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Former, current Palmetto residents hold neighborhood reunion

Kathy Mitchell Gainey and her grandson, Cesary Wilbur, enjoy the shade of a tent. Former and current Palmetto residents of what is now uptown gathered at St. Luke's Baptist Church Saturday afternoon for a neighborhood reunion.
Kathy Mitchell Gainey and her grandson, Cesary Wilbur, enjoy the shade of a tent. Former and current Palmetto residents of what is now uptown gathered at St. Luke's Baptist Church Saturday afternoon for a neighborhood reunion. ttompkins@bradenton.com

Generations of a Palmetto community gathered Saturday to reminisce, reconnect and reflect on how far they have come.

For years, Renita Dixon, 61, said members of the community on 12 Street Drive West where she was raised have talked about holding a community reunion.

On Saturday, those plans became a reality when dozens gathered outside St. Luke’s Baptist Church in Palmetto, 540 12th St. Drive W., Palmetto.

“When we first came here to this street it was dirt, no lights,” Dixon said.

Their parents helped build up the community, she said, as she looked around a neighborhood far different than during her childhood.

“They build families out of families,” Dixon said.

Unity, she recalled, was always instilled in them.

“They raised us as a village,” Dixon said.

The community effort helped mold all of them, she said. Any adult on the block could tell a child something and they would obey, she said.

Dixon and her childhood friends hope to instill the same legacy values in the younger generations of their families and the neighborhood.

“Our parents are gone now so we need to show them that this exists, how to get together,” Dixon said.

The community reunion extended to more than just the close-knit former neighbors of 12 Street Drive West. Former neighbors from nearby were also included.

Dixon, who now lives in Tallahassee, said it took a lot of work with conference calls and social media to make the reunion come together. Many others traveled from new homes in St. Petersburg, Boynton Beach, Pompano Beach, Cocoa Beach and even as far away as California.

They hope to make it an annual gathering, Dixon said, so they can continue to celebrate where they came from and see one another.

The group enjoyed feasting on fried fish, coleslaw, french fries, grits and fresh lemonade and iced tea all prepared by Tymesha McIntosh from Cook & Siblings in Bradenton.

Palmetto Police Chief Scott Tyler even stopped by to partake in the reunion.

The group will gather again from 3-5 p.m. Sunday.

Phyllis Morgan, 64, was one of the few who still live in the neighborhood. Some of the faces she saw Saturday, she said, she hadn’t seen since they graduated from high school.

“Just to see how well everyone is doing ... It’s amazing,” Morgan said.

Educational values had been instilled in them by all parents in the community, she said, and it is nice to see dreams of success parents had for them come to fruition.

“There were big families that came out of here,” Morgan said. “Most of the houses are gone now, but you can’t take away the memories.”

Jessica De Leon: 941-745-7049, @JDeLeon1012

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