Demetrice and Dorothy Mills are the epitome of all that’s right about Bedford-Stuyvesant — and the world, for that matter.
And it is fitting that Brooklyn’s observance of April Earth Month & Volunteer Month and the Annual meeting of the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust (BQLT) would be the proper time and the appropriate place, Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation at 520 Prospect Place in Brooklyn, for the couple’s surprise special announcement last Saturday, April 9, 2016.
The couple – he, a former corporate executive, and she, a former educator — donated a personal check in the amount of $50,000 to BQLT, an organization that is close to their hearts, which they helped to grow from seeds planted many years ago.
He once said, “A president has to be a leader, cheerleader, and motivator for board members, setting the direction for the future of the organization.” He didn’t mention that coming along with the job is being a good role model – which is what he and Dorothy are. The dynamic duo of Dorothy and Demetrice Mills have set a standard for the rest of their Bedford Stuyvesant community. With this gesture, hopefully, others will be inspired to give back in a way that invests in the future of our gardens, our children and our neighborhoods.
All of the achievements, credentials, awards and accolades amassed over the years do not measure up to the love the Mills have for the land. He comes from “a family of farmers” who own “A fair amount of farmland in the South.” She comes from a family of real estate investors in urban New York.
It factored into his volunteer work for gardening groups, and his founding of the Classon Ful-Gate Block Association Community Garden.
Under his presidency, BQLT community gardens enjoyed a great expansion to 32 community gardens conveyed by the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and stretching from Park Slope to Bedford Stuyvesant, Fort Greene/Clinton Hill to Flatbush/East New York, from Bushwick in Brooklyn to Cambria Heights, Jamaica, and East Elmhurst in Queens. The BQLT partnered with TPL to save the gardens from the auction block in 1999.
“Many gardeners had taken care of their gardens for many years, in some cases, for decades,” he once wrote, “and they organized to save their gardens. The founding gardeners and the garden members are our real heroes.”
Demetrice Mills, a Past President, Brooklyn Queens Land Trust, has been a BQLT member since 2006 where he has served as treasurer and secretary. He was president of the Board (2010 – 2014). And, from 2007 to 2015, served as co-Chair of BQLT’s Operations Committee. He is now the Chair of BQLT’s Operations Committee.
In addition, he is a Board Member of the NYC Soil & Water Conservation District, a member of New York City Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation – NYC Clean Soil Bank, a member of Cornell University Cooperative Extension Healthy Soil Advisory Committee, a Board Member of the Land Trust Alliance New York Advisory Committee and a Board Member of the American Community Garden Association.
Demetrice Mills has dedicated even more of his time to the community by volunteering with a number of community groups, and educating and inspiring people of all ages to become involved in their communities. In addition to his role as a founder of the Classon Ful-Gate Block Association Community Garden, Mr. Mills is a member of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Community Block Association, a past President of the Classon Ful-Gate Block Association, a member of Community Board 3, member of BedStuy Alive, Treasurer of the 79th Precinct Community Council, and a 2007 Graduate of the New York City Police Department Citizen’s Academy. He is a volunteer member of Bedford Academy High School PTA and he and his Dorothy co-chair the 79th Precinct Council’s College Scholarship Campaign Committee, an annual campaign to help local high school graduating seniors obtain a college degree.
The BQLT relies on grants and money they raise from collecting member dues and special events like bake and plant sales. They are the recipients of grants from politicians and urban gardening programs such as Green Thumb. “It’s really the volunteers in each community garden that keep it thriving,” Mr. Mills once said. “And offering a helping hand is an easy way to start. Just walk into your local garden and let them know that you are interested in volunteering. From picking up garbage to raking the soil to repairing damage from last year’s tornado, every little bit helps.”
And the Mills’ $50,000 will go a long way, too.
Demetrice and Dorothy have been together for some 44 years, and married, 34. They have four children and two grandchildren.