Lida J. McMillian
Nominee for 2010 Samaritan of the Year Award
Lida J. McMillan exemplifies what a "Good Samaritan" is in all aspects of her life, especially when it comes to helping individuals with a mental illness. She has been an employee of Volunteers of America for over 25 years. She first became aware of the organization when she did a report for a college class about the people helped through the various Volunteers of America programs. She has stated that she truly had a heart for the ministry of Volunteers of America. Soon after, she was employed by Volunteers of America, working in a group home and shelter providing direct care for abused and neglected teenagers.
After a few years, she left Baton Rouge to return to her hometown of Lake Charles to be close to family. In 1989, Lida was employed as a case manager by the OMH (Office of Mental Health). OMH was looking for a provider to run a day program for folks with mental illness. Lida initiated a meeting with OMH and Volunteers of America Greater Baton Rouge since she knew it would be a good match. She then became the Supervisor of the day program and eventually the Regional Director.
Lida's commitment to working with individuals with a mental illness goes beyond a job description. She puts her time, talent and treasure into her efforts. She has set up the McMillan Family Fund wherein her family contributes money to this fund rather than give her gifts for Christmas and other occasions. She serves on the Mental Health Advisory Board for Southwest Louisiana.
She implemented the Compeer volunteer program which unites community members and individuals with mental illness to become friends. She, herself, became one of the first volunteers. She always says that one of her favorite things to do is to visit the Day Program for adults with a mental illness and just meet and visit with people. To her, individuals with mental illness, are just regular people who happen to have a condition.
Professionally, she has gone wherever needed to improve the lives of people in Southwest Louisiana. When there was a clear need for elderly housing in rural communities, she worked tirelessly to develop Bayou Villa in Welsh and Elton Place in Elton. Since housing for people with a mental illness is scarce, she put those same energies into developing Lake Villa located in Lake Charles and Oberlin Manor in Oberlin.
After Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana, she immediately assisted in hurricane recovery efforts. She drove to Texas to assist in moving a bus load of disabled clients from Volunteers of America New Orleans to resettle in a Texas facility.
When Hurricane Rita was headed for Lake Charles, she personally drove an elderly mother, dog and several clients with a mental illness to escape the storm – first by fighting traffic to Oberlin, then relocating to safety in Winnsboro, until finally bringing them to wait it out in Baton Rouge. As soon as it was safe to return, she worked non-stop to bring hurricane recovery to our community by placing and organizing Louisiana Spirit staff throughout southwest Louisiana. When I say she worked non-stop, she literally worked, ate, slept, and the cycle started again, sometimes working 16-hour days. She brought hope, comfort and good mental health to people in a crisis situation.
She also was the Regional Supervisor of the Louisiana Spirit Hurricane Counseling Program and hired an incredible staff to assist survivors of Katrina and Rita.
Lida J. McMillian