Brenda Meadows of The Shepherd's Staff honored with Sylvia Canon Award

Brenda Meadows of The Shepherd's Staff honored with Sylvia Canon Award
Brenda Meadows is the Executive Director of Shepherds Staff. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

This holiday season marked a change for the Festival of Trees, the annual silent auction that raises funds for the Westminster nonprofit The Shepherd’s Staff. The event, which ran from Nov. 24 through Nov. 26, was held at Johns Street Quarters rather than the TownMall of Westminster for the first time.

That change made everyone at The Shepherd’s Staff a little nervous about this year’s turnout, according to Volunteer Coordinator Karen Rau, but none more than Executive Director Brenda Meadows, she said. Rau said that by the end of the day on Sunday the 26th, Meadows checked in to see how the bidding for the pre-decorated trees was going.


“She was shocked to see not only were they bidding but the bids were very generous,” Rau said. “She stood in the corner and her eyes teared up and she actually started to cry. She is just so touched with the response that we get from people in the community. She can’t get over how much people care.”

But the community cares about Meadows too.

At an awards breakfast Wednesday, she will become the 16th recipient of the Sylvia Canon Humanitarian Award, an annual honor given by the Carroll County Community Services Council. The award recognizes someone dedicated to going “above and beyond” in the field of human services, according to council president Maggie Kunz, and honors the memory of the founder of Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc., Sylvia Canon.

“It’s a nice way for the Community Services Council to celebrate eachi year and to honor someone in our midst who extolling the virtues that we all want to uphold,” Kunz said. “We are all trying to make things happen with not a lot of resources and with a lot of need in the community.”

“I was at a loss for words to hear that I was nominated, much less that I would be the recipient of the award,” Meadows said of learning the news. “To even be considered for this award is incredibly humbling.”

Meadows isn’t one to talk about herself, and she quickly turns the conversation to what The Shepherd’s Staff is doing for the community.

“ Most people in this field aren’t looking for accolades — they are doing it for the mission,” she said. “To me, the gift of the nomination is that it will help us get word out to the community about what The Shepherd’s Staff does, how we serve and hopefully reach people that are not aware of what we do.”

The Shepherd’s Staff fills gaps, according to Donna Devilbiss, a longtime volunteer with the nonprofit. The Shepherd’s Staff Blessings Closet fills gaps by offering people basic household items such as toilet paper, soap and trash bags so they can save money for things like prescriptions, she said. They can even help pay for prescriptions, or other emergency financial assistant, Devilbiss added.

“For someone whose car breaks down and they suddenly now can’t go to work, The Shepherd’s Staff may have the flexibility to help pay for that car repair,” she said, “so that somebody doesn’t go down the path of losing their job, losing their house, all that comes from that.”

In one way or another, the Shepherd’s Staff served more than 5,000 Carroll County families in 2016, Devilbiss said. That’s the reason why she nominated Meadows for the Sylvia Canon Award.

“I’ve just admired Brenda’s commitment to the organization and to the community,” Devilbiss said. “And all that takes time and effort to do that. She just really is very committed to folks that are served by The Shepherd’s Staff.”

For Meadows, it really goes beyond the material support The Shepherd’s Staff can offer its guests — she sees the human element as paramount, and The Shepherd’s Staff mission as one of bringing hope as much as food or clothing to those that need it.

“It’s very important I think, in this world, that once a guest walks through the door, they are treated with dignity and compassion and respect,” she said. “A lot of times when people come in here, they may not have had a discussion with anyone over the course of a few days. People come in to just to chat sometimes.”

And that Meadows is there to chat with them is one reason why the Community Service Council chose her for this year’s award, according to Kunz.


“She is not the kind of executive director that asks everybody to do things she won’t do. She will work off hours and do what needs to be done, and doesn’t consider herself above anybody else,” Kunz said. “She really is there in the mix holding all the pieces together.”

Honoring Meadows with this award is really about more than just leadership, being a deft and able director of a nonprofit, according to Devilbiss. It’s about something that transcends mere work or vocation.

“Whatever she does, she does with the intention of putting the people who are served by The Shepherd’s Staff first,” Devilbiss said. “She is a community servant. I believe that is a calling.”