Keeping It Local
Commitment to “the home place” is a strong value in the Miller family; the house on their family farm near Deerfield has sheltered four generations. Max Miller and his wife, Marianne (who passed away in 2012), lived in the house that had belonged to his parents until the mid-1980s, when they moved to Garden City. Their son, Monte, and his wife bought the house, raised their children there, and then also moved to Garden City in 2010. Currently, Monte’s daughter and her husband reside there.
“The money that was earned here in the community can stay in the community and be put to good use.”
- Monte Miller
Dedicated to the place that has supported their livelihood, the Millers have another tradition of giving back through community foundations. Always one to lend a hand to local organizations, Marianne was heavily involved with the Western Kansas Community Foundation (WKCF) from its beginnings. She served on the board, as did Monte and Max’s sister Shirley, and all the Millers have been strong ambassadors, helping to bring the WKCF to life.
One organization that the Millers support through the WKCF is the Garden City Family YMCA. Max and Marianne spent every morning for nearly 20 years swimming at the YMCA pool. Through a fund established at the WKCF, the couple can ensure that many more people will continue to enjoy the programs and facilities.
“We appreciate the YMCA. It’s really a worthwhile organization,” Max said.
Max and Marianne also worked to get more people involved with the community foundation. Max’s sister, Shirley Tillotson, and her husband were no exception. Max and Marianne recruited them in the late 1990s while on a family trip.
“They were telling us about it, and it was a totally foreign idea to us,” Shirley said. “We thought, ‘We can’t do that!’”
However, Marianne eventually convinced Shirley to sit in on a few meetings and take a position on the WKCF board. Ten years later, Shirley helped establish the Grant County Community Foundation in Ulysses.
“Our parents taught us to share, and we do need to share our good fortunes for the next person to benefit from,” Shirley said. “It’s so important for us to be benevolent to the community that we’ve earned our living in and raised our kids in. And your children will take pride in knowing that you’ve left something to the community, even if they are no longer living there.”
“We have been given an opportunity by those that have gone before us. It’s up to us to leave a legacy for those who will come after.”
- Shirley Tillotson
One project that both Marianne and Shirley cared deeply about was the Women of Purpose Fund. Started in 2009 with 52 donations of $1,000 each by local women, the endowed fund has grown significantly since. Each year, the women who donate to the Women of Purpose Fund furnish a grant that benefits women’s causes in the area. Some of these projects have included educational and health programs such as breast cancer screenings and courses on applying and interviewing for jobs.
“The community foundation is a good organization. It helps a lot of local nonprofits and projects, which in turn helps other people,” Max said.
“There are a lot of great people in our community, and I think we need to leave something here for their future,” Shirley added. “I always tell people, ‘You don’t have to leave your entire estate — just leave a little bit in the county or city where you made it, in the community that helped you make a living.’ If everybody left a little bit, it would make a big difference.”
For the Millers and the generations of their family who have been born and raised in Kansas, the concept of community matters a great deal. In some ways, the community they have been a part of for so many years is like family — all the more reason for making sure it is taken care of into the future.
“People come and go, children move away, but this is still the home base — this is where they’re from,” Monte said. “The money that was earned here in the community can stay in the community and be put to good use.”
“We have been given an opportunity by those that have gone before us,” Shirley said. “It’s up to us to leave a legacy for those who will come after.”