The woman who has been the face, the voice and the driving force behind Canal Winchester Human Services for the past 14 years is stepping down.
Penny Miller was hired part time March 5, 2005, to take care of emergency assistance, coordinate the agency's annual Adopt-A-Family program and find funding for a new van to replace the existing one to transport senior citizens.
"I was told that the $3,500 grant was my annual salary, but I was welcome to work all I wanted to if I could find additional funding to use toward my salary," Miller said. "Besides my craft business, I had not worked a compensated job for more than 20 years when I was hired."
Miller was a quick learner. She had to be.
"When I was hired, I was told the organization had lost $10,000 a year (in) each of the previous three years, and if things did not change, the organization would cease to exist in a short period of time," Miller said.
Today, Human Services has five senior transportation vehicles that travel nearly 40,000 miles a year to transport almost 250 seniors.
Human Services' community outreach programs continue to serve about 300 people each year through the annual Adopt-A-Family program, providing food baskets, toys from Santa, plus shoes, coats, hats and mittens to those in need.
In addition, the organization's annual Tools for Schools program distributes school bags with supplies to students in need and emergency assistance provides help to individuals and families in crisis.
During Miller's tenure, the Canal Winchester Food Pantry was established in 2012, operating out of rented space until Human Services could build its own facility in 2017.
In October 2018, donations from the community made it possible for the construction loan on the building to be paid off.
"Today, we provide food assistance through a Choice Pantry, a Market Day program specific to the needs of low-income senior citizens and the Feeding Our Future Program -- assisting students with bags of food each week so that they are not hungry during the weekend when they cannot benefit from free breakfast/free lunch at school."
"In 2018, more than 1,000 people were served through one of these programs," she said.
Tom Helbert, treasurer of the Human Services executive board of directors, said Miller was named a "pillar of the city" about 10 years ago and her work "embodies" that designation.
"She has put us in good stead regarding the staff on board," he said. "The groundwork has been laid and the programs she has in place are ongoing.
"It's going be difficult -- in fact, I am not sure we can replace her -- but the work will go on," Helbert said.
Helbert said instead of hiring someone to take Miller's job, the board has approved a realignment so some of the work Miller does now can be handled by existing staff members.
He said the board plans to employ a "self-starter" sometime in April who can help Human Services obtain funding and grants, but it will not be a full-time position.
Miller said she has "loved everything" about her job that has brought her "great joy and satisfaction" for 14 years.
"I am so thankful for all the opportunities I have been given and the services we were able to provide during my stead," she said. "It was a wonderful career and I felt very fortunate to oversee so much good.
"Everything that I accomplished was only possible because of those that support our projects and programs," she said.
When Miller leaves her job on April 30, she plans to travel, "spoil" her grandchildren and continue to work with her mother on their Christmas ornaments and decorations cottage craft business, Buttons and Bows.
Her hope is that Human Services will "remain strong in its mission of serving the community through current programs, and continue to grow and expand its services benefiting those who are in need."