Palmetto, Florida - It has often been said that when you do something positive for others your deeds are returned "two-fold." A Palmetto couple has been giving back to their community for more than thirty years.
"I think we're all here for a reason. I think the basic reason is to help others. When we help others, we help ourselves," said Reverend Ted Tillis.
Mary and Ted Tillis are the founders of the the Community Honors program in Manatee County.
"It is a program in which we honor ordinary people, who have given much of themselves to the needs of other people, and to the improvement of the community," said Dr. Mary Tillis, director of the Community Honors program.
Helen Baker loves to cook and received a Hero award for feeding homeless people in her community.
"When Mrs. Tillis called my name, all I could do was stand there with my mouth wide open, I couldn't believe it."
The couple has been running the Community Honors program for the past ten years, but their work in the community goes back much further. Fifty years ago, they established an afternoon tutoring program for kids in Manatee County.
"There were so many kids who couldn't read and I had a yearning desire to teach those kid how to read, because I know that reading was basic."
Ted Tillis says that he was influenced by educators and knew the importance of helping kids achieve success in the classroom.
"I would constantly mentor kids. I remember a couple of teachers that helped me and I think we're all influenced by someone," Ted Tillis said.
The Tillis Tutoring Center is located in Palmetto and has served as the home to thousands of children who needed a place to go after school to get help with their homework.
A lot of the kids have gone on to be productive citizens in their community. One of those students sits on the Manatee County Commission and says the Tillis are a big reason why she was able to reach her goals of obtaining a PH.D.
"If you talk with any of their students, they will tell you they're where they are today because of one or the other. They're truly heroes in our community," said Dr. Gwendolyn Brown.
Mary Tillis says that she realized early on that education is the key to being successful in life.
"If you're going to get ahead in life, you're going to need an education and without an education you're going to be hindered," Mary Tillis said.
The couple has awarded more than 100 Hero awards to people in Manatee County through their Community Honors program.
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