Chris Warner could be living a leisurely life, her calendar full of lunch dates and casino trips. She’s done her part. She’s raised five children, was married 46 years, is an entrepreneur and a cancer survivor – she can relax now. After all, these are her golden years. But Chris has other plans. She’s leaving a legacy.
You can call her a “volunteer extraordinaire”. After her husband passed in the summer of 2003, Chris decided just sitting around didn’t suit her. Instead, she phoned a friend and began volunteering with The Parade Company, a partnership now 14 years in the making. Chris, who will celebrate her 80th birthday in June, says she’s happy to contribute her time and talents to the company who has been designing floats for Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for more than 75 years. “It brings me so much joy”, she explained.
When Chris isn’t volunteering in The Company’s gift shop, or helping paint one of the many Thanksgiving Day Parade floats, she’s hard at work for a number of other organizations. In addition to her contributions to the Macomb Charitable Foundation, Chris and a group of her gal pals have been gathering for more than a decade to create “quillows”, hand-crafted fleece blankets with an attached pillow. They donate the quillows to agencies like Compassion Pregnancy Center and the Turning Point Shelter in Macomb County. The organization provides immediate safety and security for survivors of domestic violence. Always thoughtful, the group also makes educational activity bags with an enclosed book, for children who are residing at the shelter with a parent. But Chris doesn’t stop there. Her newest endeavor benefits children with special needs in Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District in Big Rapids. Chris’s “fidget bags”, designed to both calm and keep little hands busy, are a huge hit and in high-demand in the district. Stacks of fleece scraps are piled on the dining room table, ready to be shipped out. “I just sent a bunch of these back up with my daughter”, she explains. “She works in the Osceola School District”. To date, with the help of her sister, Chris has donated more than 300 fidget bags to teachers in the district who work with children diagnosed with developmental and cognitive disorders.
Chris has a social calendar that would put most millennials’ to shame. She’s loves to bake, play cards and spend time with her family and travel. She just wrapped up her 16th cruise earlier this year. She smiles, laughs and talks about her future with excitement. Chris can keep you laughing until you cry, as evidenced by her Ozzy Osbourne impersonation, captured in a Halloween party photo a few years back. Who says seniors don’t rock?
Her decision to become a volunteer was an easy one. “I just decided I wasn’t going to sit around and look at these four walls”, she said. Now, Chris is on a mission to encourage her neighbors at American House Lakeside to do their part and find ways serve others. Although new to the community, Chris has already come up with a pretty simple strategy: “I’m just going to set my things up on the table in there, and ask if anyone wants to help me.”
With all the casino trips, euchre tournaments and time spent with her loved ones at the family cottage in Evart, you’d think Chris might consider letting off the gas a bit. But if you know Chris, then you know there’s absolutely no slowing her down. She’s already looking months ahead, anticipating this year’s Ford Fireworks, hosted by The Parade Company, in June. Of course, she’s volunteering for this event. “The Fireworks are on my birthday this year”, she says with a smile. Chris sees volunteering on her birthday as a gift.
During this National Volunteer Week, Chris Warner reminds us we all have something we can do in service to others. How can you serve your community this week?