U.S. Forest Service volunteer Chris Scott who makes a career out of volunteering. Photo by Marshall Smith

Chicago native Chris Scott serves the community by volunteering. With ongoing service to the Idyllwild Community Fund, the U.S. Forest Service, Idyllwild Arts and the Rotary Club, Scott is part of the pulse of the community.

“Being from Chicago, I never lived in a small town before and didn’t know what to expect,” Scott said. “There is such a great sense of community, and particularly following the Cranston Fire, a great sense of wanting to help each other.

“And there are so many volunteer opportunities here, so many ways to become involved. So, for me, volunteering is just a natural fit.”

Prior to moving to Idyllwild in 2014 so that his wife Pamela Jordan could take up her duties as president of Idyllwild Arts Foundation, Scott was active in Chicago as a fundraiser — for the North Shore Country Day School as an annual giving coordinator, for the University of Chicago as an associate director for major gifts, as director of development for the Chicago Scholars Foundation and as director of development for the Chicago Opera Theater.

With a Bachelor of Science, music education, and a Bachelor of Music, trombone performance, from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and a Master of Music, trombone performance, from Northwestern University in Evanston, Scott was active as a musician in the vital classical, jazz and musical theater scene in Chicago. In addition to playing with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and a variety of professional brass ensembles, Scott performed as a freelancer with numerous shows, studio recordings and local musical tours.

He also volunteered in Chicago for the Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club as an instructor, Sailing Crew Development Class, with the Chicago Academy for the Arts and for the Development Leadership Consortium on their board of directors.

Weaving his skills into the fabric of Idyllwild’s nonprofits and service groups, Scott transferred his fundraising prowess to the Idyllwild Community Fund as vice president for Fundraising, to the Rotary Club as the current president, and to the Forest Service in a variety of roles including tower host. “When I found out I could do that, I said, ‘Sign me up!’ It’s a good crew and we take the job very, very seriously. We literally look out over our community and our beautiful mountains, and help protect them both.”

One of Scott’s happiest opportunities as tower host is giving out patches to children that say, “I climbed Tahquitz Peak.” That ceremonial pleasure had its roots in a 1976 Scott family trip from Chicago to the West, including to Mesa Verde National Park.

“A ranger at the park was very kind to me and gave me a junior ranger badge,” he remembered. It made such an impression on Scott as a young boy, that he continues the practice as tower host in Idyllwild, thinking that it will remind young people of the moment they made the climb to the lookout tower and the importance of the forest and the wilderness.

“I’m also a wilderness ranger, patrolling on and off the trail, interacting and educating the public, interpreting the wilderness for visitors and helping to make sure their experience is fun and safe.” Scott patrols twice a week and serves as tower host every other week.

As president of Rotary for the next year, Scott said he is honored to be part of an organization that is a hub for volunteers providing service to the community. “Not only do we serve as an important volunteer force for other organizations, we give about $15,000 in grants per year to local nonprofits and we also fund student scholarships.

“Some of the most important work I do here is to support my wife Pam, and the great work she and everyone is doing at Idyllwild Arts.”

Although he does not play trombone anymore because of an injury, Scott continues to play electric bass that he also played in high school and college. “I’m having fun with that without the pressures of having to do it professionally — stay tuned,” he said.

Anyone who talks to Scott knows that his abiding obsession is as a “born and raised, die-hard, Bleed Cubbie Blue” Chicago Cubs fan. Mention spring training and you’ll know he is there.

And how different is it to move from a major city to a small unincorporated town? “Do I miss Chicago?” he wondered. “Yes, there are things I miss there — my mom and sister are there. I miss Wrigley Field. I miss being able to step out of our house, walk half a block, and there’s a tamale lady or an Indian restaurant. But we were ready for something new and in Idyllwild, we found a unique community in a pristine setting with a vibrant arts scene, fabulous restaurants, and cool boutique stores and shops.”

Scott’s family typifies the American immigrant experience. “My mother’s side of the family was all from Norway and immigrated in the 1880s to Chicago and Wisconsin,” he said. My father’s side was Scottish and immigrated in the 1660s to Pennsylvania. A fourth great grandfather and many uncles fought in the American Revolution.

In volunteering as widely as he has, Scott follows a pattern that many residents take up. For many on this Hill, volunteering is what makes Idyllwild so special. It is a practice that defines this community and binds it together.