PALMETTO -- It was a night of heartfelt words and recognition Friday evening at the 23rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Banquet.
The Who's Who of Manatee County sat inside the Palmetto Youth Center as five individuals were honored for their contributions to Manatee County. The honorees, who sat at a long decorated table on a stage included: Manatee County Sheriff's Office Col. Rick Wells, who received the Edgar Price Jr. Humanitarian Award; Terrence Green and Toni Coleman, co-owners of TNT's Beauty and Barber Salon who received the Small Business Award; Lillian Elliot, who received the Outstanding Citizenship Award; and former NFL player Henry Lawrence, who received the Outstanding Citizenship Award.
"When I got the phone call, I was speechless and I was excited," Green said. "I know receiving an award like this is a good thing for my family to see -- for my mom, for my wife right here, my two kids."
Green's wife, Germaine Green, sat beside him beaming.
Hosted by 12th Circuit Court Judge Charles E. Williams, the program included an invocation, a presentation of scholarships from Beall's Charitable Foundation and an oratorical presentation by the first-place winners of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Essay & Speech Contest, a competition for Manatee County students held by the Palmetto Youth Center.
Tyrese Galloway, 16, of State College of Florida Collegiate School, and Sully Maley, 12, of R. Dan Nolan Middle School, both recited their
pieces that each won them $150 and a new Dell laptop computer and printer. The crowd roared with cheers after each student finished speaking.
Towards the middle of the event, a video was played that displayed a collection of striking photographs from both the 1960s civil rights and the Black Lives Matter movements.
In an interview with the Herald before the event, Elliot said she felt honored Friday evening. She is credited for having started a mentoring program several years ago at Palmetto High School with friend and colleague Alicia Cotton.
"It is a confirmation of all the work that you do over the years," she said. "That it's noticed and has started to make a difference in the community."
Each honoree spoke from a podium to the sea of guests after dinner was served.
Green first thanked his mother, who he described as his strength.
"This is what she made. She made a guy that tries to respect everybody," he said. "Any kid that comes through my shop for a haircut, I try my best to influence them in any way I can. I had no idea that something like a haircut can inspire so many people."
Coleman thanked the Palmetto Youth Center for the award and shared how much her life has changed through the years since moving to the area from Louisiana in 1989.
"I'm very excited and humbled and appreciative of it, that someone would consider my business an outstanding business in the community," the 50-year-old Coleman told the Herald earlier that evening. "That means a lot because it could have been any other small business and TNT's was chosen, so I'm honored and humbled."
Lawrence described his honor as a bittersweet deal.
"I'm very appreciative, but I stand on the shoulders of many," the 64-year-old said before listing those who have helped him through the journey of life. "This youth center saved my life."
Col. Wells brought up his friendships with who he described as remarkable people.
"They have allowed me to be with them and to try to make a change in the community," he said. "Change does not always come quickly, but we'll only fail if we quit trying... so we continue to try to work with our young people."
After the honorees spoke, Palmetto Youth Center Executive Director Reggie Bellamy also awarded Circuit Court Judge Williams a Special Service Excellence Award, as well as one for Yamonica Mapps and her stepdaughter, Ashia Mapps, who helped lead the youth center's cheer and dance team.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.