By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — Sister Beth Brosmer, director of Heart, Love and Soul Food Pantry, has been following the example of St. Francis for 50 years, putting the lives of others ahead of her own. To her, it's second nature.
Now it's earned her selection as this year's Civil Rights Achievement Award recipient at this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration, which kicks off at 6 p.m. tonight in the performing arts center of Niagara Falls High School, 4455 Porter Road.
Make no mistakes, though, she said. Her service isn't meant to pull in the accolades.
"I'm quite humbled by (the recognition)," she said. "I had no idea until I was contacted by the school district. I'm touched they've chosen to honor me in this way because I feel what i'm doing is what i'm supposed to be doing and I'm not supposed to be getting honored for it."
Brosmer will be joined by fellow honorees Matthew and Yvonne Davis of The Lord's Day Dinner, who'll together accept the Spirit of Dr. King Award, and high school senior Shaun Jenkins, who is set to be named the Youth Civil Rights Achievement Award recipient.
Much of the awards ceremony will be spent honoring people who work tirelessly to improve the quality of life for others besides themselves. Brosmer even credited the Davis clan and their inspired work feeding those less fortunate on the major holidays. She said their work keeps her pantry closed on those days, while their volunteers help out.
Her work has provided her with an opportunity to find out more about herself, while taking an active role in doing the mission she's set out to accomplish since joining the Sisters of St. Francis.
"I feel as if I find the very best of myself and the very worst of myself," she said. "Those things are blessings because I can learn from them. And it gives me the opportunity to be with people of all walks of life ... and allows me the opportunity to accompany people at very difficult junctures of their lives."
Like Brosmer, the Davis family is unsure of the attention these recognitions bring. It's because, as Matthew Davis said, the venture into helping feed the needy more than 30 years ago was never about self-promotion. It's a mission, a calling, Yvonne had to be a very real source of empowerment in a community filled with need.
"We're both very appreciative to be honored, but we don't do this for the limelight," Matthew Davis said. "We don't like to toot our own horn. We do (this work) because the need's there."
As for Jenkins, a 17-year-old senior at the high school, he's envisioning himself providing services to his community as well. He's active in volunteer organizations across the region, including Leadership Niagara's Youth Program and Slapshot, a Rotary club that meets in Canada. He's also a dedicated member of his church, Word of Life Ministries on Hyde Park Boulevard, where he's also a youth service teacher.
But it's this aspiring college student's presence in the school's musicals and drama productions that's given him a well-rounded approach to life and helped him realize exactly what he's capable of in both school and life.
It's all made an impression on his principal, Eddie Scott, who said Jenkins is a great fit for this year's Youth Civil Rights Award.
"I believe he is an excellent choice for this year's award because I think he's the type of student to give back to his community as he continues to progress both educationally and socially," Scott said. "He's the type of student that demonstrates a lot of the characteristics Martin Luther King Jr. advocated for."
Jenkins, meanwhile, praised his mother, Pamela Rankin, his grandmother, Patricia Rankin and sister, Shantrece Jenkins, for their presences in his life.
In addition to the award recipients, the community celebration will also feature the Rev. Jeff Carter, pastor of Ephesus Ministries on Grider Street in Buffalo, as keynote speaker. The Niagara Falls Housing Authority Youth Choir, under the direction of Diana M. Reeves, will return to perform on stage, as well.Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.