Ocoee crossing guard to host Christmas party for children

Ocoee crossing guard Leonarda Richardson — known to the children as “Mrs. Lee” — is throwing a Christmas party for the students she helps.

Mrs. Lee has a special place in her heart for community members in Ocoee. She even made a Christmas wreath for a local garbage collection worker.
Mrs. Lee has a special place in her heart for community members in Ocoee. She even made a Christmas wreath for a local garbage collection worker.
Photo by Annabelle Sikes
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If you’re driving down East Orlando Avenue on a weekday morning or a weekday afternoon, you’re bound to come across Mrs. Lee.

Leonarda Richardson, a crossing guard with the Ocoee Police Department, has stood at the intersection of East Orlando Avenue and Sleepy Harbour Drive for seven years. 

Every resident who passes by Mrs. Lee is treated exactly the same: with a warm smile and a friendly wave.

Although Mrs. Lee is well known to the entire neighborhood, there isn’t anyone who adores her more than the children headed to school. 

“They’re my babies,” she said. “I watch out for these kids. If somebody hurts them, I get very mad. They’re not mine, but I watch them like they’re mine. They’re so sweet and innocent. People drive down this road way too fast and they’re not paying attention. They don’t ask for any of that. They’re just children.”


It started with one little girl in the third grade named Kaitlyn.

When Mrs. Lee started at her post, Kaitlyn began to show up and stand with her. 

The two would play games such as jump rope, dance or even pat-a-cake. Kaitlyn was always showing Mrs. Lee just how much she adored her, bringing her presents such as popsicles and sodas.

Mrs. Lee said the pair had the greatest time on that sidewalk, and many of the other children started to notice.

“It was so fun, and from that, all the children started to come and play more and more,” she said. “They would show me their grades, and I would encourage them to improve and then they would do better. I knew I wanted to do something to celebrate them.” 

This will be the fifth year Mrs. Lee is hosting her Christmas party for the children who come to her post on their way home from school.

Although the party used to be hosted in the summer, it was too hot and has become an annual December tradition.

This year, the party will take place at 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8, at the Harbor Highlands subdivision.

Mrs. Lee will pass out bags of candy, local pizza places will donate slices, and Ocoee resident Richard Mack will bring his grill to make chicken, hotdogs and hamburgers.

Children will have the opportunity play games, make necklaces, dance to music, decorate cookies with Mrs. Claus and take photos with Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber from VeggieTales.

What started off as five children on the corner, grew from 15, to 30 and then 45 children at last year’s party.

Mrs. Lee said children she is unfamiliar with already have started to come walking by her post in anticipation of the party. She expects some children who have grown up or moved away to also come back and visit at the party. 

“I just want to show love to the children in our community,” she said. 

Leonarda Richardson has been stationed at the same spot in Ocoee for the last seven years.
Photo by Annabelle Sikes


Originally from Ohio, Mrs. Lee came in 1998 to Orlando with her family.

She started working as a floater crossing guard in 2012, where she had the opportunity to explore and get to know the Ocoee community she has called home for 15 years. 

Mrs. Lee meets all kinds of people at her post. 

She remembers community members’ stories down to every detail and looks forward to her daily conversations with those who pass by walking their dogs, riding their bikes or taking their daily run.

She never misses a wave or a smile to a person, car or bus passing by. 

When it’s cold, one neighbor brings her hot cocoa, tea or warm cookies. When she’s sick, people immediately notice she’s missing. One woman even stopped to ask Mrs. Lee’s shoe size and gifted her with new running shoes.

“Different people have told me I’m not allowed to leave here,” she said. “One lady asked me why I can’t be here in the summer, and I told her I don’t do summers because it’s too hot out here. She told me they want me around here all year and that I make a difference. I don’t know what I do though. I just stand here and cross the kids. I appreciate the way that people feel about me, but it also makes me feel uncomfortable, because even though it’s not what we think of as responsibility, it’s my job to make sure that whatever it is they’re looking for, I give it. I just feel like I’ve really been blessed with this gift to show love. It’s an honor to know some people see me like that.”

Although Mrs. Lee loves people in general, nothing lights her face up more than seeing the children. 

Like the trees and flowers that have changed and grown near the stop, Mrs. Lee has watched the children bloom and become young adults. 

She said the children keep her young and she has learned to communicate with them in a way they understand. She often struggles having conversations with adults now because of her constant discussions with the children. 

Even when she’s not at her post, Mrs. Lee spends her free time around children. She teaches Sunday school at Remnant Christian Center in Apopka.

“I just love and enjoy being around the kids,” she said. “They have such a quick way of letting go and forgiving. I think the world needs more of that.”

Mrs. Lee lives in Ocoee with her husband, and the pair have two children who are now older and off on their own. 

When she’s not with the children, Mrs. Lee loves to be creative and inventive, sewing and making crafts. 

One of her most recent projects is an Elf on the Shelf-themed Christmas wreath she created for one of the local garbage collection women.

Mrs. Lee hopes to continue hosting the party in the future, giving the children something to look forward to and work toward.



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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