Holiday Celebration in Palmetto will make needy families, children smile Saturday

Palmetto event started seven years ago as one-man endeavor giving away toys

vmannix@bradenton.comDecember 13, 2013 

Woodie

PALMETTO -- A busy man was D. Bernard Woodie on Wednesday.

Toys to pick up from the Bealls Corp. warehouse.

A check to get from Manatee County Rural Health.

Between 30 and 40 turkeys to load from Chumlee's Wings.

"And I'm not done yet," Woodie said while making his rounds.

It was all for Saturday's annual Holiday Celebration, hosted by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County in partnership with BDE Florida Taco Bell.

Seven years ago it was just Woodie giving out toys on 17th Street West while a friend served free hot dogs.

"Just seeing people happy is inspiring," said the 46-year-old lead coordinator with Coca-Cola. "It thrills me to be able to help somebody."

The event is 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Palmetto Boys & Girls Club, 1600

10th St. W. More than 250 families in the community will receive a turkey and other food for their holiday meal.

Plus, each child will receive a toy.

Festivities will include free food, drinks and entertainment and local government officials will be on hand to help distribute the edibles and toys and spread holiday cheer.

The event has come a long way, indeed.

"It was a one-day deal with basically 30 to 40 toys, first come, first served," Woodie said. "Then I got people calling me, who were touched by it, wanted to help and the word just spread."

His lone sponsor then was Palmetto's Westside Funeral Home.

Now the list includes 1-800-ASK-GARY, USA Steel Fence and Coca-Cola, to name but a few.

"We're aware how difficult it can be for kids and have a passion for helping children," said Brian Ellerson, managing partner at BDE Florida Taco Bell. "The Boys & Girls Club provides all tools kids need, so this is a hand-in-glove relationship. This works really, really well."

Give Willie Cooper an assist on that.

Now the Palmetto Boys & Girls Club director, Cooper saw what good things Woodie was doing and teamed him up with the Bradenton club branch on Ninth Street West.

"It was something we felt was a need and we had a place where it could be done -- a club that was going to help the community as well as club kids," Cooper said. "It was just a good fit for our mission: To try to help as many as we can. It's going to feed some people and it's going to make some kids happy. You can't ask for more than that."

Saturday will mark the event's return to Palmetto.

"It's going to be special, going back to where this started," Woodie said. "But I've got a lot to do between now and then. I'm not going to get much sleep, either. I want to make sure this thing runs right."

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