates thinkers, do-ers, leaders and excellent community members,” says Nancy.
Nancy gives a lot of credit to Cassie Smith and Katie Clark, who are integral in carrying on the legacy of basketry projects in Vermillion County.

Nancy feels it’s important to weave her love of 4‑H into her charitable planning and looks for ways to make gifts “besides writing a check,” and started making charitable gifts to the Foundation from an IRA account.

“When you’re over 72, you have to take a required minimum distribution (RMD) from your IRA, and that lands in your bank account and on your tax return and Uncle Sam wants a piece of it. I’d rather have it go straight to the Foundation, and I don’t pay tax on it. It’s a win-win,” said Nancy, who worked as a tax advisor for 30 years, the last 20 as a certified enrolled agent. “You can include some tax-saving strategies and weave a better plan to support the Foundation and all the kids who become productive adults thanks to their 4‑H experience in Indiana. You could say this is a very unique gift basket!”

>>Click here to read more about donating to Indiana 4‑H Foundation with an IRA.