When Kathy Brown, director of a Westminster outreach ministry, discovered she was the winner of Carroll County's annual humanitarian award, she deflected applause and credited the hundreds of volunteers who have helped her the past 15 years.
The founder of Shepherd's Staff, Brown shared her secrets and recipes for drawing volunteers, whom she called "the heart of any organization," into her many activities.
"Soup is my secret," she said. "If you want volunteers, bring them into your home and share a meal with them. It leads to friendship, and you will cement a relationship."
Those friendships have prompted volunteers to scrub floors, sort laundry, roast turkeys at midnight, even bless the tub in Shepherd Staff's bathroom. Several ministers once gave her the shirts off their backs so she could turn them into whimsical pillows, one of many fundraising ideas that paid off for the charity.
"When I get an idea, I run with it," Brown said.
Brown's history of helping matched the award criteria that say the winner must demonstrate creativity, innovation and commitment, along with caring for the community.
Brown established the ecumenical ministry with support from area churches and has helped thousands of the area's neediest with everything from housing and medications to food and even laundry services.
The 2005 Sylvia Canon Award, named for the retired director of Carroll's Human Services Programs, traditionally comes with an etched glass globe.
"The idea is you make a world of difference," said Audrey Cimino, president of the Community Foundation of Carroll County, as she presented Brown with the prize at the Community Services Council meeting last week.
"Kathy is down in the trenches with her volunteers," Cimino said. "She leads by example, by working with them."
Tom Canon read a letter from his mother, who praised Brown for turning "a budding concept into a fully functioning force" that has helped thousands.
With assistance from volunteers at Shepherd's Staff, Brown has put together drives for school supplies and clothing, organized soup kitchens and an annual Thanksgiving dinner for several hundred guests and created "gifts with a mission," her own unique fundraiser.
Joseph Mish, who, as president of the Shepherd's Staff board of directors, nominated Brown, said, "She is the most committed individual I have ever met."
Brown promised to share her award "with all the wonderful volunteers who have done everything for me and who keep me going."
"We try together to do the best we can for the people we serve," she said.