• DSC_0474_small
  • DSC_0480_small

Week 39: Sarah Milston

Dear Batter Up friends, meet Sarah Milston—one of the busiest bees in RVA!

As I sit here trying to write this blog post, I am completely overwhelmed by finding a starting point. This woman has done so much for Richmond over the last 10+ years that it’s hard to recap in one little blog. So, I guess I’ll start at the beginning…

I’ve actually known Sarah for over 15 years. We went to college together at Mary Baldwin but our paths didn’t cross very much. When they did it was, I guess you could say, tense. You see Sarah was on the Judicial Board—and eventually became the Judicial Board chairwoman. I was, hmmmm how can I put this gently… a bar-hopping class-skipping hoodlum who stayed in trouble. (I’ve grown up a lot since then.) So, when Larkin Garbee (week 5 cake recipient) nominated Sarah, my knee-jerk reaction reached into the furthest recesses of my misspent college days’ memory and I was filled with anxiety. Then a couple of circumstances arose that caused Sarah and I to interact with each other and I realized that she’s a busy mom, partner, and business owner. She doesn’t really care if there are boys and beer in my room anymore. ;-)

So what makes Sarah Milston worthy of a cake? Much like her college days, her professional life is devoted to making her community a stronger, better place. Fresh out of college Sarah dove into a Director of Development position for ROSMY, a Richmond non-profit who’s mission is to address the unique needs of LGBT youth. At the same time that she was working for ROSMY, Sarah also conquered the rigorous MPA program in Non-profit Management at VCU. The following years included time as the Fundraising Manager for Goodwill and Director of Community Development for the Orchard House School. She has been the Director of Development for Jackson-Field Homes and spent four years as a Senior Consultant for DSG Consulting where she helped build development programs from the ground up. So to summarize—this woman has immersed herself in the little guy’s trenches, working and fighting. And that’s where she thrives.

In 2010 Sarah went to work for Floricane as a Principal Consultant and garnered the nickname “the closer” for her propensity to turn big ideas into actionable realities. Much like her previous work history that seemed to overlap and have her doing multiple jobs at once, she continued to moonlight as a non-profit consultant and speaker/instructor/keynote on the topics of nonprofit technology, social media, strategic planning, fundraising, and all things development related. (This lady makes me tired just writing about her.)

In 2013 Sarah left Floricane to start her own company—The Spark Mill—and is continuing on in the tradition of making things happen. Being in her own driver’s seat, Sarah is able to do just about anything she wants. Of course she is still doing all of the typical day-to-day client work that keeps a company afloat, but she is also implementing some pretty impressive side projects. Last fall Sarah, along with two other women, started the Women’s Social Good Network which is a networking group that meets over lunch for women who work with and for non-profits. Around the same time she partnered with other parents to create an organization called RPS Action Squad (RPS = Richmond Public Schools). With the idea that determined parents can effect positive change in schools, RPS Action Squad is a web resource that shares solutions to problems that have been solved within the school system. Sharing this information not only creates awareness among interested parents, but also brings attention to the appropriate resources and channels available should parents need to resolve a conflict themselves.

Sarah’s most recent project—and admittedly my favorite—is called Power of Good. April 5–12 is National Volunteer Week and Sarah wanted to shine a spotlight on volunteers in RVA. Working with HandsOn Greater Richmond, various non-profits were given the opportunity to nominate their most loyal and hard-working volunteers. Those volunteers will be honored at the Power of Good Open House, which doubles as an art show and silent auction with donated works from local artists. The event will be held on April 11 from 4–7pm at the Marvin Lang building on Broad street. Tickets are not necessary and anyone is invited to attend. Please go support this event! (There may even be a special Batter Up surprise—just sayin’.)

I realize that I’ve just spent several paragraphs giving an in-depth account of Sarah’s resume, but that’s what makes her so special. Her life’s work is devoted to building organizations and, ultimately, the RVA community. So, it only made sense that she get ambushed with cake at her office. And this delivery wasn’t easy. Sarah is all over the place so trying to nail her down to a specific time and place involved lots of emails and coordinating. But, in the end, Larkin, Sarah’s best friend Cara Cardotti, and I were able to batter her together which brought a smile to her face and a tear to her eye.

And now for this week’s cake! I asked Cara if Sarah had a particular favorite flavor and she said that Sarah loved Key Lime Pie—so Sarah got a Key Lime Cake! This recipe was Trisha Yearwood’s recipe which can be found all over the internet on lots of blogs, but I pulled it from the Redbook website found here. I’ve never been a huge fan of key lime. It’s a little too tart for me. However, my brother took the test cake into work and said that everyone loved it. Sarah and Cara followed up saying the same. I guess, if you like key lime, this seems to be a good recipe. Maybe this is the perfect time, and perfect recipe, for you to bake a cake for your favorite non-profit?