By Amelia Santaniello

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Once a month, she cooks up and serves meals at the Dorothy Day Center. Every pledge drive, she answers phones at Twin Cities Public Television.

And each Saturday, Sharon Bryse leaves her house and comes to Breanna Thingvall’s house.

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“You’re doing good. Yes, you are,” said Bryse, as she bends and straightens the young woman’s stiff body. “Sometimes it gets tough to move.”

Thingvall was 9 when she suffered a brain injury in 1994.

Bryse started helping out a year later and hasn’t stopped. Without Bryse and other volunteers helping move Thingvall’s body, Cathy Childs said her daughter couldn’t live at home.

“I couldn’t do it, I absolutely couldn’t do it without volunteers,” said Childs.

She wasn’t surprised Bryse was picked to be a winner of WCCO-TV and American Equity Mortgage’s “Making a Difference” contest.

“Oh no, absolutely not. It’s about time,” she said, with a laugh.

Bryse’s sister, Patti Snell, nominated her.

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“My sister Sharon has a passion for volunteering,” she wrote. “I think she should have a little recognition for everything she does.”

Bryse helped out a lot when Snell’s husband had a stroke last year.

“She just made a difference in my life, and she’s making a difference in everyone else’s life, too, as far as I’m concerned,” Snell said.

This week’s winner is glad she won. It’s not because of the $500 prize, but because it gives Bryse a platform to encourage others to share their time.

“I want to tell ’em to go out and volunteer because there’s such a desperate need for volunteers,” she said. “This is to promote volunteerism, that’s what it’s all about.”

Bryse also makes caramels for the bake sales, delivers Meals on Wheels and provides friendship and checkbook-balancing help for an older woman.

So what will she do with her $500 prize? Not surprisingly, she’s going to share it with others.

Bryse plans to turn the money over to Second Harvest Food Bank.

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Paula Engelking, Producer
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Amelia Santaniello