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Jefferson Award Winner Tends To Needs Of South Bay's Poor

SAN JOSE (CBS 5) - She's been a one-woman human services agency for three decades. No task is too big or small, even though Jefferson Award winner Lilyann Brannon is now 90-years-old.

When Michele Blamires was pregnant and living under a San Jose bridge years ago, it was Brannon who brought her family food and diapers. And when Michele cleaned up from a drug addiction, it was Brannon who helped her find a home and job.

"She does so much," Blamires said admiringly. "If it's in her willpower, she'll do it. She'll find a way."

From her San Jose living room, Brannon runs the nonprofit Tending the Flock. With her husband retired from Lockheed and she from Apple, Brannon devotes her life to helping the poor and neglected who fall through the cracks. She's a one-woman charitable agency who can serve up food one minute, and snap through a web of bureaucracy the next.

"When you get to know people, you can't turn your back and walk away," Brannon explained.

Brannon started Tending the Flock about thirty years ago when she was trying to save the Guadalupe River from development. She got to know the homeless camping nearby and started to cook for them.

"(I) just had to do what I could," Brannon remembered. "And since I was a Mama, and I cook, I would cook in my kitchen and take it all downtown."

Besides meals, Brannon collected donated tents and sleeping bags to bring the homeless. Since then, her reach has expanded through a growing network of friends. Now, people in trouble come to her with their needs, like utility bills, rent, food, or clothing.

The energetic senior citizen raises several thousand dollars a year with an annual ice cream social and individual donations so she can "tend the flock." But she doesn't call herself a shepherd.

"I guess I'm Grandma," she said with a smile.

"She's very compassionate, very caring," Blamires added. 'It's like me and Lilyann are like family. She's like a second Mom."

She's a mom who is proud when the sheep find their way.

So for decades of Tending the Flock as an advocate for the South Bay's poor, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Lilyann Brannon.

Tending the Flock is a 501©(3) organization. To contribute, send checks to 3560 Andrea Court, San Jose, CA 95117. Please no donations of goods or materials.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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