8 honored by Palmetto church for 'simple acts of kindness'

PALMETTO -- An idea Mary and Ted Tillis of Palmetto had 14 years ago to honor Bradenton and Palmetto citizens who have been kind to others has grown in popularity over the years.

Now, the area's best choirs want to take part in singing the praises of these humble, unsung community heroes.

One of the more engaging aspects of the event is honorees are not told beforehand they will be in the spotlight.

On Sunday, eight more unsuspecting community givers were honored during the 14th Annual Community Honors Program at the House of God Church, Keith Dominion, 123 17th St. E., Palmetto. Ted Tillis is president elder and Mary Tillis is deaconess at the House of God Church, Keith Dominion.

In addition to a roar from the crowd, a special pin affixed to their collars and an engraved plaque, honorees were treated to dynamic performances by Sharon Lilly, Dovie Murray, Vernetta Smith and music from the rest of the popular Trinity Christian Fellowship Center choir from Sarasota.

The Rev. Stanley Eugene Wooten of Bradenton led the list of honorees. Wooten is founder and operator of the Life Center, The Throne of Grace Ministries and Stanley's Custom Eye Wear.

Also honored: the Bradenton foursome of musician and beautician Gussie May Saffor, the Rev. James Roberts Jr. of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, seamstress Emma Lee Whipper and number cruncher Marian Jean Copeland.

Three honorees were from Palmetto, including registered nurse Mandy Clark, mystery novel fan and scrap booker Mattie Cheaves and landscaper Oliver Lilly Sr.

It was fitting the honorees, many of whom said strong faith in God motivated them to do for their fellow man, heard a powerful church choir singing on their be

half. Lilly brought down the house with her rendition of, "Oh How Precious," which took her out of the choir and to the front of the church where she had the 125 in attendance on their feet, dancing and clapping.

"That choir is on fire today," said Pastor Angela Griffin.

Clark leads 2014 honorees

Clark, a nurse at the Florida Department of Health-Manatee for more than 25 years, is well known for doing community out-reach immunizations.

Her simple acts of kindness go above and beyond her job, Mary Tillis said.

Clark goes to people's residences and nursing homes to visit people who have no family, Tillis said. Clark also buys groceries for the needy, Tillis added.

When Clark was called on to get her honor, after being lured into the church by friends and family, her acceptance speech was modest and funny.

"It's wonderful to know I do all these things," Clark said.

Wooten's Life Center is a place where young men can be rehabilitated after a release from prison, Tillis said.

"Rev. Wooten assists these young men in find a job, saving and budgeting their money, as well as any other life skills they need to be successful," Tillis said.

Saffor, a musician, won her stripes for the amount of work she does for St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Bradenton. Saffor said she was so shocked to be honored she didn't know what to say.

Then, she suddenly began to chat and kept going right by her two minutes of allotted time until her son, Christopher Saffor, and her granddaughter, Ziya Saffor, 10, of Wakeland Elementary School, came to gently remove the microphone from her hand.

The other honorees:

Roberts was honored for, among other acts, counseling families to keep them together, Tillis said.

Cheaves is part of President Obama's "Get People to Get Out and Vote" drive, Tillis said.

Whipper "provides food to elderly people," Tillis said.

Copeland, a member of St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church, Bradenton, goes out of her way to help other people, Tillis said. She also helps her church with financial record-keeping.

Lilly is a self-employed tree trimmer who also does landscaping cleanup.

"Mr. Lilly has never met a stranger," Tillis said. "He is known all over the area for his friendly nature. His wife, Loretta, is friendly, too."

Bishop Raymond Trice Pathways Christian Fellowship in Bradenton was speaker for the day.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072.