At 84 years old, Carl Miller can’t join in with the elementary and middle school children who run around the hills of his sprawling estate outside New Market.
But he has enjoyed watching the children, participants in the Boys & Girls Club of Frederick County’s after-school and summer programs, expend their seemingly boundless energy across his 169-acre property. He has led fishing expeditions at his pond, and taught them how to plant seeds in his expansive garden.
“A lot of these kids, they have no yard to play in,” Miller said. “Whenever they come, they always ask, ‘can we run up the hills?’”
Now, he’s also lent his wealth to the cause. In May, Miller donated $500,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Frederick County, the largest donation in the organization’s history, according to Amy Full, the Boys & Girls Club’s development director.
Lisa McDonald, the Boys & Girls Club’s executive director, likened Miller to a grandfather figure for the children, a patient patriarch eager to share his time and wisdom with the children her organization serves.
The donation will help support a much-needed new location for the club’s after-school and summer programs. The Burck Street building, which houses the organization’s administrative offices and the after-school program for elementary school children, can no longer accommodate the growing number of students seeking services, according to Full.
The organization’s summer camp, also housed in the Burck Street building, has a 40-family waiting list, she said. Of the 60 children admitted into the program, 26 received full or partial scholarships because of demonstrated financial need, she said.
The organization also operates after-school clubs for middle school children at five public schools in the county.
The Boys & Girls Club, in partnership with the Frederick County Public Schools SUCCESS program, is one of two finalists under consideration to use the former Lincoln Elementary School building. The Frederick County Board of Education solicited proposals from school and community groups for how to use the now-vacant building known as “Lincoln A.”
Under the joint proposal, the SUCCESS program, a transition program for students ages 18 to 21 who have disabilities, would occupy the building during the day, with evening use by the Boys & Girls Club. The other proposal is to use the building to house the Monocacy Valley Montessori Public Charter School.
At a worksession in May, the school board highlighted the financial feasibility of each application as part of their consideration. The Boys & Girls Club estimated a $3.5 million cost to renovate the building for their use, while Montessori anticipated a $2.5 million price tag for its move, according to the applications.
At the meeting, Superintendent Terry Alban mentioned the prospect of a donor to support the Boys & Girls Club cost, though the specific amount and identity of the donor were not revealed at the time.
If the Boys & Girls Club’s proposal is not selected for Lincoln A, the organization will look elsewhere to relocate, according to Full. Either way, Miller’s donation will be an important boost to cover the cost of that move.
“It positions us to actually move to the next level of serving youth in Frederick County,” McDonald said.
Miller also framed his donation as a way to expand the organization’s service to elementary and middle school- aged children, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds that he can sympathize with.
Miller grew up poor and was unable to afford college, he said.
“I came from nothing,” he said.
He instead accrued his wealth from the success of the construction company he founded, Concrete General, now run by his son. Miller has also donated large sums to other county organizations, including Frederick Memorial Hospital, Frederick Community College and Hospice of Frederick County.
“I want to be able to provide for others what I never had,” he said.