Julie Crockford’s modest office at Empower Success Corps is decorated with plants, artwork, and mementos from previous jobs in the nonprofit world. And her 12-speed road bike, parked between her desk and a table crowded with plaques, suggests she’s not planning to slow down.
Crockford, 68, took over as ESC’s executive director in 2016. In less than three years, she has reshaped the organization, rechristening what was formerly called Executive Service Corps to emphasize its mission of empowering other groups. She has also launched a nonprofit executive roundtable, acquired ESC operations in northern New England, and now deploys a network of 170 consultants to help nonprofits in five states develop and refine strategic plans.
Her own career took her from the Boston Institute for Arts Therapy to the Boston History Collaborative to the Museum of African American History to the Emerald Necklace Conservancy. Crockford said she accepted the top job at ESC because “I figured I had one more good gig in me — one more nonprofit for me to grow and change and influence.”
Her surroundings at 176 Federal St. in downtown Boston — a stately old building overlooking Dewey Square on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway — include many telling features:
■ Whistling cockatiels. On her way into the office in the morning, Crockford passes a wood-and-brass aviary set up in an old elevator shaft. The whistles of its trio of resident male cockatiels — yellow-headed Australian parrots — echo through the building’s marble lobby.
“They’re a hallmark of this building,” Crockford says. “They get your attention, and you can interact with them. I say good morning to the birds and good night when I leave. Virtually everyone who comes up to my office comments on them. It’s a conversation starter.”
■ A vintage bicycle. Crockford rides her faded blue Motobécane — a used French-made bike she received as a present on her 60th birthday — from her Jamaica Plain home, along the Southwest Corridor bike path, and into downtown on most work mornings, weather-permitting.
“Biking in the winter is like any other winter sport,” she says. “It’s all about the clothes.”
■ Tabletop clock. The ornamental clock with Roman numerals was a gift of appreciation from the staff at the Museum of African American History. Based on Beacon Hill and Nantucket, the museum, where Crockford worked as deputy director from 2003 to 2007, tells the story of free blacks, the abolitionist movement, and the African Meeting House in Boston.
“Learning the abolitionist history of Boston was a powerful experience for me,” says Crockford, who was born and raised in Mentor, Ohio. “I feel every student should learn the history.”
■ The big red “No!” button. The red-white-and-black button on Crockford’s desk — complete with verbal accompaniment — was a Christmas stocking gift from her wife, Sheridan Haines. While her inclination is to say yes to new projects and take on too much work, Crockford says, “I brought [the button] to work as a reminder that sometime it’s appropriate to say no.”
■ A picture of an immigrant speaking. A photo on her table shows a woman in a pink hijab demonstrating her English skills at an event sponsored by English for New Bostonians, which distributes grants to organizations that teach English as a second language. English for New Bostonians is one of many groups ESC’s consultants and volunteers work with, and the photo is a nod to the impact of the work her nonprofit does.
■ Van and Milo. On her desk is a photo of her two grandsons, 4-year-old Van and 8-month-old Milo, and it has special meaning, even beyond family. “The goal of these nonprofits is a future for every child,” Crockford says. “This is the personal reminder of why I care so much.”Robert Weisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.