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NAACP Freedom Fund Awards Banquet

Last Tuesday’s annual NAACP Freedom Fund Awards Banquet took a fond look at the organization’s history while keeping its sights set firmly on the future.

The national civil rights organization is commemorating its centennial this year and banquet chair Rita Smith and Manatee County NAACP chapter president Edward Bailey put together a program that celebrated the achievements made by local civil rights leaders.

Joyce Kerce, daughter of Manatee County’s NAACP charter president James R. Green II, was part of a panel discussing the struggles, triumphs and future dreams of the African-American community. Other panelists included Dorothy Middleton, county commissioner Dr. Gwen Brown, school board member Barbara Harvey, Rev. Dr. Willie Holley and Manatee School for the Arts senior Nya Smith.

The event raises money for the NAACP’s Freedom Fund, but the highlight is always the recognition of local leaders and businesses for their contributions to the community. Civic activist Evangeline Hall received the Lifetime Achievement Award and Cheri Coryea was presented with the Community Service Award.

Champs Sports’ employees, led by Rebecca Kreitsek, filled a table to receive their Business and Industry Award. The Boys and Girls Club also had a table to cheer on their executive director, Carl Weeks, as he accepted the Unsung Hero Award. Chapter president Ed Bailey gave the Presidential Award to Shirley Pearson.

The packed Bradenton Auditorium was filled with government and civic leaders, including county commissioners John Chappie and Larry Bustle, Bradenton mayor Wayne Poston and Palmetto city councilwoman Mary Lancaster.

Also in the crowd were Ed and Joanne Dick, Bradenton Boys and Girls Club director Willie Cooper, Christine and Henry Blyden and Tom and Susan Moseley.