Hometown Heroes 2014 Profiles: A Passion for the Community: Jamie Mills

This week we continue our series of blog posts highlighting the awards recipients for the 2014 Hometown Heroes Celebration hosted by the American Red Cross of West Michigan. Each year the American Red Cross celebrates the community heroes who inspire us through their commitment to service and their recognition of the humanity of their neighbors down the street, across the country, and around the world. The event will be held on Thursday, May 1 from 6:00PM-10:00PM at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. For ticket information please visit our Hometown Heroes event page.

Story by Victoria L. Kobza-Sotak

ImageThe American Red Cross of West Michigan is proud to honor Jamie Mills with the Clara Barton Humanitarian of the Year Award.  She is being recognized for her impact on quality health care services locally and for her devotion to many non-profit organizations that serve to strengthen the fabric of our Grand Rapids community.  She is a talented professional, business owner, mentor, health care advocate, philanthropist and community organizer. 


Jamie Mills is a native of New York City.  She graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in American culture.  She also earned a certificate as an employee benefit consultant from the Wharton School of Business.    She is the owner of Mills Benefit Group, and was a recipient of the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s Top Women Owned Business Award in 2012, which recognized Mills Benefit Group as the premier employee benefits consulting firm in the region. 


Throughout her career advising local employers on employee benefit plans; Jamie has served companies and individuals as a health care advocate.  She helps companies manage the full spectrum of benefits; but is uniquely known for her devotion to ill patients as they begin to navigate what is sometimes an unfamiliar and complicated health care system.  She knows and appreciates the local and regional health care system, from the individual physicians, specialists, hospitals and lab facilities and helps direct patients to the facilities best equipped to provide good outcomes for their particular health issues.  She makes it her business to ensure that the critically ill or chronically ill patients she works with receive the best care that is available for them in this area.


In this respect, Jamie’s care and personality are very much akin to Clara Barton’s.  Clara Barton was born in Massachusetts on Christmas Day in 1821.  She was at first a teacher and later a nurse and ultimately founded the American Red Cross in May of 1881, at the age of 60, and served for the next 23 years.  The American Red Cross website notes that:  “Her understanding of the needs of people in distress and the ways in which she could provide help to them guided her throughout her life.  By the force of her personal example, she opened paths to the new field of volunteer service.  Her intense devotion to serving others resulted in enough achievements to fill several ordinary lifetimes.” 


Clara Barton was determined to provide the best care wherever it was needed and drummed up support to establish field hospitals near the battlefields during the Civil War.  She had the amazing ability to inspire others in this cause and as a consequence made a huge difference in the outcomes for many, many soldiers.  Jamie Mills’ ability to care for individuals in their time of distress and to inspire others to do the same is legendary on a local level and is the reason why Jamie and Clara seem like kindred spirits to those who know Jamie through her work and volunteer service.  One can just imagine the two of them in the same room exuberantly swapping “war stories.”


Jamie also works with industry leaders to design health care programs that work.  She generously supports the research efforts of the VanAndel Institute. In 2012, she and her partner, Alec Mazo took the lead on the “Dancing for a VARI Good Cause” and helped raise $82,000 for cancer research efforts, winning both the fan favorite and the overall event after several months of Arthur Murray Dance Boot camp! 


She tirelessly donates her time to many other organizations, including her several years on the board of Junior Achievement, the United Way’s Tocqueville Society, the Economics Club of Grand Rapids, being a sponsor of Gilda’s Laugh Fest and member of Gilda’s Club’s Red Door Society, Paws with a Cause, Bid for Bachelor’s, Friends and Families of Cystic Fibrosis, St. John’s Kid’s First Home, and her ongoing support of the American Red Cross of West Michigan.


Jamie donates her time to a number of local organizations including Paws with a Cause.


She is committed to local philanthropy, with significant time commitments to non-profits and personal financial contributions.  She believes that using all her energy and passion doing for others less fortunate is key to building a stronger Grand Rapids community.


In an interview with the Grand Rapids Business Journal in 2013, Jamie said, “I believe for anyone to be successful in business, you must give back to the community that helped your success.”


We are honored to recognize these many years of service to others by naming Jamie Mills as our Clara Barton Humanitarian of the Year for 2014.


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