It is hard to find someone who is so dedicated to a particular cause or community that they stay involved for almost 30 years. Meet Martha Miller, Founder and Program Developer for “No Longer Bound (NLB).” Born and raised in Philadelphia, Martha helped start the “Minority Communities Coordinating Council” in 1983 to combat the ills of poverty and crime. This all volunteer, community service organization soon became the non-profit organization, No Longer Bound. NLB’s home base is situated in an area tucked between the PA turnpike, Rt. 95 and the North East Corridor train route. In the 1960’s and 70’s developers took advantage of cheap land and a cluster of low-income houses sprung up in Bristol Township, Lower Bucks County. NLB rose out of the crime and chaos to help low-income women, children, and family’s move beyond these negative behaviors. In 1991, NLB became a funded prevention agency offering programs and alternative activities, free, to the community. NLB was incorporated, and in 1995 NLB become the first African American grass roots prevention agency to be licensed in the State of Pennsylvania.
In the center of all this progress was Ms. Martha Miller. Her determination and dedication is obvious if you look at the scope of the programs offered by NLB today. When asked if she thinks things have gotten better her response is a confident yes. ‘We offer so much more to the community then we did at the beginning,’ she states when discussing the early days of her work. ‘A lot of young people’s lives were ruined by drugs and alcohol,’ says Ms. Martha whose own son was killed as a result of violence in the community. Some people would let a tragedy like this effect their lives in a negative way, but not Ms. Martha. She saw opportunity where others saw degradation and despair. ‘I feel passionately about helping other people better their lives, make new beginnings and trust in God,’ states Ms. Martha when asked why she continues to pursue what most people would consider an uphill battle.
Ms. Martha’s neighborhood was in such poor shape, that the federal government’s Depart of Justice identified sections of Bristol Township as part of its Weed and Seed program. Weed and Seed funds local communities to coordinate the use of federal, state, local, and private-sector resources, neighborhood restoration strategies focusing on economic development, employment opportunities for residents, and improvements to the housing stock and physical environment of the neighborhood.
NLB was one of a handful of organizations in Bristol to receive funding through Weed and Seed. And, without Ms. Martha’s leadership, this funding source would never have been secured.
Although there have been marked improvement in the neighborhoods surrounding the community that Ms. Martha calls home, there is still a lot of work to be done. The great thing is that Ms. Martha and her many colleagues have trained countless people to be part of the solution. Several generations of local residence have participated in programs in building self-esteem, development and beautifying the community, healthy eating, violence prevention strategies and much, much more.
The impact that someone like Ms. Martha Miller has had on her community is hard to measure. The programs that she has helped initiate are to many to list here, but please visit www.no-longer-bound.org to donate volunteer or learn more about No Longer Bound.