By Alexandra Molnar, Contributing Writer
Northborough – As board member and member of more than six local organizations, Michael Mills’ passion for helping others in his community is more than just a hobby – it’s a philosophy by which he lives his life.
Mills, a Northborough resident of 33 years, started his volunteer work around the year 2000. At that time, he served on the education board at Saint Rose of Lima Parish and volunteered with the Northborough school system. As his work at the church and schools came to an end, he was contacted about an opportunity on the Board of Directors of the Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester for which he currently serves as president emeritus.
Though he began volunteering as an adult, Mills’ inclination to volunteer began when he was a child growing up in a family of six children in Worcester and attending Worcester Public Schools.
“We always had what we needed. Sometimes we got what we wanted,” Mills said. “I like to think that [for those] given much, much is expected.”
Even as a youth, Mills was active in his church program as a member of the Catholic Youth Council and then a member of the student senate at Worcester State University.
“There’s a need for people to engage in the community,” Mills said.
Over the years, Mills has been able to have a significant effect on the Literacy Volunteers. After serving on the Literacy Volunteers Board as treasurer for more than three years, Mills was elected president, a position he held for seven to eight years. There, he helped the adult community learn to read and write English.
“[I] very much enjoyed it,” Mills said.
One of Mills’ newest endeavors involves another organization close to home: Worcester State University (WSU). A graduate of WSU, Mills decided to get involved with the Alumnae Association and has been president since July 2015. Mills enjoys serving as president especially since the board is very active with 30,000 alumni.
One of Mills’ biggest projects now is trying to get alumni involved. He said that there has been a lot of growth and a lot of need for a public university in the city of Worcester.
In addition to his volunteer work, Mills has two sons, one of whom participates in many sports with the Special Olympics. As a result, Mills has been involved with the Special Olympics for around 20 years.
He is on the Planning Board of the Shrewsbury Special Needs Program, a program run by the Shrewsbury Parks and Recreation Department which collaborates with the Massachusetts Special Olympics. As a member of the board, Mills plans social and athletic events and ensures that athletes have uniforms.
Additionally, he works with Mass. Special Olympics to coordinate athletic events through the Shrewsbury program which offers four seasons of 12-15 different sports, including bocce and volleyball. The program hosts six events, one every other month, such as dinners and summer picnics.
As for balancing all of his activities and volunteer work, Mills believes that the busier you are the more organized you will become. Ever since starting his own practice, Business Coaches and Associates, three years ago, Mills’ schedule has been more flexible since he can make his own hours.
“Where there’s a will there’s a way,” he said.
As a certified professional business coach, Mills has a knack for working with people of all ages to help improve leadership and presentation skills. One such outlet for working with others is coaching students through the Babson College leadership training program twice a year.
Mills, who earned his MBA at Babson, joins five other alumni who coach students in a broad range of skills with the goal of raising students’ self-esteem.
Mills also brings his coaching skills to the Hector Reyes House in Worcester, a program that helps Latino males develop skills that support long-term recovery, where he coaches people in business. Mills goes once a week to spend an hour talking with local residents about business issues, credit, resumes, how to look for jobs, setting goals, and developing budgets.
Despite serving all age groups, Mills really enjoys working with college-aged students. He said that he feels like he “has an impact and can help [students] form competencies to become productive citizens.”
Mills believes that there are volunteer opportunities everywhere. When choosing where to volunteer, he recommended thinking about where you have been in the past, from your church, synagogue, mosque, schools, or library or searching the Internet to find volunteer organizations and opportunities.