Endowment celebrates an educator’s life of service, helps students in crisis

When Sandra Miller passed away in early 2021 following a battle with cancer, her husband of more than 40 years, Chip Miller, knew he wanted to do something to celebrate her life of service. However, the COVID-19 pandemic kept putting the family’s plans on hold. 

After canceling yet another memorial event in the fall of 2021, Chip Miller, along with sons Joseph and Justin, realized with the help of a pastor that an endowment would be the “perfect way to honor her legacy.”

Sandra Miller was very active in service of her community. She taught special education in Montgomery County for many years and was the first woman elected to the Mt. Gilead Town Board where she served for 12 years. She went on to serve on the Montgomery County Board of Education for 11 years and was known for her passion for children and teachers, making sure they were well represented on the school board.

“Establishing an endowment that will be perpetual in nature and help children beyond us would have meant more to her than having a one-time event,” said Chip Miller.  “I could see her smiling over that and felt at ease with that decision.”Sandra Miller

Chip Miller got to work. He reached out to everyone invited to the canceled event and explained the decision to establish an endowment in her honor. At the same time, he connected with Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Dr. Dale Ellis to decide what to fund.

Ellis helped Chip Miller identify an unmet need – a student hardship fund to help students in crisis stay in school with funds
for clothing, food, school supplies, literacy support and other needs.  

“That would be right down Sandra’s alley,” Chip Miller said. “She would love thinking about being able to help these children in a time of need.”

Knowing he wanted the fund to be managed perpetually, a Montgomery County Fund board member referred Miller to the North Carolina Community Foundation. MCF is an affiliate of NCCF.

“NCCF was exactly what I was looking for. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel and NCCF was already doing what we needed, and with a great track record,” said Miller.

The Miller family started the fund with $50,000, and it has grown to about $97,000 thanks to generous contributions from friends, with many donations coming just in time for what would have been Sandra’s 71st birthday in May 2022.

In March 2023, the Sandra Miller Endowment for Children made its first grant to the Montgomery County Schools Children’s Hardship Fund. Teachers, counselors and staff can request grants from the fund to support students in crisis and literacy needs.

Chip Miller has already been approached with words of appreciation from many local teachers who see the need for the fund.

“They’re excited,” he said. “And I’m very excited with the way this fund has already grown.”