The Angels Among Us, Linda Brown Makes a Difference
In this season of giving, I have featured local residents and members of our community who go above and beyond in their service to others for my columns for December.
This week, meet Linda Brown.
Linda is one of those people who I just know; I couldn’t tell you when or where I met her but she’s been a friend for several years. I may have met her during the four minutes of my life that I thought golf could be my hobby. Maybe it was through our mutual support of some local charities. Regardless, Linda Brown definitely meets the definition of “Angel Among Us” through her contributions to the State College Area Food Bank.
Through her career in sales and marketing that led to assignments in almost every major city on the east coast, Linda landed in State College almost 25 years ago. Originally from Kingston, Pennsylvania, Linda managed a sales force of 19 professionals with a mission of success and profits but also support for the communities in which they were selling their products. With years of service under her belt and a changing economy, Linda was given opportunity for an “early out” on retirement and she decided to stay in the community she now considers home.
We are very lucky to have her.
Her first retirement didn’t last long. “I was bored after four months,” she says. With just a few calls to some of her many contacts, Linda soon landed a position in the development arm of the Smeal College of Business at Penn State. As part of the fundraising and marketing team within Smeal, Linda was involved in efforts that resulted in the Business Building that now sits across Park Avenue from Penn State’s Arboretum. After six years at Penn State, Linda says she decided to retire for good.
A retired business professional with skills and contacts and a drive to succeed made Linda the perfect volunteer. “I tell people who are retiring to try a few different volunteer options until they find their niche,” says Brown. After stints at Mount Nittany Medical Center in the gift shop and as silent auction chair for The Second Mile, Linda found the Food Bank and has never looked back.
The Food Bank of State College is one of those gems in the Centre Region that supports those who need it the most and does so successfully and without much fanfare. Residents who find themselves in need must be referred by the other “safety net” organizations in town (i.e. Salvation Army or Centre Volunteers in Medicine). Qualified applicants are then eligible for monthly supplements of high quality, nutritious food that must meet certain standards and guidelines.
The Food Bank of State College isn’t just about redistributing the extra cans of sauerkraut or tomato sauce that we put in the bins or send with our kids to school. In November of 2013 alone, the Food Bank distributed 47,000 pounds of food to our neighbors. The Food Bank of State College also supports the food pantries in Snow Shoe, Penns Valley and numerous other locations around the Centre Region.
Every Monday from 10-5 p.m., you can find Linda Brown helping distribute food and other sundry items to residents in need. As a volunteer, as a board member and, effective January 1, as the chair of the Community Relations and Development Committee, Linda is giving back to our community.
Executive Director Carol Pioli appreciates volunteers like Linda Brown. “One thing I have to say about Linda is that she is one of those volunteers who go the extra mile, says Pioli. "She follows through on everything she says she’s going to do. Seeing her interact with our clients is incredible.”
When I ask people who give so much of themselves to our community to talk about why they do it, the answers are similar. For Linda Brown it was, “I just love it. I do it because it makes a difference.”
For the past 2 years, Linda has coordinated the efforts of the Food Bank with the Elks Club and local Marines to support Toys for Tots. This year’s event, held at Mountain View Country Club (formerly the Elks Club in Boalsburg) allowed qualified families to not only pick up food for the holidays but also select outerwear, boots and other clothing as well as toys and stuffed animals for their families for this holiday season.
“The food bank is important to me because food isn’t a want – it’s a basic need,” says Brown. Although the statistics for 2013 are not in yet, the food bank and related food pantries distributed over 253,000 pounds of food in 2012. That food and support helped 821 unique households and almost 2,200 people right here, in and around Happy Valley.
In March of 2014, the Food Bank of State College will move from its current space of 1,500 square feet to the former Paul and Tony’s Stereo on South Atherton Street and will increase its ability to serve the community with over 5,000 square feet.
We often think about making donations to our neighbors in need during this holiday season but the Food Bank and other organizations need our help all year long. You can find out more about the Food Bank, make a donation or check out its on-going and current “needs list” by clicking HERE. The next time that your group or your family or you are thinking about reaching out to help someone less fortunate, the food bank is a great place to start.
I’m proud to know Linda Brown. Whether it’s a smile and a hug in the fruit department at Wegmans or bumping into her at the 19th hole, Linda makes other people happy just by being herself.
Her contributions to our community make her an Angel among us.