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January/February 2019

Debbie Miller

Debbie Miller awoke at 4:30 this morning, tidied up her house, and immediately got to work. Today she is crocheting a blanket with the VVA logo on it. Miller has been donating her handmade blankets to her local VVA chapter, Chapter 392 in Portland, Oregon, for three years now. This act of kindness on its own is commendable; however, here’s why Debbie Miller’s contributions are a real feat: she’s legally blind.

A Few Good WomenMiller, who is an AVVA life member, has retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary condition, the results of which are an absence of depth perception, and poor twilight, daytime, and peripheral vision. But that doesn’t stop her from walking places by herself, playing sports, and of course, crocheting.

Having had increasingly poor vision since she was a child, and being diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at age 20, Debbie has always felt like a bit of an outcast. But there came a point in her life when she decided to change her outlook and put her energy into being productive rather than feeling sorry for herself. The outlet she found was crocheting. She’s been at it now for over thirty years.

“All my life that I can remember, I’ve always felt excluded from the group because I can’t see. I’ve always been left out,” she said. “So I decided to do something constructive by showing people that, although I’m visually impaired, I’m not letting this disability get me down.”

In 2015 Miller was watching television and saw a commercial for the Wounded Warriors Project several times in one hour. Unable to donate money but feeling compelled to give, she looked at the pile of blankets she’d made, and it dawned on her: that’s what she could contribute instead. She began by taking stacks of her blankets to the Portland VA Medical Center, and then to Chapter 392, which distributes them to veterans in the Portland area. She’s been doing it ever since, and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Miller has always empathized with veterans, since many return home with disabilities, not unlike her.

When they receive her blankets, the veterans are always shocked to learn that Debbie is legally blind because her work is high quality. Some give her high fives, some shed tears, and all are extremely grateful. “Sometimes they break down and cry and can’t believe that I made this especially for them,” she says.

In addition to donating her blankets to the chapter, Miller gives them to private schools in her hometown of Salem to auction for fundraising, and presents them as gifts to friends and family. Miller also takes part in several sports, including bowling, softball, and golf. And she occasionally hits the casinos in Reno, Nevada, with her husband of thirty-five years.

“After I learned to accept my vision problem, I became a better person, because I was out there helping as many people as I can,” she said. “I know this is a small step, but crocheting is something I enjoy doing, and I’d rather help somebody else out than stay at home and feel sorry for myself.

“I try to do my best, try to show people that I’m happy with how my life has turned out, and that God has given me enough eyesight to keep me going. I find it rewarding to find out other people are happy to receive something made with love.”





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  Photo ©Michael KeatingTwo VVA chapters deliver VA holiday cheer.
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