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The Christmas spirit beats strong in hearts of Manatee

Don’t let anyone tell you there’s no good news in the newspaper.

Yes, there’s plenty of crime and bad economy stories.

But on Page 1-A this week, there also was something every day to inspire and lift the spirit. There also were plenty of good news stories back on the local page and elsewhere.

In spite of everything, there seems to be no shortage of holiday spirit this year. Let’s recap the headlines, day by day:

n Monday, USF Sarasota-Manatee graduated its latest batch of students. Taking part in the commencement were 266 new grads.

n Tuesday, Adopt-A-Family registered 300 needy families. In all, more than 1,500 families are expected to benefit this year due to the generosity of the community.

n Wednesday, Joe Maddon, manager of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team, was in Bradenton, serving food for the Salvation Army.

n Thursday, kids went on a toy buying expedition at Toys R Us, thanks to Honoring the Badge, a partnership between the Bradenton Police Department and Kingdom Life Christian Church.

n Friday, Horseshoe Cove residents paraded with 42 Christmas-decorated golf carts. The parade visits several neighboring communities, spreading cheer and good will.

n Saturday, Marine Corps League officials said the Toys for Tots drive will touch as many as 8,000 Manatee County children, a testament to the community’s strong support of the program. The Manatee Fraternal Order of Police and Bealls teamed up to provide 20 cartloads of goodies.

There are so many examples of good works this year that it’s impossible to do more than provide a sampling.

Sally Helmbrecht, secretary of the Canadian Club at Colony Cove, the large manufactured home community in Ellenton, notes the 60-odd members are among those taking part in the Adopt-A-Family program.

“People in Colony Cove decorate a lot, neighbors exchange cards and little gifts, and get together in each others homes. You go out of your way to be friendly and get together. We make our own Christmas. It’s easier to get the feeling of Christmas without snow when people decorate a lot,” Sally said.

The one thing that really puts Christmas spirit in the tank at Colony Cove is giving to others. This year the Canadian Club adopted two families, one from Palmetto and one from Bradenton, with five children each. Club members talked to the mothers of each family to find out what each of the kids would like to find under the tree. Delivering the gifts on Christmas Eve will be club president Ken Bruton and his wife, Jean; and Al MacKinnon and Margaret Brandon.

The families will also get dinner and gifts handmade by Cove residents, including lap blankets for the moms and caps for the children.

It’s one way Canadian Club members keep their Christmas spirit strong, despite being so far from snow and their homes near the polar region, hangout of you-know-who.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be reached at 708-7916.