By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer
(Aug. 1, 2019) Belinda “Bee” Miller, the new executive director of Diakonia Inc., found herself back in familiar territory.
Miller, 52, first had the leadership job from 1995-2003. After some time out of state, she returned to Worcester County in mid-June to work for the nonprofit.
Miller was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in a farmhouse in Calvert County, Maryland. She then attended Salisbury University, and graduated in 1989 with a degree in social work.
However, the inspiration to enter the field came from her mother, Naomi Catety, who is deaf.
“She always helped people whether they could talk to her or not,” Miller said. “So I wanted to do that too. I wanted to be able to help people.”
While in college, she worked as a head counselor at Deaf Independent Living Associates in Salisbury, where she taught a sign language class and helped interpret. She also volunteered at Diakonia during her time at Salisbury University.
Miller attended Ocean City Mennonite Church, which used to be on Route 50, because it had a deaf ministry.
“I’d never heard of Mennonites before. I didn’t even know what they were, but what I found from the Mennonite people or whatever, they like to serve people, they like to take care of people,” Miller said.
That eventually led her to meet her husband, Bob, at the church. They got married, had two children in the area before moving to Ohio.
However, it was a notice of a sign language interpreting job in the Worcester County Public Schools system that piqued her interest of returning home.
“This is where our love story started and it’s where we started our home with our kids, so we always wanted to come back,” Miller said.
Diakonia’s former Executive Director Claudia Nagle, resigned in early 2019. The reason for her departure is unclear.
However, Miller learned about the vacant role at the nonprofit and felt encouraged to apply.
“I just sent my cover letter, and my resume in, and did a lot of praying over it,” Miller said.
Since transitioning back into her leadership role, Miller said she hit the ground running.
“I definitely feel like a merry-go-round that’s going and I jumped on,” said Miller, who added that the transition has been smooth nevertheless.
“Diakonia had a little bit of a foundation there, so it got built up with the things that I did, and then the director after me definitely grew it even more, so there’s definitely a lot more programs,” Miller said. During her time at the organization in West Ocean City, there were 10 people on staff. It has since grown with 25 staff members, and nearly 100 volunteers.
“It’s a very good team here with the staff, and I want them to be proud of what they’re doing,” Miller said.
She added that staff members and volunteers helped 700 people last year through the many programs Diakonia provides, including a shelter, food pantry and veterans program.
“It basically started as a ministry and has become a social service agency … that can cover the multiple needs that our community has,” she said.
However, she said it’s all about helping those in need.
“That’s our biggest thing: treating people with dignity and respect,” Miller said.
Miller also stressed that the organization needs volunteers, and people interested in helping can contact the facility at 410-213-0923.
“Everybody has something to give, I feel like,” Miller said. “There’s either time or talent and we need them both.”