Townsend Miller ’09 CIS helps the Salvation Army attain its goals
The holiday season goes hand-in-hand with the visual of the Salvation Army kettle in front of so many establishments. Townsend Miller ’09 CIS is one individual who has a keen interest in the Salvation Army year-round and has seen the relief it can bring to so many people. He is the associate development coordinator at the organization in Lexington. This means he is charged with leading two of its largest fundraising campaigns, The Red Kettle Campaign (bell ringers) and LemonAiD Days. In addition, he recruits and places all volunteers for events and day-to-day activities. Miller also leads all the social media, email marketing and communication for the organization, as well as assists in soliciting gifts at all levels.
Miller loves his job because he gets to spend time with every kind of person imaginable. “On a daily basis I interact with men and women who sleep out on the street at night because they can’t afford a place to sleep due to the fact that they chose to feed themselves instead,” he says. “But on the flip side, I also interact with business and political leaders who understand needs in our community and want to help. I get to understand the positives and negatives of this community.”
Before the Salvation Army, he was a communications coordinator and a development coordinator for United Way of the Bluegrass. Some of his responsibilities there included media relations and fundraising, along with maintaining relationships with businesses and individuals as donors.
Miller is part of a UK Legacy family and got interested in earning a degree in the UK College of Communications and Information Studies in a round-about way. Both of his parents are UK grads. Herbert A. Miller ’76 AS, LAW, is president of Columbia Gas of Kentucky. His mother, Cynthia Harbett Miller ’74 AS, ’81 CIS, is a senior lecturer and internship director in the UK Department of Communications. His brother is Stinson Miller ’07 CIS, and his grandmother is Gloria Stivers Harbett ’48 AS. Miller’s paternal grandmother is Martha Townsend Koppius Hall '44 '47 AS, who is still active and participates in her grandchildren's lives. In addition, his grandfather Otto Townsend Koppius was head of the UK Department of Physics from 1952-53. (Townsend’s fiancée, Amber Case ’10 CIS, is anticipating receiving a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling in 2012 from UK.)
“Making a switch to communications was probably a top-10 life decision. Freshman year, I had passed the entrance exam and was accepted to the architecture school. My interest quickly faded and I thought, ‘I’d be a good teacher.’ So I spent a year and a half wanting to be a middle school math teacher. That wasn’t working out, so my mother lured me into the College of Communications,” Miller says. “Yes, I did have to take her class, but the college was perfect for me. I was able to learn interpersonal and persuasive communication styles that adapted perfectly to my career path. I don’t think there was one person in my class who wasn’t as outgoing as I was. I owe a lot to my degree and the UK College of Communications and Information Studies.”
While at UK he had many wonderful opportunities, including research support for Alan DeSantis in the UK Department of Communications in his ground-breaking study of prescription drug use among college students. “I helped create survey instruments, interview participants and interpret the scientific research studies for academic publication in the Journal of American College Health and electronic media coverage. I was also interviewed by Katie Couric on the CBS News 60 Minutes program,” he says.
Another significant opportunity: DanceBlue. “It was a major influence on not just my career but my entire life. I was just a dancer the very first year it was held at UK. From then on I was hooked. It was truly amazing,” Miller says. “I went from dancer, to committee member, to coordinator and was corporate relations chairman my senior year. Through DanceBlue I discovered two passions I have that lead my life today: helping others and fundraising. I made a decision. That’s what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about that amazing program and the friendships it allowed me to create.”
It comes as no surprise, then, that Miller has pursued jobs that have a service-oriented component. “It really all stems from two things, DanceBlue and how my parents raised me. I am a very fortunate and blessed individual. Growing up, my parents did all they could to keep my two brothers and I happy. Still to this day, they buy me clothes, bring me food and look after me. Not everyone has that. Not everyone is as lucky as I am,” he says. “But why was I so lucky and fortunate? Why wasn’t it the guy at the intersection holding the ‘Need $$, God Bless You’ sign? I choose to help everyone in any way I can. It is not really in my willpower to say “No” to someone. And I still don’t know how I was lucky enough to be in a job where I can do that every day.”
Miller particularly likes his job at the Salvation Army because he feels its mission is not just a statement, but a way of life, he says. The organization strives to meet human needs without discrimination, and Miller says he thinks this is particularly important to remember, especially around the holidays. “The Salvation Army operates the only comprehensive shelter in Lexington. It’ ‘s the only place a woman and her children can go in the middle of the night,” he says. “If you have the opportunity to donate this year, just think of how fortunate you are and give to your ability. It will make your day.”
Miller has his more light-hearted side. He likes to kick back at the end of a work week and spend time with his fiancée, Amber. “Like most couples, we have our shows that we watch together every week, but we also watch football on the weekends. She is a wonderful cook, and always takes care of me so we usually have dinner together every evening,” he says. His five-year plan includes getting married, starting a family, and possibly moving.
“I would like to continue my fundraising career, possibly ultimately working in a development office at a university,” he says. “I do joke with my fiancée that I would like to be a ‘stay-at-home dad,’ but I don’t think she finds it as funny as I do!”
- Linda Perry