The Amazing Missy Miller
By: Eric Short
At first glance, Missy Miller seems like any other native of Eastern Kentucky. She has the Appalachian accent that is so characteristic of the people here. and the hospitable nature to match. But spend a few hours with her. and you’ll soon realize. this is no ordinary woman. Missy Miller is truly amazing.
A 27-year veteran of Salvation Army service. and now the chairwoman for the Perry County, Kentucky, Service Unit. Ms. Miller has made an indelible mark on the people of this area. as well as on the members of The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) team that responded in the wake of the historic flooding in this part of the state.
“This operation. and our overall response. was made so much easier by the assistance that Missy provided,” said Bo Sells. Divisional Director of Disaster Services for the KentuckyTennessee (KT) Division of The Salvation Army. According to Sells. Miller was responsible for arranging office space at the LKLP Community Action. Inc. building in Hazard. This office space served as the Incident Command Post during the initial response by the KT Division’s EDS team. Miller facilitated this relationship with LKLP. and in her daily visits to the command post. her refrain was always the same. “Let me know if ya’II need anything. Anything at all.” Miller would say.
The KT EDS team came to rely heavily on Missy during the 10-day initial response to the disaster. just as members of her own community have for many years before that. Anita Shepherd, the Family Resource Director at nearby Leatherwood Elementary School, said of Miller. “Missy is one of our most valuable community partners. She helps us year-round. with all the things for our families. If I have a family whose home burns down. Missy is there to help with mattresses and beds. She helps us with supplies like hygiene kits and even school supplies. If I need something, I always go to Missy first. because she’s always there for us.”
According to Shepherd, Missy “never says no.” “She might not have it now, but she’ll tell you, ‘Give me a couple of days and I’ll get it,” said Shepherd. “She’s got a big heart.”
Missy’s passion for her work with The Salvation Army is evident. “Originally, it was part of my job with the state to be involved with the community. The Salvation Army invited me to one of their board meetings and once I attended, I was hooked. I knew this was the right place for me to be,” said Miller. “I just like helping people. It’s a passion of mine, and that’s what the Army is all about.”
She attributes her big heart to her parents, Ralph and Brenda Miller, of the Bonnyman area. “That’s the way I was raised. We were taught to help others, and to work hard,” said Miller.
And yet even as Missy helped others in the community, her own parents were affected by the flood. “They had 13 inches of water in their house. They were flooded in and couldn’t get out. We were blessed that the water went down. My dad is 84 and he’s not leaving his house.”
During the 10-day stretch after the flood, Missy had been working nonstop to cleanup her own parents’ house, assist people in the community, and assist The Salvation Army EDS team with resources they needed, including arranging for warehouse space in the Lothair area of Hazard. From this location, The Salvation Army was able to serve thousands of survivors of the flood, with items such as hygiene kits, flood cleanup kits, food boxes, cases of bottled water, and $100,000 worth of Walmart gift cards. “It’s such a blessing to the community for The Salvation Army to be here now. The people need this help. I don’t know how we’re gonna make it…but we will,” said Miller.
KT Divisional Commander, Major Thomas Louden, paid a visit to Missy’s parents at their home. While there, he listened to their story of the flood, prayed over them, and was able to bless them with a $200 gift card from Walmart to aid with recovery. “It meant the world. That really lifted their spirits. They know people care. It meant a lot for him to come visit with them.” Later, upon learning of the efforts of Miller, it would be Major Louden who would dub her, “The Amazing Missy Miller.”
As for the future recovery of the area, Miller says she plans to utilize the service unit’s warehouse on Main Street in Hazard to help those in need. “Absolutely. We have coats and shoes and whatever people need. We have families picking up stuff today. I’m going to deliver stuff to three other families that lost everything later.”
Whatever the future holds for this small mountain community as it tries to recover from this flood, one thing they can be assured of. The amazing Missy Miller will be there through it all, never saying no, and finding a way to help those in need.