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Miller to be honored during May 9 roast

Julie Severn

5/14/2003 12:00:00 AM

Recent state budget cuts are forcing one Tribal member to close a Native health care program after providing 30 years of service.

Saginaw InterTribal Director Victoria Miller said funding was unexpectedly eliminated Jan. 17 in an effort to balance the state deficit.

For the past four months Victoria has volunteered her time and continued operating with left over in-kind funds to cover rent and expenses.

Lack of financial assistance left her no choice but to lay off community health care providers, eliminating potential service to 2,600 Native Americans in 17 counties throughout Michigan.

"I'm slowly working toward closing the doors," Victoria said. "I don't know when that will be-other than when the money runs out-but right now I'm doing it because I enjoy it."

Although services are limited, Victoria has found cost-effective ways to assist the community by providing referrals and offering guidance in higher education, employment opportunities and tracing genealogy.

"I plan on retiring once the office is closed, but I enjoy helping people and will continue to volunteer wherever I'm needed," she added. "My husband of 43 years, Arthur, our five children and 11 grandchildren, have been very supportive."

The Saginaw agency has served as a springboard for several Native employees who began their careers working for Victoria.

"To help Indian kids advance and watch them excel their careers is very gratifying," she added.

At-Large Director Amy Alberts is one of the many who worked with Victoria over the past three decades.

"She is a friend and a mentor," Amy said. "Victoria deserves to be recognized for her dedication to improving the health needs of the Native community."

Wayne County Social Services Administrator and Tribal member Thelma Henry-Shipman agreed.

"Victoria has been giving of herself since the 1970s," Thelma said. "Not only was she helpful in establishing the health care program, she provided services and employment opportunities to several of our people-to all Indian people-and now she's volunteering her time."

Amy considers Victoria's retirement an opportunity to become more involved in new endeavors. The two have worked on several projects and committees together.

Thelma and Amy will host a "Roasting & Toasting" ceremony to honor Victoria on May 9 at the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort. Dinner and a cash bar will begin at 6 p.m. with the roast and dancing from 9 p.m. to midnight. For more information or to purchase a $30 ticket,contact Thelma at (989) 465-1409 or Amy at (989) 773-0360 or (989) 728-5772.