SEMINOLE — Miss Cyndi knows her boundaries.
She can't police beyond the Bardmoor Elementary School zone. She can't yell at anyone who parks on the sidewalk. Don't get too involved.
But the 57-year-old crossing guard can't turn away from a kid with a dirty face. She cringes when she sees a helmetless boy on wheels. Her heart breaks when a mom says she can't afford Christmas.
"I cried for a whole year when I first started out," Miss Cyndi said. "What bothers them, bothers me."
Miss Cyndi cries a lot, so she wears sunglasses every shift, even when it's cloudy.
Her supervisor says not to get overly involved, even in an area rife with sex offenders. It's impossible for someone like Miss Cyndi.
"I love when they ask me for help," she said. "It's been a real blessing for me."
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Cyndi Lee McCants has seen a lot. She grew up in St. Petersburg's Jordan Park public housing complex, got pregnant at 17, began working for the St. Petersburg Police Department after high school.
She met her husband, a crime analyst, when she was a 911 dispatcher. They were married eight years when he died of renal failure in 1993.
Ten months later, her only child, 23-year-old Isaac Lee, was shot dead. She doesn't know why. He was a good kid, she said, with a budding career as a lab technician.
She had retired by then, but stayed busy: homeowners association boards, voter education.
Eighteen months ago, she found her most fulfilling calling: loving all children in an 80-yard stretch of Portulaca Avenue, for $23.69 a day.
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Miss Cyndi knows every child's name but calls them all "sweetheart." She keeps tissues in her pocket, ready to wipe their sleepy eyes and skinned knees. Her trunk is filled with spare sweatshirts and bike helmets.
She collected toys and clothes for her neediest sweethearts last Christmas and has spare change for kids who lose their lunch money. When the children have school recitals and plays, she's in the front row. She asks about karate class, and where did you get that bruise?
Miss Cyndi can do only so much. When her sweethearts turn the corner, her stomach knots. When she collects her orange cones, Portulaca turns into a racetrack.
She knows she can't thwart evil when her shift ends. But she can't help herself.
She shoves her stop sign in the direction of the street and blows her whistle as hard as she can.