Nancy Eigel-Miller turned wrenching loss into a life’s mission helping others.
Now, Eigel-Miller has been named the 2018 Jefferson Award for Public Service winner in Greater Cincinnati for her decade-long efforts destigmatizing mental illness.
She will go to Washington, D.C., this spring to represent the region for the national award, an honor that numerous Cincinnati-area Jefferson Award honorees have earned, including Suzy DeYoung of La Soupe in 2017.
Eigel-Miller lost her husband Jim Miller in 2008 when he took his own life. She described in a WKRC-produced video how in the aftermath of that personal tragedy, people she knew would see her in Kroger and immediately turn in the opposite direction.
“I saw the stigma,” she said. “We have to normalize the conversation.”
Eigel-Miller notes that depression and anxiety among young people have soared this decade. She sits on the board of directors of 1N5, a local nonprofit organization whose mission includes giving young people a platform to talk about what they’re coping with in life.
The Rotary Club of Cincinnati and the American Institute of Public Service sponsor the Jefferson Award effort locally. For the second straight year, there were more than 30 nominations.
“In this room is light and is hope,” WKRC Channel 12 news anchor Bob Herzog told those present at Thursday’s award ceremony in the Hall of Mirrors at the Hilton Netherland hotel. “People want to be involved in good things. They want to do good things.”
The award was created in 1972 by a Cincinnati native, then-U.S. Senator Robert Taft, and former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. It is presented annually to recipients in more than 90 cities in the United States and honors community members who go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to their volunteer efforts in the Greater Cincinnati area.
The two Jefferson Award finalists locally this year are:
* Robert Miller, who helped start the HELP Program, which assists persons returning from incarceration.
* Kent Wellington, who founded the Karen Wellington Foundation following the loss of his wife to breast cancer. The foundation funds vacations for women and families living with breast cancer.