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Boys & Girls Club volunteer recognized with national leadership award

Nov 01, 2017 01:52PM ● Published by Shaun Delliskave

Lynda Brown, standing second from the right, was recognized nationally for her work by the Boys & Girls Club. (Photo courtesy Murray Boys & Girls Club)

Gallery: Go Big [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

“Go big!” 

That’s what former nurse Lynda Brown told her daughter Laura when asked about her plans for retirement. And she indeed did go big. 

Last month, Brown received the Maytag Dependable Leader Award and $20,000 to provide college scholarships to members of the local Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake (BGCGSL). This award recognized the volunteer efforts of Brown and KidsEat!, her charity combating food insecurity for local youth.

“For the past 28 years, Lynda has been the most dependable, generous, and compassionate volunteer that any organization could ask for,” said Bob Dunn, special projects consultant for BGCGSL.

It was during this time that Brown caught an 8-year-old girl stealing food from the club pantry to feed herself and her 4-year-old brother over the weekend. School districts help feed children on weekdays, but the weekends are when many children go hungry. 

Brown discovered that many BGCGSL children routinely go without food. And, statistically, one in five children in the Salt Lake valley deals with food insecurity at home. So Brown founded KidsEat!, and has gradually expanded the program to include six different club sites in Salt Lake County. 

She tailored the program for each club. For instance, many families reside in motels or cars without access to cooking facilities, so Brown prepares “no heat” backpacks especially for those kids. Brown and her 14 volunteers currently provide more than 1,400 meals to children each week.

The Murray resident credits her parents Edna and Herbert Smart for being compassionate examples. When her brother became a quadriplegic at age 18, she watched her mother learn nursing skills to care for him, and in turn she taught Brown those skills, which influenced her choice to be a nurse.

“She was amazing and I learned at her side what love and caring looks like,” said Brown.

Hosting the KidsEat! Golf Classic last month, the 73-year-old grandmother of four matched the energy of the sorority sisters from Lambda Master Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi who volunteered to help. 

“Immediately, I knew she was a force,” recalled LeAnn Saldivar, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake. “At first I thought she was biting off more than she could chew, but she was so tenacious and had so many connections, it was clear that there wasn’t anything she couldn’t do.”

It was this ability to start and get things done that inspired BGCGSL administrators to nominate her for the Maytag Dependable Leader Award. 

“The Maytag Dependable Leader Award allows the Maytag brand to give back to Boys & Girls Club staff and volunteers across the country who give tirelessly to their local communities,” said Rosa Keszler, community relations senior specialist at Whirlpool Corp. Brown is one of 10 nominees nationwide to receive the award.

On a cool Saturday morning, prior to the start of Boys & Girls Club annual “Day for Kids” celebration on September 23, Brown’s family and friends, local dignitaries, and Boys & Girls Club kids gathered to celebrate her award. However, Brown does not intend to bask in the glory of this award for long. 

“I’ve got to reach more kids, so I’m in talks with the Salt Lake City School District,” said Brown, referring to KidsEat! expanding beyond its present scope.

“She could get this award many times over,” declared Dunn. He points toward a small fleet of buses that transport children to the club building and credits Brown with finding the vehicles and getting them donated to the club.

Brown explained her motivation. 

“I believe that you are only five people away from anyone you want to meet or know, and that through asking for what you need and belief that the riches of the universe are in circulation through me, mountains can be moved, or at least a tunnel can be made through them. Just don’t give up. If not me, then who?”

For more information on KidsEat! visit https://www.kidseatutah.org/ .

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