Loyal to the cross
Every morning, junior Cailin Kilkenny looks forward to crossing the street to get to school. Not because she is excited for class, but more for her daily conversation with crossing guard Larry Miller.
“Larry Miller always greets me with a warm smile and tells me to have a good day. He calls me the ‘number one walker’ every single day. On days when I miss school he always asks me the next day if I am feeling better or where I was,” Kilkenny said.
For 10 years, Larry Miller has worked as a crossing guard for Seminole County. Many know him as the upbeat, hardworking, excited crossing guard that makes the beginning and end of their day much brighter, but his charity goes beyond the crosswalk.
photo by Joshua Krob
Crossing guard superstar
Miller has worked as a crossing guard at Lawton Elementary School, Jackson Heights Middle School, Geneva Elementary School and Hagerty. He loves finding ways to make students’ days better, such as giving each student their own nickname based on what they are wearing, carrying or doing.
“I might make you a promise, like, ‘You know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna get you a deal with Walt Disney so you can be in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,’ They love that. [Some of] them come to school with different costumes on, I said, ‘Wait a minute, we got a circus at school?’ One year they had a pumpkin patch where you could [go through a] maze and I watched two guys go through that maze walking backwards and I said, ‘You know what, gentlemen? Y’all are the greatest guys at Hagerty,’” Miller said.
He always makes a big impact on the students that he helps cross, even if they only see him for a small amount of time.
“One day when we came back from Christmas break I said, ‘Man, I am glad to be back out here. I missed all the students’ and one replied, ‘I missed crossing with you too,’ and I said, ‘Oh, my gosh. Wait a minute,’” Miller said. “‘Hold it right there. Hold it. You mean to tell me you missed the crossing guard?’ She said, ‘Yeah, man. I missed you. I’m glad to be back with you,’ and I said, ‘You know? That is unbelievable, I need to go tell my boss this.’”
In the 10 years that he has been a crossing guard he has won many awards, including two for being the best crossing guard in the county, the Golden Whistle. Miller was the first crossing guard to ever win more than one. Most recently, Miller was named the best crossing guard in the state by the Florida Department of Transportation.
Miller attributes his awards to the students and teachers at Hagerty, amazed that a QR code to vote for him was in nearly every class and that students were rallying support from their peers to vote for him.
“I was really, really, really happy. I didn’t want to cry, I was trying not to, but I was just so happy,” Miller said. “I still owe it all to Hagerty High School–they really got behind me. I’ve benefited from being at Hagerty, no doubt about it.”
His wife, Gracia Miller, was similarly taken aback, warmed by the fact that the whole community rallied together to vote for him to be named the best in the state.
“When I heard it, I saw it on the screen and I went, ‘What?’ and cried. I was shocked, but very glad. Glad and proud that people thought so well of him,” Gracia said.
photo by Gretchen Knoblauch
Not just a crossing guard
Most people only know Miller from their quick interactions before and after school, but he is also involved extensively in causes throughout central Florida. Donating to the Jackson Heights food pantry, the Girl Up Club’s menstrual drives and similar donation-based charities at schools, Miller takes monetary donations from others and then matches it out of his own pocket, supporting community and school organizations.
Once Miller went to a school play after learning a student had purchased a ticket for him and his wife. Wowed by the performance, he and his wife gave a donation to the theater department before they left the auditorium.
Other examples of the Millers’ generosity can be seen when they donated $200 of canned goods to a Jackson Heights food pantry, and they had so much food that they were able to share it with other schools.
Miller and his wife also send money to schools in Okahandja, Namibia each month to pay for students’ education and important supplies, such as food and water. They chose to fund these students while on mission work with their church, the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. As a result of this generosity, Gracia Miller Kindergarten, located in Vyf Rand, Namibia, was named after Miller’s wife.
“Mrs. Miller laid a solid foundation for education and commitment. A number of the children she connected with have been able to secure good work because of the encouragement to persevere we received from Gracia. She continues to encourage and support the school,” Namibian Early Childhood Development Specialist Joan Morsbach said.
Miller also does other work with his church outside of religious work. Miller and his church have close contact with hotels in Orlando, near Disney, so that when they want to revamp the look of their rooms and replace the furnishings, such as shower curtains or chairs, he will come by in a van owned by the church, pick up these furnishings and drive them directly to a local senior-assisted living facility. On the holidays these hotels are even more generous, donating things like Thanksgiving meals which he also helps distribute.
It should be noted that both Millers teach. Mr. Miller teaches Sunday School classes and goes from school to school teaching bike safety and other safety laws, even fitting and donating helmets to students who don’t have one. His wife also worked as a school teacher and counselor before retiring.
“We understand what Matthew 28 says: ‘Go and take the gospel and teach,’ I know a lot about the Word of God. And you know, it drives me and my wife. Talking about Jesus really drives us,” Miller said.
Miller has even gone to Daytona Speedway, where he and three others worked to fit helmets on 200+ children and worked with an insurance company to donate bikes.
“Our motto is safety, teaching kids safety skills, one child at a time,” Miller said.
He continues to work with the Seminole County Police Department to donate helmets to students in need.
Miller started missionary work in 2005, while his wife started in 2002, and they have traveled to places such as Africa, India and Haiti, as well as throughout the United States. During their travels with their church, The Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, his wife mostly leads prayer walks, while Mr. Miller does most of his missionary work as volunteer service, asking people if they would like him to cut their lawn, clean their house, or help care for the elderly.
“I’m capable of stepping up to the plate because of the knowledge God has blessed me with. Some of the things that we do locally, stems from what we have learned how to do by going to church and being good servants of God and all we do is recognize that we are supposed to be God’s hands, the eyes and ears. But the Holy Spirit equipped me and my wife to be able to do the things we do,” Miller said.
During these Mission services, particularly the ones in South America, the residents were shocked to see a dark-skinned person there on mission work.
“They thought that she was one of them, but didn’t they realize she’s from America. They could see an American black up close and personal and were able to touch her and see she was the same as them,” Miller said.
Through all of his work and awards, he has stayed humble and works hard every day to help others and give them the tools to be successful.
“I’m having too much fun. The key is I should be out there motivating young kids. Somebody inspired me—I didn’t wake up one morning and all of a sudden I was inspired. Somebody pushed me and I’m gonna keep pushing y’all so y’all can do the best that you can do,” Miller said.
photo by Joshua Krob
Although Miller loves being a crossing guard and volunteering throughout the world, he expects to continue his work for at most three more years. In preparation for his retirement, he has been making sure the department is well staffed and well trained, recruiting multiple people to replace him, as well as training them and his new supervisor, who started in August.
“She can really use my support. My primary job might be a crossing guard, but I have a secondary job in the office as a manager,” Miller said.
As for awards, after winning top crossing guard at the state level, however, Miller says he has won enough.
“I promised those crossing guards, I said ‘that’s it. I’m not gonna be trying to win it.’ I’m not being facetious. Me and my wife, we talked about that situation. If I win the state this year, that’s gonna be it, we will be done with this now,” Miller said.
While the awards are satisfying, Miller stays focused on what is most important—serving young people. Miller’s favorite jobs and services have always been anything to do with children, feeling it is his life’s calling.
“My goal is to work with kids. From my time as a crossing guard to my time as a servant at my own church and my time in the community, everything I do is around working with kids,” Miller said.