If Jill Miller had not already been serving on the board of Youth Haven—Collier County’s only emergency shelter for abused or abandoned children—the heartbreaking story of one teenage boy, when she heard it, would have convinced her to join. His parents had moved away without warning, leaving the 15-year-old behind to fend for himself.
“He stayed in the home until the lights got shut off and the water got shut off,” Miller recalls. Only after classmates complained about his hygiene did his school discover that he was living alone. Youth Haven gave the boy a place to stay.
Many kids aren’t so fortunate, however. The shelter has only 49 beds, and there are nearly 600 homeless students in the county. Youth Haven’s sixth annual Home, Hope, and Healing Luncheon in January will help raise funds for a new $1.5 million cottage, which will add 23 beds. Hertz Corp., the presenting sponsor, has pledged to donate $35,000, and Miller and her husband, Steve, co-chairs of the event, have sworn to match it.
The work is new for them. After moving to Naples in 2009, it took Jill five years to find a charity to which she felt a personal connection and which had need of her talents. When she discovered Youth Haven, everything clicked. “I had five years of charity built up inside me,” she says, “and I just put it all on the table right away.”
For now, she divides her time between Naples and Detroit, where she grew up and worked as executive director of the SAE Detroit Section. It was there that she met and married Steve, whose new job as the CEO of International Automotive Components has occasioned the Millers’ return to Detroit. Nevertheless, Jill flies back for every Youth Haven board meeting and the couple recently purchased a home in Port Royal.
Steve, who spent the past five years as chairman of the board at AIG, sees no disconnect between his career and philanthropic work. “I’m known as the Turnaround Kid,” he says. “And what we do at Youth Haven is try to turn around kids’ lives.”