Oak Orchard firefighter wins governor’s volunteer award

Date Published: 
December 20, 2013

Whether he’s in mission control or on the front lines, Patrick Miller has dedicated countless hours to his hometown of Oak Orchard. As president of Indian River Volunteer Fire Company for 14 years and of the Boys & Girls Club of Oak Orchard/Riverdale for four years, Miller helps to lead and collaborate across the community. That work earned him a 2013 Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award.

Coastal Point • Laura Walter: Patrick Miller (right) and other community leaders presents a donation for Oak Orchard children’s toys, blankets and clothes in the annual Nana’s Kids Campaign at Indian River Volunteer Fire Company.Coastal Point • Laura Walter: Patrick Miller (right) and other community leaders presents a donation for Oak Orchard children’s toys, blankets and clothes in the annual Nana’s Kids Campaign at Indian River Volunteer Fire Company.“In the course of his various leadership roles … he enables over a hundred willing volunteers to also serve their community,” wrote nominator Carol Taylor, who worked with Miller last year to transform the IRVFC’s toy campaign into Nana’s Kids Campaign, memorializing her mother, Dorothy “Dottie” Gudger. “Personally, for me, he renewed that feeling that, out in the terrible world, some people still cared about others — just as my mom always had.”

Taylor marveled at the long hours Miller dedicates as a volunteer, from managing to mentoring. His quick email responses came at all hours of the day because of his fire calls or website updates.

Miller is constantly reaching out to people. Taylor praised the successful collaboration he built between her family and a handful of business organizations for Nana’s Kids, “to provide over $12,000 worth of smiles, toys and clothes last December to the kids in the IRVFC community.”

“The reason we call you is because you know how to get things done,” Miller said. “It’s knowing who to contact. It makes the community a better place as a whole.”

“Never one to let issues go unresolved, he can be counted on to lead the way in formalizing meetings, workshops and plain open-air conversations with those that are in a position to help,” wrote Leolga Wright in her recommendation for the award. “I … have seen firsthand the desire in his heart to help others. Patrick is a go-to person when you need to get the job done.”

He also maintains the IRVFC website, regularly updating the public about vehicle accidents or fires through press releases and social media. At the fire hall, Miller might train younger members, monitor floodwaters or continue regular firefighting. No job is too big or too small.

“At the majority of the events Patrick is involved in, this president doesn’t stand on the sidelines. He rolls up his sleeves and is involved in the setup and clean up, as well, or is the one snapping the pictures,” Taylor wrote.

He is hands-on at the Boys and Girls Club, shoveling snow, serving at spaghetti dinner and pancake breakfast fundraisers, and setting up games or giving fire truck rides at the community festival.

For Nana’s Kids, he didn’t just ask others for help — he provided it.

“I can attest he spent long hours aligning the partners, getting a logo, gift tags, sorting over 350 gifts, delivering gifts, purchasing last-minute items and tracking the over $7,200 in monetary donations,” Taylor wrote.

As if those efforts weren’t enough for a full plate, Miller is employed as chief financial officer for Indian River School District.

Miller was surprised by the nomination and briefly managed to stay out of the spotlight it cast. His friends and colleagues were delighted when they later learned of the award.

“Patrick is truly a blessing to those who are touched by his compassion and good will,” said IRSD Superintendent Susan Bunting at the October school board meeting. “We’d like to thank Patrick for all he does — not only at work, but in the community.”

“Patrick is a humble man,” Wright wrote. “When it comes to accepting accolades, he is known for quickly passing the many accomplishments — of which he has been instrumental in completing — on to others. Patrick truly exemplifies what volunteerism is all about.”

“It’s not me. It’s the partnerships in the community that has [pulled together] to do this,” Miller said. “I did not do it for any recognition. They’re little kids. They are entitled to happiness … and it makes a difference.”

Miller recalled a past holiday season when he ran into some neighbors who were shopping, but on a very limited income. Afterward, he decided to purchase the rest of the items on their Christmas list and have everything delivered on a fire engine.

“It was a completely amazing feeling that they appreciated it. We would have never known [about that need] if we hadn’t run into them,” Miller said.

Oak Orchard citizens founded the Boys & Girls Club to help keep children out of trouble. Instead of more policing, they gave youth something to do. Miller joined the board of the organization in 2000, involved with the critical task of fundraising to build the permanent building, which stands today on Route 5. Now, the Oak Orchard club also oversees Dagsboro’s club.

Miller also recently won the Mountaire/WMDT Better Delmarva Award for his service.

The Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Awards honored 25 individuals, groups and corporate groups in October. It is designed to represent the positive impact of volunteerism and encourage others to get involved in their communities. Other nearby community service winners included John Gladwell and Bob Patterson of Lewes and Lucy Mehl of Milford.