"She's a miracle maker."
Anyone would be proud to hear a close friend describe them that way -- well, that's how Karen Ingrande, the resident wellness director at the Salvation Army Silvercrest senior-living center in Chula Vista, talks about her friend and colleague Michelle Miller.
Miller, who has worked at Silvercrest in various capacities for the past 10 years, most recently as the facility's exercise facilitator, was concerned a few weeks back when she realized that many of the residents at the affordable-housing residence who take her class three times a week would now be going without meals.
"They stopped doing the exercises because of social distancing, and we had to close the community room," Miller told NBC 7 on Monday. "I was talking to Karen, and we were discussing how long this was going to last and that the seniors must be running out of food."
Miller knew the seniors were stretched thin because, after the exercise class she leads them in three times a week, they would share a meal that Miller brought with her.
"The Salvation Army pays me a grant, and I use some of the money to make a meal, so I knew they were losing at least three meals a week that they depended on," Miller said.
Miller and Ingrande, a former editor at NBC 7, took it upon themselves to start doing wellness checks at Silvercrest's 73 units and while they did, they started passing out a questionnaire.
"A simple flier -- we said, 'We are here for you, we want to help you while you shelter in place; please list the five types of items you need and put your name on the bottom," Ingrande said. "Forty residents returned the survey listing the five items they needed."
Miller said the same things kept coming up: Clorox, hand sanitizer, Lysol, gloves, masks, eggs, milk, bread, vegetables and fruit. Now the pair had a list, but they needed a way to pay for the supplies for the 40 residents.
"I sent out a text … it was probably eight texts -- I don't have social media -- to my sister, my brother, my very close friends, and then my Venmo started blowing up," Miller said. "Everyone started passing on the texts to other people they know. I also got my brother's meat company -- Harvest Meats donated chicken, and my cousin's meat company donated hamburger and bacon, and then with the money, we just ended up buying everything they needed in their customized bags. One of my friends donated enough paper towels to donate to every apartment."
Ingrande said Miller was able to raise nearly a thousand dollars.
"Her Venmo started going 'ding!' 'ding!' 'ding!' 'ding!' " Ingrande said.
It's not hard to hear the admiration for her colleague in Ingrande's voice.
"Michelle and I did this together -- she's the one that started it," Ingrande said, later commenting, "She's a miracle maker."
Miller said she isn't looking for any donations -- for now.
"I'm by myself, so I'm not accepting any more donations -- I still have money left," Miller said.
Sounds like the exercise facilitator just might need a rest, one well-deserved.