Between the hugs, laughter and food, the spirit of service filled the gym at the Palmetto Youth Center Friday night as the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was honored and several community members were awarded for their work.
This year’s theme for the 24th annual MLK Awards Banquet was “Restore the Dream,” something those at the Palmetto Youth Center and those who were honored and recognized Friday night have done and continue to work toward.
“We want to continue to restore the dream and the way to do that is not hate, it’s with love,” said Reggie Bellamy, executive director of the Palmetto Youth Center.
After opening words, a prayer, a short video and dinner, speech contest winners were recognized and awards were handed out to community members.
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“Tonight was remarkable, the reception that we received from the community, and the honorees are very, very well deserving. We’re just blessed with an opportunity to impact the community and honor individuals that we serve just as we do to change youth lives,” Bellamy said.
Manatee County Court Judge Doug Henderson was the first to receive an award Friday night, and he was honored with the Edgar Price Jr. Humanitarian Award.
“I met Mr. Price 23 years ago when I was campaigning for this job. ... I was scared to death the day I went in to see him, but I found him to be a very unassuming, humble man. He reminded me so much of my grandfather in Tampa. The award that’s named after him is really one of the highlights of my career and my life,” Henderson said.
Henderson was elected to office in 1994.
While accepting the award, Henderson also was officially sworn in to his final term as county judge. Though there were a few laughs shared when he had trouble zipping up his judge’s robe, it was a lighthearted moment that shined with personality and brought smiles to the room.
Peggy Isom was next to receive the Small Business Award. She was introduced by her sister, Sharon Isom Scott, who pointed out the family restaurant was started in their mother’s memory.
More affectionately known as PI, Isom — together with her six siblings and nephew, Wendell Martin, opened RL Tucker’s Family Restaurant.
Part of a migrant family, Isom’s mother — “Miss Ruby” — taught them to cook. They traveled north every summer from Palmetto to South Carolina, Virginia, and on to New York state, harvesting fruits and vegetables.
For Isom, who began to cry while expressing her gratitude, the award reminded her of her family and said that if her mother could have been there, she would have been proud.
“It takes me back to my childhood and the way my parents raised me. They gave me a lot about love and community and family and God and it just kind of took me back. With both of them being deceased, it kind of took me back for a moment,” Isom said. “Serving the community it gives me joy, it gives us joy. We love it.”
Doretha Pratt was selected for the Louise Rogers Johnson Award, named in honor of a person with whom she has a special connection.
“Mrs. Johnson was my fifth-grade teacher at Bradenton Elementary. And now I am receiving an award in her name,” Pratt said.
She noted that the teachers she had during her school years inspired her.
Pratt has been a teacher in Manatee County where she was raised. She spent several years as a science teacher at Lincoln Memorial High School and Sara Scott Harllee Middle School before pursuing her graduate degree.
She retired from Manatee County Schools in 1995 after more than 33 years of teaching.
She has previously been honored with the Leadership Award from the American Association of University Women and Meritorious Award from the United Negro College Fund.
Palmetto Police Chief Scott Tyler received the Government Award for his service to the department.
Tyler began serving in 1995 with the Palmetto Police Department, where he rose through the ranks, holding nearly every position.
He became chief in March 2015.
Tyler is also an instructor at the Manatee Technical College Police Academy and serves on several boards.
“When Reggie reached out to me and told me I was going to be recognized for this award, I was blown away, quite frankly. I’ve done a lot of things in my career with the Palmetto Police Department in public service, and I’ve received recognition, but nothing has meant more to me than this award here,” Tyler said.
After the ceremony, Bellamy spoke of looking to the future. He said that as the 25th annual awards banquet approaches next year, some special changes are in store.