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Greensburg man lauded for taking steps to improve his life

| Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 4:04 p.m.

Ed Miller had reached a point in his life that he was struggling financially and reached out for help.

The Greensburg man was unemployed and was searching for a career change. He found what he was looking for when he contacted Westmoreland Community Action in July 1993.

"I was unemployed and had a kid," Miller recalled. "Somebody told me about them. They basically sent me to school. I got out of school and went to work at Bechtol (Engineering and Testing), then went to Sony and just took off from there."

For his achievements, Miller was among 32 people in the state named a 2011 Self-Sufficiency Award Winner by the Community Action Association of Pennsylvania at a recent ceremony in Harrisburg. The organization presents the award each year to recognize people who have worked with their local community action agency to overcome significant socioeconomic barriers to achieve success.

"When we talk about self-sufficiency, we mean they do not rely on any assistance from state agencies," explained Tay Waltenbaugh, chief executive officer for Westmoreland Community Action. "He made the move from having a need to basically being self-sufficient, having enough funds to be self-sufficient to take care of his family. He had the drive to make that happen. When he first came here, he was sort of down and out. He needed some guidance. That takes a lot of drive to do that. "

Miller enrolled in the Individualized Intensive Program for Independence. The program's main component is a job workshop providing resume and cover-letter writing skills, interviewing techniques and educational exploration.

That experience allowed Miller to enroll in residential and commercial electricity training at Fayette County Area Vocational Technical School near Uniontown.

After graduation, Miller got the job with Bechtol, which led to a job as an electrician/maintenance man with the Sony Corp. in New Stanton.

He held that position until 2003, when he started his own electrical contracting company, Ed Miller Electric.

Miller since returned to Westmoreland Community Action, but this time as a contractor. His first venture into commercial wiring came as part of the rehabilitation of the agency's office space at 226 S. Maple Ave. in Greensburg.

"I really didn't even think about it at first," Miller said. "We're all sitting there one day and I said, 'I think this is the place that sent me to school.'"

Waltenbaugh said he calls on Miller to do electrical work around his home.

"It's one of the things we feel we owe him as one of our consumers," Waltenbaugh said. "He really didn't have the education, didn't have the wherewithal to get to school. Coming to our classes and finding himself to get to where he wanted to be, our staff helped him, but it was all him. People can show you the picture, but he had to paint it."

Waltenbaugh said he's proud of Miller's accomplishments.

"If you're a tax-paying citizen, those are the kind of individuals you want to see," Waltenbaugh said. "You're not spending any money on them. They're doing well. It's taxpayers' money going to good use.

"He's one that is rare," Waltenbaugh said. "We have other self-sufficiency winners come through our program, who are fully employed and don't rely on any assistance. Ed's a little bit different. He's been able to use his skills and his knowledge to create a business he's been really successful with."

Miller is thankful that he sought the help of Westmoreland Community Action.

"My life is definitely better," he said. "I probably wouldn't have accomplished some things that I did if I wouldn't have gone here."

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