It all began 6 years ago in a garden…in a kindergarten, that is, when German born Chris Baucom entered the door of Joy Miller’s classroom and asked what she could do to help. Her inspiration to share her time, talents, and lifelong commitment to children grew out of her love for a five year old who was entering that class and a desire to give back to the community. “Miss Chris”, as she quickly became known to Orange River Elementary’s school family wanted to make sure that the daughter of her best friend had a special first year in kindergarten.
That year of daily-dedicated service to a kindergarten class blossomed and branched into valuable contributions poured into every crack and crevice of Orange River Elementary by Miss Chris’ caring hands. For over 6 years, Miss Chris has made her hands and her heart available to all who need them. It is said that the heart of a volunteer is not measured in size, but by the depth of the commitment to make a difference in the lives of others. Her total dedication to the staff, students, and parents at the school has enabled those touched by her green thumb to flourish and grow. Her commitment is total. You can find her at school from 7:30 until 5:00 every day, standing ready to do whatever teachers, staff and students need. You can find her at night attending evening school functions and meeting with her Girl Scout troop. You rarely find her unwilling to be of service, day OR night!
If one of the school gardens she has planted needs weeding or nurturing, Miss Chris puts on her gloves and digs in. If the school skating party needs a volunteer to lace countless skates, Miss Chris flexes her hands and goes to work. If a child or staff member needs a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold, Miss Chris’ caring and empathetic heart is always available. If a child wants to be read to, Miss Chris opens a book. If a child has difficulty grasping a new concept, Miss Chris tenaciously supports and coaches until mastery is accomplished. If her Girl Scout troop needs to sell 500 boxes of cookies, Miss Chris spends countless hours extolling the benefits of buying Girl Scout cookies. If the kitchen staff is short of help, Miss Chris picks up a spoon and serves.
For over six years, Orange River Elementary has reaped the benefits of total dedication from this outstanding volunteer. The little girl who brought Miss Chris to us six years ago will continue her educational growth next year in middle school, and Miss Chris will continue to nurture and care for those who still need her at Orange River. A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under which they will never sit. The people at Orange River Elementary expects her to continue to plant her magic seeds of love and kindness for many years to come because she believes in a better future for the children. Because of her, many more children will grow and flourish and possess beautiful trees under which to sit.
Life wasn’t always easy for this very special 70-year-old volunteer. She grew up in Germany during and after World War II. She and her family survived the bombing of Dresden and then moved to Dachau, where as a child she witnessed firsthand the atrocities of the concentration camp. When her family had the opportunity to come to America, they settled in Fort Myers in 1948. Miss Chris is a product of the schools of Lee County and decided early on to give back to the educational community the riches that were given to her. She has done that her whole life. For the past six years she has been a daily volunteer for Orange River Elementary and has lead a Girl Scout troop. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is just that little extra. Miss Chris brings that little extra to our school and community. No job is too menial for this 70 year old. From helping a student with a difficult skill to weeding and planting flower gardens, Miss Chris can be counted on to accomplish the task with grace and a smile. Norman Vincent Peale once said, “The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.” This must be true…just look at Miss Chris.