Meet Milly Howell: Young Citizen of the Year 2016

Milly is an Inglewood local and is well-known to the community who frequent her family business, the Inglewood Inn. When the Sampson Flat Bushfires swept through the hills in January 2015, Milly showed great leadership and community spirit in organising a fundraising event for those affected. We sat down with Milly to learn a little more about her experiences.

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Your original idea was for a fundraiser to be held at the Inglewood Inn. How did you feel when interest and ticket sales meant you had to find a larger venue?
When I first mentioned to the locals my idea for the event, it was received with great enthusiasm. I had set a target of 200 guests, but in the back of my head I was really hoping to expand on this and the hype from the community excited this notion further. Before the ticket sales even went up, Matt Thomas from the Houghton Oval committee approached me to let me know that if I needed to use the oval, I didn't even need to ask, it was there for me. The next morning I put the tickets on sale and by that evening the location was changed. There was definitely a part of me that thought from the beginning that it wouldn't end up being at the hotel - but I didn't want to jump my gun too soon!

Was this your first foray into event management? What were your biggest challenges in getting set up?
Over the span of my (somewhat short) career I've always found myself pulled back into events, starting with club nights, then a large scale music festival called Spin Off, to my current job as the wedding and functions coordinator, even though it was never a career option I saw for myself … it just kind of happened!

It was this experience though that really drove my idea for the event - we were receiving such a large reach over social media that I knew I could utilise this to really help the community. Originally my boss (aka my dad) didn't want me spending large amounts of time on it but when things started to grow so rapidly he caved and let me put everything else on hold. I set up a makeshift office in the entryway to the hotel and would be there from 10am - 10pm every day … every local that would come in would end up spending their time helping me, whether it was council applications, media contacts, organising the staging and sound, cutting up tickets and flyers - you name it, I had someone there to help me. It was a job certainly too big for one person and I can't even begin to thank those who gave their time to me. 

The event resulted $79,000 being raised for the State Emergency Relief Fund and local CFS units, which is an incredible achievement. What other benefits did you see come out of the 1,800 people coming together for the event?
The event itself really brought our community together as a whole. I met a lot of new faces and made a lot of new friends through it. It was a place where our community could come together and relax for a day, and for those "down the hill" it was a place they could come and show their support. We had quite a few people purchase tickets who were unable to attend as a way to donate to the cause, and items for the auctions and raffles were flooding in (we actually had to stop taking donations for this as it became too much). For me though, and a lot of others, a huge part of it was a way of saying "thanks" to the CFS. A 10 piece marching band was organised to walk the volunteers and their appliances in and it was hard to keep my eyes dry during that. 

One year on and the community is at different stages of recovery from the Sampson Flat Bushfire. What initiatives are you aware of around Inglewood?
Support is still flooding in for the community and a newsletter has been established to provide further information. A lot of community events are still being held such as HoughtonFest earlier on in the year, from which a portion of the funds raised went to the CFS, as well as movie nights, plant giveaways, training sessions and workshops. Paracombe has just finished their community chair - residents are invited to come and design mosaic tiles for a bench that will be a permanent fixture in Paracombe - and these chairs have also been created in neighbouring areas such as Gumeracha.

Do you have any other projects or events on the horizon that you'd like to share with the community?
This year I'm organising some events for the Variety Club. Since I was a little girl, I've grown up with my father being heavily involved in the Bash. He took a few years off from it and has now decided to do a car with two of the locals and I'm finally at a stage where I'm able to do the fundraising portion of it for him. We'll be holding a quiz night on 14 May and on 5 June hypnotist Isaac Lomman will be putting on an afternoon show at the Inglewood.

We also still continue to fundraise for our two local CFS, Paracombe and Hermitage, throughout the hotel with donations and the sale of Paracombe CFS member Daniel Palmer's book, Sampson Flat Bushfire - The Paracombe Experience. I'm also hoping to organise some events later on in the year for the CFS.

In addition to this recognition within the Adelaide Hills Council district, you were named Emerging Leader in the BrandSA Regional Awards 2015. What advice do you offer to other young people who have the desire to be a leader in their community?
Put yourself out there and do what your heart thinks, and also make sure you include the community in everything you do as they will be the greatest form of support you will get - an extra sets of eyes, ears and ideas will only make things better.

But follow your instincts because when I first mentioned this event quite a few people told me to "do it later" or "leave it up to someone else" but I stood my ground and I am so proud of what we all achieved.

Nominate your Young Citizen of the Year now at citizenoftheyear.com.au.

Milly Howell