WARREN - It's said that character portrayals of the merry Mrs. Claus and fairy tale teller Mother Goose are the highlight of E. Carol Maxwell's volunteer work. ''These portrayals are her true calling, to give back to the community and individuals,'' said Esther Gartland, a friend of Maxwell's for about two decades now. Maxwell has been portraying the loveable wife of Santa Claus for about 29 years at different events and locations, including Storytime with Mrs. Claus at The Upton House, at the Fairhaven School and at the Children's Rehabilitation Center, and she's been telling tales as Mother Goose for the last 10 or so years.
''People have said over the years, 'you really are Mrs. Claus,''' said Maxwell. ''I really enjoy it.''
''I do it because I love seeing the kids,'' said Maxwell, adding it's the youngster's curiosity she truly enjoys.
Also, she often portrays Harriet Taylor Upton, a leader in the women's suffrage movement.
Maxwell's spirit for volunteerism is older than that first time she put on the Mrs. Claus costume in 1977, for a fundraiser and toy drive at the old Applewood Gardens, where Vernon's Cafe in Niles is today. It's also larger, and includes the giving of her time over the years to organizations like the Harriet Taylor Upton Association, Martin Luther King Jr. Dream Team, Warren Junior Women's League and the JDC Foundation for the Performing Arts.
Because of her passion for selflessly giving her time and the significant impact she's made in the community, Maxwell has been named a Community Star by the Tribune Chronicle and Trumbull 100.
In its 13th year now, the program celebrates volunteers for their kindness, courage or devotion to community.
Gartland, who nominated Maxwell, is a member of the Warren Junior Women's League with her and they've served on the Trumbull County Women's History Celebration committee.
The nod to Maxwell, said Gartland, is for ''knowing her over the years and seeing how deeply she cares about so many things in her community and how she will go out of her way to help others. She is a very caring individual.''
''She doesn't do it for the recognition, she does it out of the kindness of her heart,'' said Gartland.
Maxwell's first endeavor into volunteerism was in the mid-1970s, she said, for the Trumbull County ARC, an advocacy organization created by parents of children with development disabilities. It was the first of many bike-a-thon events she's been in for the organization.
Her service expanded to several more organizations, including the Harriet Taylor Upton Association, which is dedicated to preserving history by maintaining the Warren home of Taylor Upton. It's also where Maxwell lives, in an upstairs apartment, she said, ''when I land.''
Maxwell, 66, has been a member of the Junior Women's League since about 1977 and has served as its president and as committee and fundraiser chair.
She has served as a member of the Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities and the Trumbull County Board of Developmental Disabilities. She has been a member of Children's Rehabilitation Center, the Trumbull County Children Services levy committee, Warren School District strategic planning committee, Women's Life Force, YWCA board and Ohio Federation of Women's Clubs.
In addition, she has been a member of Trumbull New Theatre for more than 18 years, doing various jobs, including ushering, box office duty, playbill editor, choreographer and actor. She's choreographed several shows already, including ''Guys and Dolls,'' ''A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum'' and ''Fiddler on the Roof,'' and the one playing now, ''Send Me No Flowers.''
Maxwell has been on stage, too. She performed in the female version of ''The Odd Couple'' and said she had a ''bit'' part in ''A Streetcar Named Desire.''
Some of her endeavors outside the area include volunteering for the Chautauqua Dance Circle, a support organization in the greater Chautauqua, N.Y. area that offers residents there the chance to learn more about dance and meet with faculty and students at the dance facility there.
Also, she is a volunteer for the Ecumenical Community of Chautauqua, which provides housing for clergy, religious workers and lay people from all faiths.
Her portrayals of Mrs. Claus and Harriet Taylor Upton bring her different senses of satisfaction. As Mrs. Claus, she said, it's about working and interacting with children and as Harriet Taylor Upton, the awesomeness of playing such a pivotal figure in the women's suffrage movement.
It's an ''honor'' to portray the suffrage leader, said Maxwell.
''She was here and she was among the woman that helped the cause. It's important for us who came after to carry forward that work and the contribution,'' said Maxwell.