Highland Park Neighbors Magazine Articles


Celebrating Service – Nancy Mills Honored with 2022 Jack Blane Community Service Award

Highland Park native Nancy Mills is a dedicated philanthropist whose giving spirit has positively impacted the community and its residents. Her work throughout the years with the Highland Park Community Foundation (HPCF), as well as within both the legal and educational systems has impacted countless lives and earned her the honor of receiving the HPCF’s 2022 Jack Blane Community Service Award. “I am just thankful that I can contribute – that I have the time and the ability to do this – and I think the Highland Park and Highwood community is incredibly special. Giving back is meaningful to me,” she remarks. A true humanitarian, Mills has dedicated her time to serving and bettering this incredibly special community to ensure equity, safety, and opportunity for all who live here.

Nancy recalls being inspired to get involved with service work when her children entered elementary school and she saw the need for volunteers across different educational stages in the community’s schools. “When my kids were in elementary schools that’s when I really started helping in their schools; I was an art mom and helped with food days and a lot of other activities within the elementary and middle schools.” At the high school level, Mills embraced FOCUS on the Arts, taking on leadership positions ensuring that the program brought unique experiences to enrich student learning and ensured that members of the larger community had the opportunity to connect with world-class artists and programming opportunities and events.

Nancy’s empathy and dedication to helping others are further exemplified in her work as a court advocate with A Safe Place, which provides emotional support and technical assistance for individuals facing domestic violence. “My work as a court advocate has touched me deeply and impacted the lives of survivors working to move their lives forward during some of the most difficult circumstances,” said Nancy. As a volunteer, she has helped people apply for emergency orders of protection, and two-year plenary orders to ensure that all members of the community have access to quality assistance and an equitable chance for justice against abusers. “The legal process can be intimidating, and my work as an advocate has helped them navigate a complex process. The individuals facing these circumstances appreciated having someone supportive by their side as they moved through the court system.”

Court advocates from A Safe Place participate in the North Shore Taco Run 5K, July 2019. From left to right: Kim Mudd, Maria Villarreal, Janette Tinoco-Ledesma, Mindy Sterns, Stacie Chukerman and Nancy Mills.

As an active member of the Board of Directors of the Highland Park Community Foundation for the past eleven years and the Foundation Chairman from 2018-2020, Nancy has helped to increase its reach and expand its impact. During her tenure as Chairman, Mills led the Foundation through an intense period of growth that allowed more money to flow back into parts of the community that needed it most. She recalls, “we were implementing a strategic plan where a big part of that was to raise awareness of the Foundation and its role as a trusted partner in our community. We more than doubled our incoming donations. As a result, we were able to put more resources back into our community. The increase in donations allowed the Highland Park Community Foundation to fund more charitable organizations, and our impact has grown exponentially.”

“Nancy has been a driving force in our Foundation – she had a vision that helped us develop a strategic plan and set our sights higher,” said Betsy Brint, the current Chair of the Foundation. “Her energy and drive are amazing. Her leadership helped the community understand the importance of giving close to home and we are grateful for all the hard work and dedication she has shared with us. We are so proud to present her with the 2022 Jack Blane Community Service award in recognition of all she has done to better our community.”