PORT ST. LUCIE PEOPLE
THE VOLUNTEER EXTRAORDINAIRE
BY ELLEN GILLETTE
Cris Adams’ home in Port St. Lucie is filled with color
centration in women’s studies and a minor in management.
Shortly after, the family moved to Atlanta, where she discovered
her passion for social work. She was hired as the part-time
office administrator for a large, outreach-oriented Presbyterian
church. She also attended St. Luke’s Episcopal Church that was,
at the time, on the forefront of intentional outreach.
“Before direct deposit, homeless people couldn’t get government
benefits without an address. The church established a post
office for them. They also ran a health clinic and food pantry.”
It was a defining time for Adams. She volunteered at St.
Luke’s as well as with the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and Herb
Society. At work, she interviewed people coming for assistance.
“Some saw this as ministry but it wasn’t the theology that
interested me, it was the people.”
and beauty. Blue glassware in the yard, in the house.
Paintings everywhere, even the front porch. Adams
herself is like one of her collectible teapots — delicate yet
Born in Syracuse, New York, Adams had three brothers.
Her father was in the insurance business.
“My mother,” Adams says, “was a homemaker but also a
first generation women’s libber from the ’20s.”
Adams comes from a family of “inveterate readers. Our
father kept a list of all the books he read in a notebook
which we consulted even into adulthood. I think I still have
Sent to an Episcopal boarding school for the last three years
of high school, Adams says this was fairly common where
she lived, if families could afford it.
“I loved it, mostly because it was single gender,” she says.
“Whatever happened, it was girls who made it happen.”
About half of the 15 seniors in her graduating class have
died, but Adams is still in close contact with several of those
who remain. “My generation put less emphasis on what women
wanted to do or become. The expectation was marriage
and children, but it never occurred to me not to go to college.”
She began at Potsdam Teachers College.
“Freshmen were housed on-campus but after that you
had to find your own housing, which was in short supply. I
decided to go home instead.”
Adams’ mother told her to find a way to support herself.
After taking a summer course to learn shorthand and
increase her typing skills, Adams landed a secretarial job at
“Back then, if you worked in an academic setting you could
take classes at no cost.”
Later, working a different summer job, she met her future
“I couldn’t stand him,” Adams says with a chuckle.
“Wayne went home and told his mother he’d met the woman
he was going to marry.”
Their first date was a production of Oklahoma in the round.
“It was a good start,” she says.
The couple married two years later. Adams was just 20
but the fact that Wayne was six years older gave her parents
comfort. He was also in the insurance business.
“My husband, my father, his father — they all knew each
Eventually moving from Syracuse for Wayne’s work,
Adams volunteered for the first time.
“I taught Sunday school,” she remembers. “We traded off
babysitting. We were poor as church mice at times.”
When Wayne’s job took them to Detroit, there was a bit of
“It was two years after the 1967 riots,” she says. “The area
had more prejudice than I’d ever experienced. It took awhile
for Detroit to feel like home.”
With two daughters by now, Adams took community college
classes before finally deciding to return to school full
time. Cobbling together credits from the other schools she had
attended, she earned a degree in general studies with a con-
28 Port St. Lucie Magazine
Cris Adams, often seen at fundraisers for nonprofits throughout the county,
has spent a good part of her life helping others in need.