PALMETTO -- Christmas was saved for a couple hundred local families Saturday, with a holiday now guaranteed to have turkey with all the fixings at the dinner table and presents under the tree.
Those in need came out in droves, and the event was over early, in under two hours, with 250 turkeys and cases and cases of produce distributed. Bags of toys brought smiles to children's faces and relief to parents.
"My kids weren't going to have a Christmas at all," Marisol Palacios said.
The mother of five heard of the event being held at the Palmetto Boys and Girls Club on Saturday and came out with her sister-in-law.
"At least now they are going to have something under the Christmas tree," Palacios said.
The seventh annual Holiday Celebration was hosted by the Boys and Girls Club of Manatee County, in partnership with BDE Florida Taco Bell. In addition to the food and toys, the event also featured free hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, drinks and entertainment.
"Today went absolutely wonderful," Palmetto Boys and Girls Club Director D. Bernard Woodie said.
Woodie started the tradition seven years ago, giving out toys on 17th Street West while his friend gave out hot dogs.
On Saturday, Palacios was one of one of the few that showed up after the food had long gone. But Woodie promised he would help them, and before her family left he had put together a big sack of new toys and was offering treat them to lunch.
"I feel like Santa Claus," Woodie said as he pulled out the toys from the bag one by one. "This is what this is all about."
Before heading to lunch he offered the two grateful mothers some encouragement.
"Sometimes you are on top of the world and the next day the world could be on top of you," Woodie said. "Never give up."
Misty Thorton, was brought to tears.
"Everybody doesn't help other people," Thorton said. "Our husbands have jobs but we live week to week."
With a husband struggling with lupus and kidney failure, Palacios said the two families depend on one another, sharing whatever they have.
"We just try to help each other," Palacios said. "We make it work somehow."
The mothers weren't the only ones grateful.
"Somebody finally helped us out," Dalia Palacios said.
The girl said she had written a letter to her mother earlier in the week.
"It doesn't matter if we didn't have any presents," Dalia said. "Some kids don't have Christmas presents and it feels wonderful to have them even if our mom and dad couldn't buy them."
Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.