Miller at home with Habitat PDF Print E-mail
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor   
Saturday, 12 October 2013 08:11
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Maxine Miller sits next to her Habitat for Humanity award. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
For the folks at Habitat for Humanity of Wood County, Maxine Miller is a genuine heroine.
Now 86 years old, Miller is finally having to slow way down on her local volunteering. But time isn't likely to take away her single-handed record of direct involvement with an astonishing 22 new home builds over the past two decades.
Houses built during Miller's tenure as volunteer coordinator are located at all points of the compass.
"The first three houses were in Bloomdale, all side by side overlooking the ballpark," she recalled.
"Two houses in Grand Rapids, two or three in Northwood," Miller said, starting to tick them off. "You know we've been all over the county. I feel very honored to have been a part of it."
All told, "I generated $600,000 in grants" for the Habitat Building Fund, she acknowledged.
"During the time I was president we were able to accomplish a lot, because we were able to get grants - which you have to have to be able to buy the houses, as much as they cost now."
So remarkable has been her contribution to Habitat for Humanity that the county organization decided to establish an award in her honor.
The first "Maxine Miller Outstanding Leadership and Volunteerism" award was presented to Miller on Sept. 15, during Habitat's Family & Volunteer Picnic at BG City Park.
"They gave me a beautiful glass plaque," Miller said.
In the future, the award carrying her name will be given to a new recipient annually "as a tribute to her profound impact on the Wood County community and Habitat's housing program," explained Jennifer Kephart, executive director for Habitat in Wood County.
Most people are familiar with the international Habitat for Humanity program, in part because of "big name" volunteers who have gotten involved - people like former President Jimmy Carter, actors Josh Duhamel and Rob Lowe, and performers U2 and Garth Brooks.
It is an ecumenical Christian ministry that brings together people dedicated to eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built more than 500,000 houses worldwide, providing decent and affordable shelter for more than 3 million people.
The key to the program's success is that volunteers build the houses side by side with those in need, the very people who will go on to become the homes' proud owners.
For each Habitat recipient family, the chance for home ownership is a nearly unimaginable dream come true.
While each of those 22 Habitat families in Wood County are special to Miller, there was one that really stood out.
"The house I really enjoyed doing was for a woman in Luckey named Joyce, who works at Kroger.
"I knew that she had two children and was a single mom and she desperately wanted something better for her children. Since then, it turns out they both graduated from college."
Miller said she always tries to give a gift to the children in each Habitat home when they graduate from high school. Usually it's a keepsake sugar and creamer tea set.
"I gave the boy in this family $25 and he was so appreciative."
Miller and her husband Max have eight children of their own - six from her first marriage and two from his. They also have 19 grandchildren.
A Tennessee native, her family moved near Zanesville, Ohio, when she was 4 years old. At age 21 she began doing social work.
She and Max met at a Parents Without Partners meeting in Toledo.
"I'd been married 20 years to my childhood sweetheart. It was one of those sad things. It took me six months to even go over to the church where we were having the meetings."
She married Max and moved to Bowling Green in 1973.
"The first summer I was down here I started teaching Sunday school at First United Methodist Church," where the couple had wed. Soon she ranked as one of the church's most active volunteers.
Miller continued as a Sunday school teacher, mostly for the first and second graders whom she calls "my niche," for a whopping 30 years.
Her interest in affordable housing began with a service project she created for her young Sunday school charges, getting them involved helping "a Bowling Green family with lots of babies. It ended up we took care of 75 families.
"The thing I was really interested in was finding homes for people," an interest that was magnified after she connected with a service project for university students led by Bill Thompson and discovered there was a need for homes, locally.
Miller has also been the sole coordinator of Martha's Kitchen since 1991.
"We had our first dinner at First United Methodist," a tradition that continues to this day with dinners for those in need. "I just turned it over to Sara Elsasser in January this year."
Miller was also the BG shelter manager for United Way for many years. She coordinated emergency shelters during two severe snowstorms in the 1970s, one at her church and one at the Elks Club.
It was when Miller suffered a stroke, in 2007, that her doctor told her: "Maxine, you're going to have to give up on some of these volunteer things."
"So I gave up Habitat for Humanity, because that was one of the most stressful things."
But she still keeps the program close to her heart, and worries that the pace of new builds has slowed since grants are now so hard to come by and the recession hit charitable giving hard.

Next Habitat build set for April

Habitat of Wood County’s Building Fund is currently at 60 percent of the fundraising goal to begin the next construction project. It is a home for the Wittenmeyer family, scheduled to break ground next April in Bradner.
Currently, $100,000 is the average cost to build a three-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot, Energy Star 3.0 home. That’s the goal for this, the 32nd home build in the local program’s history. Both monetary donations and hands-on building volunteers are being sought. To get involved call 419-353-5430, contact Jennifer Kephart at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , visit Habitat’s website www.wchabitat.org, or mail to P.O. Box 235 Bowling Green, OH 43402.
Last Updated on Monday, 14 October 2013 11:59
 

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