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Search The Fig Tree's stories of people who make a difference:

Cookbook’s co-editor serves community

By Mary Stamp

Joyce Miller
Joyce Miller helps raise funds for Whitworth Auxiliary centennial.

Joyce Miller has coordinated cookbook fundraisers for several groups where she has volunteered—including St. George’s School, Covenant United Methodist Church and the Priest Lake Fire Station.

Three years ago when the Whitworth Auxiliary began planning how to raise funds to mark their centennial, Joyce suggested making a cookbook.  She co-edited it with the auxiliary’s vice president Barbara Filo.

The 272-page self-published cookbook will raise about $6,000.  Already 400 of the 550 “Tasty Treasures” cookbooks printed have been sold. 

Divider pages for the sections of different types of recipes are color photo pages with historic campus pictures from Whitworth archives.

Recipe pages are in a three-ring notebook format, so pages can be taken out when they are used.

“We decided to include recipes that are ‘tried and true,’ recipes the women used successfully with their families or in entertaining,” she said. 

Food is nurturing.  I have memories of sitting at my grandmother’s table, and feeling included and valued. My mother was a good cook. I love to create with food, then sit and eat it around a table with a tablecloth,” Joyce said.  “I like to use cooking as a way to connect with people.”

Names of recipe contributors are listed at the back, “so it’s relational,” she said.

The Whitworth Auxiliary started in September 1915, 25 years after Sumner Academy, which started in Sumner, Wash., near Tacoma, incorporated as Whitworth College in 1890.

It moved in 1899 to Tacoma and then in 1914 to a tract of land north of Country Homes in Spokane.

Joyce said the auxiliary first sought to make the residence hall lounges a comfortable home away from home, so they bought furnishings, pianos and drapes.

The auxiliary 1) contributes to the Student Life Fund, 2) still refurbishes the lounges, 3) gives to the President’s Discretionary Fund to help students with emergency needs and 4) provides funds so international students can travel during campus holidays. 

It has also started the Whitworth Auxiliary Endowment Scholarship Fund, raising $25,000 in three years, including funds from the cookbook.

“We are dedicated to Whitworth’s mission to educate for mind and heart,” Joyce said.

The auxiliary has two fund-raising events each year.

One is a Fall Lunch Program and Bazaar at 11 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 22, at First Presbyterian Church, 318 S. Cedar. 

The second is the Spring Tea and Style Show in April at Whitworth Presbyterian Church.

Each event raises about $7,000, which goes for its four projects.

At monthly meetings on campus, the auxiliary invites students from the International Club and different departments to speak.  Joyce enjoys the camaraderie of women her age and older.

The auxiliary now has 50 active members, up from 45, and 20 sustaining members.  Many are alumni, but that is not required.

Once all members were Presbyterian, but as the college/university has become more ecumenical, auxiliary membership has, too.

“We also pray for students and for the university,” she said.  “We relate to people in many churches and involve students in those churches,” said Joyce, who has been a member for 10 years.

Since joining, she has attended such Whitworth activities as basketball games, musical performances and theatre productions.

After graduating from North Central High School in Spokane, she earned a bachelor’s degree at Whitworth in 1960—the first in her family to graduate from college—and a master’s in applied behavioral science there in 1982.

“I value education and enjoy children.  I believe education expands your mind and your social experience.  College years are formative years,” she said.  “I admire those who taught me at Whitworth.  They had an impact on my life.  Teaching is not just imparting rote information, but helps us be critical thinkers and realize there is more to life than having a job and making money.”

Joyce taught junior high math and science for a while, and then became a marriage and family therapist.  She practiced at Samaritan Counseling Center, Daybreak and Marycliff Center.    She retired in 1995, when her husband, Galen, retired from teaching.

Beyond Whitworth, she said she and Galen also had their minds and hearts opened by participating in Covenant United Methodist Church’s now 25-year-old sister church ministry.  They relate with a small Lutheran church in El Paisnal, El Salvador, 20 miles outside of San Salvador.

“We have helped provide scholarships for children, books, supplies and uniforms,” said Joyce.

In 1998, she and Galen went to El Salvador for 10 days as part of a team of 12.  Teams go every other year.  Galen went two other times. 

“Before we went, we had a big house at Priest Lake.  We began going there 37 years ago, because we love the outdoors—swimming, hiking, kayaking and snowshoeing,” she said.  “When we returned, we asked how we could continue to live in such a big house when we know people living in dirt-floor houses without electricity or running water.”

Two years later, they sold that house and built a smaller house, which was one-third the size. 

“We have become more minimalist, rather than heavy consumers,” she added.  “Aware that people built houses of corrugated cardboard, we began to recycle. 

Our visit had an emotional impact,” she said.  “Our church’s goal is to have an enduring relationship, not to learn what we can do, do it and walk away.  We continue to be connected.”

Covenant UMC funds a teacher in El Savador to teach guitar, computer skills and English to divert teens from gangs by helping them find entertainment and jobs, so they can rise out of poverty.

While visiting, Joyce saw the impact of the people’s faith in the midst of war and death, in spite of 96 percent of the people being poor and four percent wealthy, and in spite of a lack of many conveniences.

“I came back changed—more grateful.  It’s amazing that the people have such hope, faith and trust in God,” she said.  “It has had an impact on our involvements.”

Four years ago, Joyce and Galen moved to Kendall Yards west of Monroe St. above the Spokane River.  They went with a commitment to live in and serve the West Central neighborhood.  Close to that neighborhood and downtown, they are aware of the homeless, the poor and people who live on a survival level in Spokane.

Last year, Joyce helped serve Wednesday meals at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, sitting at tables and talking with the people to understand their lives and stories.

She has also been volunteering for a year at Our Place Community Ministries. 

Other Kendall Yards residents share her commitment to be part of the West Central neighborhood, rather than live there and be isolated from their neighbors and their needs. 

When Joyce learns of a need, she tells her book club and posts it on the Nextdoor Kendall Yards, part of the national Nextdoor free private social network used by 42,000 neighborhoods.

For information, call 499-2327 or email

Copyright © October 2014 - The Fig Tree