Michele Danois has a few more tools than the average school crossing guard.

She has the standard hand-held stop sign and the reflective vest, of course. But each morning she drives to her post in South Portland and unloads several dozen whirligigs, pinwheels and bobble heads, plus a bag or two of dog treats. She’s equipped with a supply of alliterative greetings – “Have a wonderful Wednesday” – and a deep appreciation for grammar school fashion. “I wish I had worn my pink tights today,” Danois, 66, has been known to say to little girls wearing said accessories.

Danois’ post at the intersection of Thompson and Pillsbury streets has become a neighborhood landmark, the pinwheels and whirligigs set up on a 30-foot patch of grass, and her bobble heads nodding and wiggling on a nearby rock wall. Over the last five years Danois has created a one-of-a-kind welcome center for the kids and parents walking to and from Dora L. Small Elementary School. Everyone knows her name, and she knows most of theirs. She keeps an eye out for suspicious goings-on and posts at least three “Please Slow Down” signs in the intersection. She makes parents feel safe about their children walking alone, and she makes kids happy to be walking.

“We just moved into the neighborhood last year and we feel so happy that Michele is here,” said Keely Kane, who has two children at Small. “My children have just started walking home by themselves, and Michele is the checkpoint for them. As a mom, it just makes me feel safe.”

Another of Kane’s children, 2-year-old Olivia, was in a big hurry to see Danois on a recent Thursday morning, looking forward to her daily duties with Danois, including helping set up and remove pinwheels.

Danois says she doesn’t know, and doesn’t care, how much money she’s spent over the years for all the pinwheels and trinkets. They create a festive mood on otherwise dreary school days, and they give children something to look forward to. Several times a year, she gives almost all of them away. Before Thanksgiving break, she lets the kids pick something off the wall or from her goody bag to take home. Then she puts out a whole new season’s worth of winter-themed trinkets. Small schoolers end their school year taking home one of Danois’ presents. Children who don’t walk home have been known to make their parent pull the car over so they can also partake.

Danois, a South Portland native who spent four years in the Peace Corps, taught physical education in Yarmouth schools for more than 20 years. She’s an active member of the Rotary Club of South Portland – Cape Elizabeth, and will sell trees for them this weekend in Mill Creek Park.

She became a crossing guard because she heard police were having a hard time filling positions. So she took two. She begins her mornings at the corner of Broadway and Cottage Road helping kids get to Mahoney Middle School – though without pinwheels – then heads to her post near Small.

Danois said she took the job because nobody else wanted it, and she keeps it because “it makes me feel good inside.”

As a fifth-grader at Frank I. Brown Elementary, she was a student crossing guard at the same corner of Broadway and Cottage.

Now that she’s a crossing guard again, more than 50 years later, Danois considers herself lucky.

“I feel good about the days because of the reactions I get from the little ones, and the older ones too,” she said. “This keeps me connected to children and it makes me feel good inside.”

Mainers to be thankful for

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