The Power of Connecting: Christmas in October

Steve Miller / November 2, 2018


Thirty-five years ago on a cold December day, I joined my father, Dick Miller, his good friend, John McMeel, some family members and a few students to start what would become a Kansas City phenomenon. We called it “Christmas in November” (but didn’t get it off the ground until December). My father and John saw how people in our city suffered from the cold and struggled to pay utility bills inflated by broken or drafty windows and doors and poor insulation. They were inspired to give what so many of us take for granted every day: a warm home.

The romantic idea of fixing homes during the Christmas season quickly gave way to Midwestern reality—it’s cold in November! But the Christmas spirit took hold and every year since then. And for the past 35 years during the first two weekends in October, thousands of Kansas Citians from all walks of life gather to improve hundreds of homes.

Simple weatherization has expanded to include roofing, plumbing, electrical, carpentry and painting. Volunteers have installed handicap ramps, installed hot water heaters and furnaces, sinks, commodes, showers and tubs.


From a simple vision more than 35 years ago, almost 10,000 homes in our community have been improved, as well as the lives of tens of thousands of people. Perhaps more than the physical improvements, my father and John unleashed the power of giving—the giving of time and talents. The most vulnerable in our City –

often invisible and unnoticed – were recognized and told that their lives matter.  And, thousands of volunteers from all over the City have visited neighborhoods and experienced a reality they might never have known. In doing so, they discovered a human common bond.

These wonderful people – the volunteers – have sacrificed their time, and I really appreciate it. I think the world of them.” Reginal Parker, a disabled retired veteran (Pictured with the Rockhill Women’s Clinic, volunteers for Christmas in October).



How did my father and John accomplish this? They understood the power of connecting people and resources. And, as leaders in our community, they knew they had a unique capacity to draw on their relationships. My father, a construction lawyer for 60 years, reached out to organized labor who responded enthusiastically. Tapping into such a skilled work force was critical to increasing Christmas in October’s capacity.

John, the co-founder of Andrews McMeel Universal, and my father reached out to businesses, churches and community groups. They also went to the city to help with trash removal and cleanup. Through Christmas in October they identified those most in need and then connected resources from business, nonprofit and government to attack a chronic problem.


I’m grateful to have been an integral part of Christmas in October all these years. Seeing what we can do as a community when we all come together has been an inspiration for me to run for Mayor of Kansas City, Mo. My father and John have shown the power of connecting and have inspired me to adopt “Connecting” as the theme for my campaign. I have been blessed to have had leadership opportunities in business, nonprofit and public service, which have all prepared me for this moment.

As Mayor of this great city, I will use my relationships in the business and nonprofit communities, along with our strong organized labor, to connect with city resources to tackle our toughest problems like crime, education, continued economic development, workforce development, and basic city services.

We are a great city, but we can – and must – be better. As my father and John discovered, the key is connecting across our whole metro area and calling forth the very best from all of us. No one has a better opportunity to do this than the Mayor. That’s why I’m running—to spread the Christmas spirit in Kansas City year-round.

5 thoughts on “The Power of Connecting: Christmas in October

  1. Steve,
    Enjoyed being reminded of all the good your dad’s (and mother’s) accomplishments and wish you well in following their footsteps.
    Best wishes to all the Millers, Judy Reichmeier

  2. Great article Steve! I always wondered how the ‘Christmas’ event landed in October! I know Matt, my husband, has fond memories of helping out in this years ago—love that it has endured! Keep up the good work—in October, and all the other months!!

  3. You just have to say, “Bernadette is my mom” and you have my vote and many more. Probably all of Bishop Spencer Place, too! I’m relatively new to Kansas City and am just learning about your Dad’s wonderful project. Many thanks for your continued dedication to it.

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