The Joseph F. Miller/Ivy Long Community Service Award

During the 30th Anniversary Bus Tour, the Bag Ladies introduced a new annual award — the Joseph F. Miller Community Service Award. This award is named in memory of Joseph F. Miller, renowned philanthropist from Indianapolis and friend of the Bag Ladies who passed away in 2010.

The award will be presented annually during The Bag Ladies Bus Tour to a business, organization or an individual who has given above and beyond of their time, talents and money to enrich the lives of the LGBTQI+ community in Indianapolis.

Joseph F. Miller 1951-2010

Joseph F. Miller, a successful entrepreneur and active philanthropist, passed away August 26, in his home. Born in a Quebec City orphanage to a single mother, Joe and his twin brother Charles were adopted together as infants by an Indiana couple and raised on a farm in Eaton, Indiana. After his adoptive parents passed away, Joe met his birth mother and biological family in 2001. Joe is survived by his brother Charles Miller of Prince’s Lakes, Indiana; his mother; three half¬-sisters; and several beloved nieces and nephews, all residing in Quebec, Canada.

Through his Joseph F. Miller Foundation, Joe made meaningful contributions to dozens of organizations to advance humanitarian, health and social causes. Both through the Foundation and through his personal commitments of time and money, Joe focused much of his charitable contributions toward AIDS education and prevention efforts. In the 1980s, he worked with homeless youth in Rio de Janiero to stem the tide against the spread of AIDS in Brazil, an experience which led him to sponsor several Ashoka Foundation Fellows, internationally recognized HIV/AIDS educators and prevention workers in Brazil and Thailand. He served as the co-chair of the Mariposa Education and Research Foundation board from 1991-1995, and served on the Seicus national board. Locally, Joe was a board member of Indiana Cares, the nation’s second oldest HIV/AIDS education and prevention organization and spent several years as the board chair of the Indiana AIDS Fund, retiring from the post in 2000. He also served on the board of the Damien Center, Indiana’s largest HIV/AIDS service provider. In 2005, a philanthropic gift to the Damien Center underwrote the “Joseph F. Miller Center for HIV Testing and Prevention” located at 26 North Arsenal Avenue, Indianapolis.

Joe Miller was an active advocate of civil rights and a promoter of inclusive, populist government policies, Joe was a strong supporter of the ACLU of Indiana, serving as a board member since 1996 as well as serving on its foundation board. He has the distinction ,of making the largest single contribution in the history of the ACLU Indiana. He was honored with the Robert Risk Award in 2000 and the Founders Day Award in 2003 for his service to the organization. Joe was also a founding director of the Indiana Stonewall Democrats and helped it become one of the most successful chapters in the nation.

Among the awards and recognition Joe received for his contributions as a longtime civic leader are a Sagamore of the Wabash by both Governor Frank O’Bannon and Governor Joe Kernan. In 1995, former Governor Evan Bayh appointed Joe to the Indiana Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport. An avid supporter of urban living and the arts, Joe painstakingly renovated an historic African-American church into a downtown Indianapolis office building, where he lived and worked. He served on the boards of Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, the Indianapolis Opera Society and the Indiana Historical Society. Throughout his full life, he embraced emerging technology, enjoyed travel and new cultures, and remained committed to health and fitness. His generosity of heart and spirit and innate curiosity was appreciated by countless friends and loved ones.

  • 2020

    English Ivy’s

  • 2019

    English Ivy’s

  • 2018

    Zonie’s Closet

  • 2017

    Gregs (in honor of Phil Denton)

  • 2016

    Indiana Department of Health

  • 2015

    The Concord Center

  • 2014

    Megan Robertson (Freedom Indiana)

  • 2013

    Paula French & Brad Gumbert

  • 2012

    Betty Wilson

  • 2011

    The Purple Hat Project

  • 2010

    Alice Langford

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