Skip to main content

The City Journals

Governor honors Murrayite Lynda Brown with humanitarian leadership award

Dec 16, 2021 10:26AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Lynda Brown (far right), along with Kids Read board members Jackie Detmers and Jeannine Marlowe, reviews the prototype for their little library. (Photo courtesy Lynda Brown)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Those who make service their life’s first calling sometimes go unheralded. However, Gov. Spencer Cox and the Utah Philanthropy Day officials finally caught up with Murrayite Lynda Brown, to award her the Governor's Career Humanitarian Leadership Award.

Utah Philanthropy, an organization consisting of the Utah Nonprofits Association, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and UServeUtah, recognizes leaders who serve the community. As in Brown’s case, only one individual per year is recognized, not only for their service impact but also for the length of time they have served, over 20 years.

“The Utah Philanthropic Day Awards are awesome. It is a chance for the many Utah charities to have their volunteers acknowledged and publicly thanked. For me, personally, to receive their highest award is very humbling,” Brown said.

Brown founded the Kids Eat charity to address food insecurity for schoolchildren over the weekends. She started the charity after noticing a girl stealing food from the Murray Boys & Girls Club pantry. Over several years, the demand for her group’s service spread throughout the Salt Lake Valley. After watching the charity’s growth explode, USANA Corp. volunteered a warehouse, trucks, and administration to run the program, not only locally but to expand it nationally. 

From 2017 through 2019, she led her team of 15 volunteers to reach over 200 businesses, 425 individuals, and 175 church groups that held packing events and food giftings or made donations to sustain the Kids Eat program. Her legacy now includes a 17,000-square-foot warehouse and packing facility at USANA headquarters that provides kids in Utah schools over 400,000 meals each year.

Turning the keys over to USANA did not mean retirement for Brown; she started a second charity, Kids Read. 

“Kids Eat being turned over to USANA to take it to a national level left a hole in my life. I needed to fill it with something, and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the children in Uganda came along,” Brown said.

According to Bob Dunn, former director of the Murray Boys & Girls Club, “Lynda never does anything alone. She creates connections with people all over the world. She nurtures these relationships. You cannot know Lynda for more than 10 minutes without her getting you personally involved with a good cause she supports. Once she knows you, you become involved with her as a volunteer, a donor, or both.”

Kids Read, her latest initiative, involves placement of little libraries near Boys & Girls Clubs as well as in Title 1 school neighborhoods. Little libraries are free small-container libraries that offer several dozen books, particularly for children, that people can borrow. She recruited the Murray Rotary Club to help install up to 48 future libraries, the first one being installed at the Miller Family Club in Murray.

However, Kids Read is not a just-Murray, or just-Utah, or even just-American affair, it has become international as well. Kids Read has been focusing on providing little libraries in the slums of Kampala, Uganda. After COVID hit that nation, Kids Read addressed the needs of the learners by providing food and medical PPE supplies. This second initiative spun off a separate Ugandan charity called “Feed 2 Read.”

“I have not slept well in years, as my brain just doesn’t quit thinking up things that I could do. I think I get that from my father. However, with the need so great, and knowing I can do something, even just a little something,” Brown said.

Due to COVID, this year’s Utah Philanthropy Day award ceremony was broadcast on Nov. 15. Brown was presented a crystal trophy and video footage highlighted her work with Congressional Award for Youth, the Boys & Girls Clubs, Kids Eat, Kids Read and Feed 2 Read.

“Everyone can do something. I find many people just get in their own way. It is so easy to just continue to do things as you have always done them. To break free and to help others is to feel good about yourself. Giving feels good. I think it is important for everyone to look inside to find love in their hearts to give toward others and move forward during this divisive time and to simply dwell in possibility always,” Brown said.