Ellen’s walk with Mary’s Meals

This National Volunteer week we're celebrating incredible volunteers who are at the heart of Mary's Meals…like Ellen from Iowa.

Magnus recounts the dawn of Ellen’s journey with Mary’s Meals in his book “The Shed That Fed A Million Children”;

“At some sessions during the week-long gathering, pilgrims who happened to be in Medjugorje would come in and join us. One of these was a lady called Ellen Miller from Iowa, who had a chat with Julie [Magnus' wife] over a coffee between meetings. She explained that she and friend were organizing a conference called ‘Christ Our Life’ in their city of Des Moines. They were determined to fill a basketball stadium with thousands of people and were looking for speakers. And so it was that in September 2010, I found myself being met at Des Moines Airport by Ellen’s smiling son, Mike. The following morning, I arrived at the stadium along with 4,000 other people who had gathered for the conference. I left soon afterwards, very impressed by the Miller family and the good people I had met there, but without an understanding of what we had just ignited in Iowa.”

Both Ellen and her son Mike joined Mary’s Meals right after Magnus’ visit to Iowa! Mike is living in Malawi, with his wife and 3 children, working for Mary’s Meals. Ellen resides in Iowa with her husband and many grandchildren. We often say that without passionate and motivated volunteers, Mary’s Meals cannot function. Her dedication and passion for our mission have powered our grassroots global movement in the Midwest and beyond. Many Iowa volunteers host fundraising events throughout the year. Not only do the events that Ellen organizes contribute to feeding the next hungry child, but they spread the word of the work of Mary’s Meals, changing lives in the U.S. and in 19 of the world’s poorest communities. After Ellen’s son heard Magnus’ message for the first time, Mike’s words to Ellen were “Mom, it’s so easy to do something!” This phrase echoes in her heart and continue to motivate her every day.

Ellen’s weekly travels take her to parishes, schools and youth groups. In each location she shares the story of Mary’s Meals - how each person can make a difference with “Little Acts of Love.” Ellen is often seen carrying boxes and boxes of t-shirts which poignantly capture the spirit of our work. She and Mike started producing tees in the fall of 2011. Now her entire family contributes to the production of the unique shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies and more. The sale of each t-shirt feeds a child for an entire school year. You can be sure Ellen works hard to always have plenty of stock so everyone can wear heartwarming messages about the children they have fed through the purchase of their shirt.

And that’s not all she does! In 2014, she launched walk/run races that have evolved into local events with teams hosted by volunteers that span across Iowa. These events have provided meals for thousands of children. Summer festival concerts began three years ago when Ellen teamed up with her dear friend, Mary’s Meals Ambassador Mary Jo Harty. The band High South joined our mission and together, they organized numerous benefit concerts around the country. The band has been a huge part of growing our global movement. Their benefit concert series tours throughout the summer, reaching through four states and feeding several thousand children. With their efforts they have chosen to Sponsor A School in Malawi which Ellen visits each year.

Because Mike and his family reside in Malawi Ellen tries to visit them and our programs twice a year. These school visits allow her to see first-hand the fruits of countless volunteers’ efforts. She is always greeted with big smiles, enthusiastic hello’s and plenty of handshakes. The children eagerly share their personal stories, their hopes for their future and how the porridge makes their tummies strong. “Not only has my love grown for these children but also for the communities of volunteers and teachers that surround and support the success of the programs.” In schools serving Mary’s Meals, hunger is reduced, enrollment increases, attendance improves, drop-off rates fall, absences dwindle, concentration in lessons is heightened, attainment levels increase, parents are less anxious, and children are happier.

Ellen shares “My walk with Mary’s Meals has changed my life and given me perspective and passion to celebrate how ‘Little Acts of Love’ truly make a difference”. And it is with that perspective and passion that Ellen continues to tell our story of our work and of Mike’s message…it’s so easy to do something.

We are blessed to have Ellen as part of Mary’s Meals USA. She inspires us every day.


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