BY THRESSEA BOYD
VALDOSTA – Valdosta State University’s Health Sciences and Business Administration (HSBA) building is home to the new Martin and Laura Lynn Miller Family Clinic. Located on the first floor of the HSBA building, the clinic includes the Speech and Hearing Clinic, which was founded in 1962, along future plans to expand services for nursing and other health profession programs.
The clinic is named in honor of former Valdosta residents Martin and Laura Lynn Miller, who currently reside in Savannah, Ga.
According to John Crawford, vice president of University Advancement and CEO of the VSU Foundation Inc., the Millers have established an endowment that will provide scholarships for students who demonstrate a desire to enter the field of community or behavioral nursing. Scholarship recipients will make a commitment to remain in community or behavioral nursing within South Georgia for at least two years. The endowment will also support student and faculty research opportunities in the area of community or behavioral nursing.
After growing up in Valdosta and attending Valdosta State College, the Millers wanted to give back to their alma mater in the form of scholarships and educational outreach.
“We have always intended to do something regarding scholarships and education in nursing,” said Martin. “We built our business in Valdosta. I am very proud of that little company we started in Valdosta, on Laura Lynn’s kitchen table, that became one of three major spokes in a wheel that has developed into a major company.”
After graduating from Valdosta State College in 1966, Martin had a successful career at The Valdosta Daily Times, where he served as city editor, government reporter, and sportswriter. He then joined the Coastal Plains Area Planning and Development Commission (now South Georgia Regional Development Center), where he was assistant executive director.
In 1978, Laura Lynn, who graduated from Valdosta State College in 1972 with a degree in sociology, began working from home part-time for Eldercare of Valdosta, which provided home care to the elderly and physically disabled. Within 18 months, the company had expanded and she obtained ownership. She then expanded the business, opening offices in Macon, Savannah, and Augusta.
It was the growth and success of the home care business that brought her into partnership with Martin in 1986.
The Millers expanded their Eldercare operations, later forming Southern Home Care Services, which was then bought by ResCare, one of the nation’s largest private providers of services to adult and children with disabilities and a privately-owned home care company.
With the Millers energy and experience, they helped ResCare secure home care companies throughout Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Arizona.
In 1990, the Millers began Altrus Inc., a provider of assisted living services in approximately 200 company-owned and contracted personal care homes throughout Georgia. Then in 2007, they acquired Coastal Home Care Inc., a licensed home care company with locations in Savannah, Brunswick, Statesboro, and Hinesville, Ga.
“When you are part of something that is growing you do not see where it is going and the industry was growing; the need for home care became more important,” said Martin. “We viewed our service as a value to help mitigate acute care and make sure people are cared for with three meals a day, taking their medication, dealing with depression, and preventing acute care episodes. This helps the pressure on hospitals.”
The Millers are grateful they have the financial ability to assist in education and health care.
“We are glad that we are in a position to give and feel like it is our duty,” said Martin. “Those who are in a position to give are somewhat obligated to contribute. That has truly been my feeling all my life and that includes me and Laura Lynn.”
The Millers are pleased to be able to give back to their alma mater, as well as the Valdosta community, where they started their home care business.
“This is certainly a progressive community. We believe in continued education and we believe in serving the community,” said Laura Lynn. “The clinic will serve the community and that is one reason we were particularly interested in the clinic and its services.”
The HSBA building and clinic’s proximity to South Georgia Medical Center also has sentimental value to the Millers.
“I worked with the nurses and staff at South Georgia Medical Center when I first started Eldercare,” said Laura Lynn. “A lot of times our patients were discharged from the hospital and we would care for them in the home. At the time we did not have assisted living facilities.”
Laura Lynn is pleased that she and Martin are able to give back to Valdosta State and support an industry that has been an important part of their lives for many years.
“We are proud of Valdosta State and the nursing school has grown so much,” said Laura Lynn. “When I started here in 1967 the nursing program was just getting started. So we are very excited and I knew people that were in the programs, so it has been a thrill to watch it grow, and our main goal is both education and service to the community.”
The Millers have one daughter, Maura Respess, who lives in Valdosta and Savannah, Ga., and is quality director for Coastal Home Care; and two grandchildren, Jed and Lilly.