Unsung Hero: Mechanicsburg man feeds neighbors, community

6:00 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017 Community News
Bill Miller, the president of the Champaign County Memorial Foundation, looks over the food in the Oasis of Mercy Food Pantry in Mechanicsburg. Bill Lackey/Staff

Mechanicsburg resident Bill Miller doesn’t volunteer for publicity — he said he simply wants to help his neighbors.

“You see friends and you try to help people and help your neighbor,” said Miller, who’s 80. “If everybody helps their neighbor, that spreads.”

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Miller serves as president of the Champaign County Community Foundation, an organization created to provide grants to entities who serve seniors. For his efforts this year delivering food and helping seniors, Miller was named an unsung hero by the Springfield News-Sun this holiday season.

The foundation was previously known as the Champaign County Memorial Committee, which operated a 50-bed nursing home on U.S. 68. When it was torn down, the foundation was created to benefit seniors throughout the area.

It funds numerous organizations that improve the quality of life for seniors, including the arts council and the seniors center.

“We took the money we had and kind of built on that,” Miller said.

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Miller previously worked as a cattle farmer and later as a salesman at Buckeye Ford in London for 20 years.

A few years ago, Miller volunteered preparing tax returns for seniors at local nursing homes, Miller said. He saw a major need for assistance for seniors in the community.

“There were people living off of $600 to $700 per month,” he said. “I knew there was a need. You can’t just sit back and not try to do something about it. I’m retired and I have time to do it.”

Earlier this year, Miller and a few other people started a food pantry called Oasis of Mercy, located at the former St. Michael’s Parish Hall in Mechanicsburg, 40 Walnut St. Several churches also were involved in building a prayer grotto at the pantry, Miller said.

The pantry is open to all within the Mechanicsburg school district and opened in April.

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The fourth Thursday of each month, the Second Harvest Food Bank mobile food truck serves more than 100 families there. Miller and other volunteers also deliver boxes of food to seniors and low-income apartments, Miller said. The food pantry also hosts a 65-and-older senior lunch every Tuesday, provided by LifeCare Alliance.

“There’s a lot of volunteers who work on that,” he said.

Miller and his wife, Kay, also pick up food from different big box stores and grocery stores, delivering it to Champaign County food pantries, driving more than 100 mile round trips.

“I try not to think about it, I just do it,” Miller said.

Last week Miller and others — including his daughters, Mechanicsburg school administrators Marlo Schipfer and Mary J. Huffman — distributed more than 440 chicken breasts to seniors at Champaign County nursing homes. Mechanicsburg recently began a program where middle school students earn the right to visit with seniors and play games with them.

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“It’s a learning experience for the kids and the seniors just love it,” Miller said. “They all get satisfaction from that.”

He was nominated for recognition by Lydia Hess, executive director of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau. No one cares more about their community being fed than Miller, Hess said.

“He’s an immense resource, not just for the foundation but also Mechanicsburg and our entire community,” she said. “He told me he’s made 87 trips on behalf of the food bank this year. It’s incredible. He’s a rarity today.”

When it comes to volunteer hours, however, Miller admitted his wife takes the household crown. She serves on both the library board and a parks board, as well as helping at St. Michael’s Church.

“She’ll spend at least sixty hours a week in volunteer work,” he said. “You probably should be honoring her instead of me.”

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