MANATEE — Palmetto’s Helen Baker hates to see anyone go hungry. She made a decision a long time ago to never turn her back on someone with an empty stomach.
“I cook for homeless people,” said Baker, who turns 75 on Saturday .
Besides bringing meals out to people she sees living on the streets of Palmetto, Baker also cooks for people who are ill or experiencing hard times.
For her generosity toward others, Baker, who lives on 17th Street East in Palmetto, was recognized in 2005 by The House of God Church/Keith Dominion during its annual Community Honors Program.
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Every year, the Palmetto church pays tribute to a handful of area residents who go beyond the norm to help others in everyday ways, like cooking meals, driving others to the grocery store or doctor’s office, or just coming around to visit.
“I felt honored,” Baker said of the award, which roughly 100 people have received.
This year, 10 more residents will be caught offguard at the 10th Annual Community Honors event, which is like a surprise party since the honorees have no idea they are going to be singled out.
This year’s program is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at the church, 123 17th St. E.
Baker, whose home church is St. Mary’s Missionary in Parrish, was lured into House of God in 2005 by her son, William Baker III.
“He said, ‘Momma, we’ve got to go over to this church,’” Baker recalls. “I just got in the car and we went. I was surprised.”
Palmetto’s Moody Johnson and his wife, Janiell, were both honored on Oct. 27, 2002.
The couple were lured into the church by friends.
“I was supposed to be recording for someone who was going to be chosen,” said Moody Johnson, who was asked to bring his camcorder, never realizing that he would be the star of the day.
Johnson volunteers at Palmetto High School and reaches out to people in need in his community.
“I think it’s outstanding,” Moody Johnson said of Community Honors. “A lot of people would never receive any recognition without this program. There are a lot of unsung heroes out there. It’s nice to be recognized.”
This year features three special awards for community service and seven regular awards.
“I think we’ve created some lasting memories and touched hearts in places they may never have been touched,” said Deaconess Mary Tillis, whose husband, the Rev. Ted Tillis, is senior pastor of House of God.
For more information on the program, which is open to the public, call 722-3681.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.