World War II veterans, community members enjoy Goodwill Manasota’s ‘Spirit of ’45’ dinner

More than 60 WWII veterans attend the event, one of several marking the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII

Published Monday, August 24, 2015

SARASOTA/BRADENTON, FL – On August 15, Goodwill Manasota partnered with individuals serving on its Veterans Task Force and area veterans’ agencies to present a special dinner for World War II veterans. The “1940s Theme Dinner Party” took place at Robarts Arena in Sarasota.

More than 60 World War II veterans and over 350 total guests attended. Two couples celebrated their wedding anniversaries that day – one 50 years and another 71 years – and at least one Purple Heart recipient was present. A total of 38 companies and individuals supported the event so that no veteran and guest would have to pay to attend.

Guests enjoyed ‘40s big band music played by the Sarasota Jazz Project under the direction of George McClain, Mario Sexton and the Swing Dancers, a special appearance by the Andrew Sisters, a set by Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, and a variety of guest speakers during the proceedings, including Admiral Brian McCarthy who read and presented proclamations from the Sarasota County Commissioners, Manatee County Commissioners and a special proclamation from the office of Governor Rick Scott. The program was emceed by 106.5 CTQ radio personality and Goodwill Ambassador Maverick Johnson.

Longtime Sarasota resident and Goodwill Ambassador Danny Bilyeu helped to coordinate the “Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive!” events, which served to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. He was thrilled at the turnout for the dinner, which he felt was important to show the veterans in attendance how grateful we are for their service and sacrifices.

“Of all the conflicts fought by our brave servicemen and women, World War II had the most far-reaching impact on our country,” said Bilyeu. “It is my hope that the veterans who attended our celebration – and those who are still with us throughout the U.S. – know that we will never forget their contributions to the great country we are today.”

About Goodwill Manasota

Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With the sales of donated goods and philanthropic donations, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities and other barriers to employment by providing job skills training and employment opportunities. In 2014, Goodwill Manasota served more than 16,000 people, placed 680 people in jobs and assisted 520 veterans as they reintegrated back into the civilian workforce. Goodwill Manasota’s economic impact back to the community is worth $81.3 million. Goodwill is one of the pioneers of the reduce-reuse-recycle movement and this past year diverted 39 million pounds out of the landfill. We accomplish our mission through a network of Good Neighbor Centers in Sarasota, Manatee, Hardee and DeSoto counties and our Mission Development Services (MDS) around North America. Goodwill Manasota is accountable to a local Board of Directors. Goodwill Manasota in essence belongs to this community, and is not owned by any individual or company. For more information, visit