Changing lives – much more than a faceless cause

MichaelMiller 6-22-12  2011 dsc_6744

Guest blogger Mike Miller, President of Miller Air Group and Coalition Board member, was anxious to share why he supports the Coalition and the work we do. Thank you, Mike, for all you do!


Everyone has choices. Choices of how to spend your time and your money. What to buy, what to give. Emotional choices and rational choices. It’s easy to give when there’s a natural disaster and a website on your screen has dreadful images. Emotions take over. Then there’s saving for retirement – that’s even easier.

But combining the two is a different path, and that path led me to give my time and donations to Coalition for the Homeless.

The bottom line as I got older was the realization that I shouldn’t give money to a faceless cause, where I didn’t know how the money would be spent…or if it would be used wisely. So how do you determine if even a single donation is being spent wisely? Should you? I don’t have the appropriate research tools and, as a small business owner over the last decade, not much extra to give.

I work with airlines and airports, so I had no idea how non-profits worked. While I wanted to give, I also wanted to make sure it went for a good purpose. So I explored Orlando and Orange County for places where there was good work being done. I looked for top-rated non-profits. There are several, and I had volunteered for Second Harvest Food Bank, which is a great organization.

But my research of good works in the community kept coming back to place I had visited once when my daughter was in middle school. We volunteered to serve a meal at the Coalition. It was an emotional night, but I didn’t know much about the organization.

The more I looked, the wider my eyes got. Wow. What a place. What a staff. What a critical need in the community! Obviously homelessness is a critical issue, but Orlando’s problem is even worse. Of mid-sized cities, it’s the worst in the nation for chronic homelessness. Where to begin? Is this is a good cause? Sure, but is this group well-structured? Luckily, the Coalition is a top-rated organization that spends money so wisely that not a penny is wasted. At least none that I can see three years later. Even the water for meetings is donated!

One visit to the Coalition – I took a tour three years ago – and one chance to listen to the great leader, Brent Trotter, and I had to do more. Each time I visited, I could see lives that were yearning for a second chance. The more I listened, the more I wanted to give my time, in whatever way they needed it.

I met families that were homeless because both parents lost their jobs. I served dinner recently with a veteran who just needed stability in his life. I met a woman who couldn’t kick drugs until they took everything she owned. And then there are the children. To see the little kids living at the Coalition just breaks my heart, although the staff is so amazingly caring that there’s a bit of solace in an otherwise awful situation.

The Women’s Residential Counseling Center on Hillcrest Street, where many women go to flee a harmful home situation or an abusive spouse, reminds me there’s so much need for so many whose circumstances are never what they planned. And I can see that money is needed to continually repair these old buildings.

The emotional side to changing lives and seeing such dire need gets to me. But knowing how well the Coalition is run gives me comfort that anything I give will be used to help real local people in need, and to make sure the amazingly patient case managers guide them. Clients have to accept case management to stay at the Coalition. It’s no handout. It’s tough love. Luckily there’s plenty of love to go along with the tough choices.

Lives are being changed daily here. That much I know.