Michelle Miller

by Tonya Dixon | July 21st, 2016
Michelle Miller (Photos by Howard Gaither)

Michelle Miller (Photos by Howard Gaither)

Having worked in the health care industry for 20 years, Michelle Miller knows her way around and through the health system. Although her resume easily proves her competence in the field, she was initially shocked when she was hand-selected by business owner, Maynard Russell, to manage Russell House – a six-bed residence group home for individuals with Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

At the time I didn’t have a job and he (Russell) knocked on my door and said he was trying to open a group home and asked would I be interested in managing it,” Miller said. “I really didn’t even know him. I only knew him through a mutual friend. Apparently he had talked with people in his home town of Siler City and they encouraged him to talk to me because I had managed a group home there. Everyone told him I did great work.” Miller accepted the challenge and now she operates as the office and program manager and has since become a partner along with Russell as well as James Edward who is also the finance manager.

Currently filled to its max capacity, Russell House has been serving the Asheboro, North Carolina area and clients for nearly five years with no signs of slowing down. The home is perfectly situated away from the disturbances of the city, but not too far into the out-lying areas of the country; only minutes from the North Carolina Zoo, the Asheboro Mall, a Wal-Mart and other local stores. The adult, co-ed facility has become a safe place for individuals that struggle though daily tasks that most people take for granted. Miller says the services Russell House offers to its clients go beyond the norm or the minimum requirements; seeking to offer them a sense of dignity and purpose as well.

During the morning and early afternoon hours Russell House residents take part in a day program where they are able to go on outings and learn everyday living skills such as budgeting and general activities. At the end of the daily program, they come home where they are given the responsibility of maintaining their daily chores, bathing and participating in group activities.

“They need help with the daily things that we take for granted or don’t value like brushing our teeth or washing our faces. They may never understand or remember how important it is,” said Miller. However, she says teaching the clients those skills and more is extremely important and shows that they are cared for and loved. Russell House maintains 24-hour, fully certified and licensed staff members that engage with the residents on every level, because as Miller puts it, it’s the compassionate thing to do.

“It takes love to care for someone that is not a family member; that will often disrespect and sometimes even fight you and still be able to forget about that and care for them and give them 100 percent,” she said. “I think it takes genuine love and genuine compassion for people because it’s not a bed of roses everyday. Sometimes you feel those thorns on those roses, but you have to keep a smile on your face and not allow it to show. Every since I have been in the healthcare field my motto has always been to look at everyone like my family. It does get rough sometimes, and the human side will come up, but that is when God shows me that this person has a disability. You can’t allow the actions of their disability to outweigh the 100 percent of care that you should give them.”

The love and compassion that Miller extends to each of the home’s residents is undergirded with a sincere desire to help those who are often the most helpless of society. From the time she was 12 or 13 years old she says she had a heart for helping the elderly and making sure they were looked after. Her passion and calling only intensified as she grew older when she found herself caring for her ailing father. “My mom always told me I was good at it. I would go see the elderly to make sure they took their medicine and just to check on them and see if they needed anything. That’s not something a teenager would normally do,” she said. “It is just the gift God has given me.”

Although Russell House is doing quite well now, there were times Miller says it was just a struggle to keep the doors open. When the first home the group tried to open failed to get off the ground, through no fault of their own, discouragement tried to settle upon the owners, but through perseverance, a great deal of work and the favor of God, she says everything eventually fell into place and Russell House became a home to many in need. With plans already in the works, Miller says within a year, the group hopes to have a second home available.

From specially tailored Zumba classes to movie night and open discussions and even to the group home’s yearly vacation trip to Florida, the residents’ opinions are strongly encouraged and solicited. Miller says every decision for Russell House is made with the residents in mind. A great deal of thought and attention goes into the programming, activities and even the daily food choices for the residents because, Miller matter-of-factly states, “It’s all about them. They keep the doors open.”

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