Judy Miller has been a Princeton UMC constant for more than 30 years. Look up during service, and there she sits in the first row of the balcony; look over your shoulder during fellowship time, and there she is: always with a cup of coffee, a smile, and a warm greeting. When on-site services fully resume, they will do so without Judy Miller. As of this writing, she and her husband, Dick, are preparing to move to North Carolina to be near their son, daughter-in-law, and four grandchildren.
I first met Judy in the Sanford Davis Room five years ago. Information about all the outreach programs the church sponsored was displayed around the room. My husband and I, new to PUMC, were looking for volunteer opportunities, and we were both drawn to Cornerstone Community Kitchen (CCK). After talking with Judy and Larry Apperson, director of CCK, we were hooked. At the time, I was still teaching and came to CCK right after school on Wednesdays, arriving about 30 minutes before the doors opened to help set up the dining area. Back then, CCK was held in the Sanford Davis Room, and The Store, Judy's brainchild, ran out of The Colonial Room off the dining area. Each week, I watched Ju- dy, who stands about 5’ 2”, haul large bins out from under the tables and lay out donated clothing for our guests to "shop" during dinner, after which, she'd pack everything away for the next week.
In 2018, CCK and The Store moved to Fellowship Hall, and our ability to serve people expanded. Normally, I was part of the wait staff, but one fateful Wednesday, Judy needed help and Larry had too many servers so I went to help in the store and never left. As a "waitress," I didn't have too many chances to talk with our diners past the usual "thank yous and you're welcomes" of meal service. By working in The Store and by watching Judy, I saw close up what ministering to others looks like. Judy knew the details of these people's lives - who was expecting, who had lost a job, who had moved, who was newly homeless. Countless times I saw her pull a shopper aside to give them something she had put in the back rom for them: to the artist burned out of her home, she gave a packet of art supplies; to the homeless man, socks and an assortment of hygiene products; to the new mom, a stroller. On Tuesdays, Judy came to church to sort the donations that had come in. Often on those days, someone in need who could not come to CCK would show up, and Judy let them shop or help out. Whenever she was there, the doors were open.
Over my years of volunteering at CCK and The Store, their outreach efforts have grown and in that growth, I saw Judy’s hands. Partnering with local religious and community organizations, we instituted the Back-to-School Backpack Drive, expanded the Christmas Gift Drive, organized twice-monthly nurse visits to conduct wellness checks, and even opened a monthly hair salon. Those of us who vol- unteer with Judy fondly call her The Energizer Bun- ny; she is always on the move devising ways to im- prove the CCK experience.
Judy has a way of drawing people into her orbit. After I retired (or after Judy found out I had re- tired), I started spending more time with her on the behind-the-scenes work of The Store. In witnessing her attitude toward ministry, I saw my own and was ashamed. Many of the people we serve at CCK are poor. I defined them by what they lacked and thought, "Anything is good enough." Sorting clothes: a few stains, a ripped seam - "Good enough"; wrapping Christmas pre- sents: paper ripped, slap a bow on it - "Good Enough." Judy ministers to the individual, always with respect and genuine concern. Countless times during sorting she'd take home donations that needed a little sewing or stain removal; the presents she wrapped were works of art - paper and ribbon color coordinated and bows hand- made. I would be there thinking, "Are we almost done?" while Judy was picturing the joy a beautiful gift awakens in a child. Because of Judy, I was forced to recalibrate my idea of service, and of all the things I thank Judy for, this lesson I value most.
Most of Judy’s adult life has been spent in the care of others: neonatal ICU nurse, wife, mother, grandmother, and church volunteer extraordinaire (in addition to CCK Judy served as chorister, gar- dener, event planner, and trustee.) To me, she is a friend whom I will miss fiercely. But as sad as her leaving is, I can’t help but smile picturing Judy at the helm of some outreach initiative at her new church. Godspeed, Judy Miller.
Written by Kate Lasko