Barb Brennan chosen as Lions’ Citizen of the Year
She’s neither a bird, plane, frog, nor even Underdog – but she does soar into the skies and she has dedicated her life to others. Her son, John Paul (“J.P.”), calls her Superwoman. And he’s not that far off.
“Since 1959,” said Jim Sullivan of the Hooksett Lions Club, Hooksett residents have chosen one person who stands out among all others – one person who is recognized by the community as “making Hooksett a better place to live.”
This year, the Lions Club has selected Barbara Brennan.
She’s “generous, hardworking and humble,” said Alan Stein, committee chairman of Hooksett’s Boy Scout Troop 292, who has volunteered alongside Barb in the annual Scouting for Food program.
She’s a “selfless servant,” said J.P., “and will always put all others before herself.”
“She is all about fulfilling the mission and not about the glory,” said Mary Farwell, coordinator of the Hooksett Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign.
Brennan’s history of service predates what most Hooksett residents have seen. Entering high school in 1976, she went to the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School in 1979, the Air Force Academy in 1980, undergraduate pilot training in 1984, and then she became an Air Force pilot in 1985, where she served her country until 1991. Her biography states that she attained the rank of captain and instructor pilot/aircraft commander. Brennan flew more than 2,500 hours worldwide, including flying a C-141 transport aircraft during Operation Desert Storm.
In 1991, “I made two of the best decisions of my entire life,” she said. “The first was to marry Alan Brennan,” with whom she is “deeply in love to this very day.”
The second was to resign her commission from the U.S. Air Force to become a stay-at-home mom, as her own mother had done.
School and HYAA volunteer
When her son and daughter were attending Hooksett schools, she got her first taste of Hooksett volunteerism.
“I can remember day one of John Paul’s kindergarten experience,” said Alan Brennan. “This is where it all started,” with June Rich challenging the parents to become involved.
“That was like throwing a gauntlet down for Barbara,” he said. “She worked very closely with all the principals” as J.P. and Christine progressed through the school system, he said.
“She organized volunteer programs at all of the schools,” he said, “and became the volunteer coordinator for each one of those schools.”
She would then pass the torch to the next volunteer as she went to the next school. From 1997 and continuing on today, she has supported Hooksett schools in various capacities, including working with the PTA, Memorial Playground Committee, Wellness Committee, Builders Club, Healthy Lunch Committee, and now also on the state Partners in Education board.
“She has even helped our school win volunteer awards,” said her friend Karren Crain. In fact, Brennan won her own award from Partners in Education, which recognized her in the 2003-04 school year as the statewide volunteer coordinator of the year.
Herself an athlete, Brennan has also worked with the Hooksett Youth Athletic League, coaching baseball, softball, basketball, soccer and girls’ lacrosse.
“She throws a better baseball than I could ever throw,” said Alan. “She coached the kids all the way through HYAA.”
Scouting for Food and Hooksett Food Pantry
Many in town also know Brennan as the committee chairman and tireless volunteer with the Hooksett Community Food Pantry. Her first exposure to the food pantry was in 2005, when J.P. was a Boy Scout in Hooksett’s Troop 292 and was participating in the annual Scouting for Food event.
Volunteering as the Scouting for Food coordinator, Brennan recognized that the pantry had the potential to grow.
Back then, the pantry was “back on the Bypass,” said Alan Brennan. From there, it moved to the Hooksett Congregational Church, where she “turned it around,” he said.
About the same time the pantry was growing beyond the church’s capacity, J.P. was getting ready to become an Eagle Scout.
“We were on a car ride up to Norwich University,” he said, when they talked about the existing pantry. His Eagle project then evolved into moving and expanding the pantry into Hooksett Town Hall where it has now become a success.
“She has been instrumental in the successful growth of the Hooksett Community Food Pantry,” said Fred Bishop, an officer with the Hooksett Kiwanis Club, which sponsors the pantry. “Over the past two years, food collected and distributed by the pantry has grown to $90,000 a year, up nearly 50 percent in two years. She leads a group of 25 volunteers who work five days a week at the Food Pantry,” he said.
In spite of all her volunteerism (not all of which is listed here), Brennan finds time for her family. Son J.P., will turn 21 this summer and is attending Norwich University, where he is on his way to becoming an Air Force pilot. Daughter Christine is a senior at Central High School and is looking to attend college next fall for computer animation.
“She is a very gifted artist,” says Brennan.
With Brennan being born on Dec. 25, “you’d think
it should be about her,” said J.P., “but for her, it’s all about everybody else and about us as a family.”
“The pantry at Christmastime is very busy because they do the turkey dinners,” said Alan Brennan, “and she’s very involved in Adopt-a-Family, Kids’ Closet, the Giving Trees, and the Kettle Campaign, he said.
“It’s the ‘perfect storm’ for volunteering,” said Alan Brennan, and “she’s the captain of the ship going into the storm – the S.S. Volunteer,” quipped J.P.
In spite of all she does, she’s always there for her family, said JP.
“She’s Superwoman,” he said.
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