Goodwill Manasota to honor WWII veterans at ‘Spirit of ‘45’ dinner in Sarasota

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Event is part of a nationwide program to mark the 70th anniversary of World War II, honor veterans who served; partners for the three-day program include Unconditional Surrender Veterans Group and The First Brass of Sarasota

The 'Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive!' program logo

The 'Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive!' program logo

“We believe it is important and appropriate to honor the ‘Greatest Generation’s greatest day’,” said Goodwill Manasota president and CEO Bob Rosinsky.

Goodwill Manasota is partnering 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” takes place on Saturday, August 15. Doors open and live big music begins at 3:30; program runs from 4:30-6:30pm at Robarts Arena (3000 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota).

There will be big band music and dancing from the ‘40s, with a special appearance by the Andrew Sisters, a set by Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, a photo montage evoking the era, and a variety of guest speakers during the proceedings, which will be emceed by 106.5 CTQ radio personality and Goodwill Ambassador Maverick Johnson. This event will offer the community the opportunity to say “Thank you!” to those who served. The dinner is free for World War II veterans; the public is invited to watch and enjoy from the bleachers.

The dinner is just one event in the community-wide “Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive!” observance. This celebration, which is being organized in large part by longtime community member and former Sarasota City Commissioner Danny Bilyeu, is part of the national “Spirit of ‘45” program, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and honor those who served in uniform as well as supported their efforts from the home front. It will take place over the course of three days, from August 14-16. Sponsors helping to make this effort possible include the Jay and Becky Kaiserman Foundation, Marina Jack, Purmort Martin Insurance and Veteran Air; additional sponsors are being sought.

The “Spirit of ‘45” begins on Friday, August 14, 11:00am-12:00pm, with an opening ceremony. This event, which is sponsored by the Unconditional Surrender Veterans Group, takes place by the Unconditional Surrender statue on Sarasota Bayfront and is free and open to the public.

On Sunday, August 16, from 6:00-7:00pm, there will be a Memorial Service and Wreath Presentation to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Guests will enjoy musical numbers courtesy of a 70-trumpeter group, sponsored by Goodwill and organized by The First Brass of Sarasota, during the ceremony; organizers are still seeking trumpeters to participate. Other highlights to include special recognition for World War II veterans, “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes, speakers, and more. This event, which is free and open to the public, takes place at Patriot Plaza at the Sarasota National Cemetery (9810 State Road 72).

Bilyeu, who is the son of a World War II veteran and is a Goodwill Ambassador who serves on Goodwill’s Veterans Task Force, feels honored to be coordinating these events. He noted that Goodwill was a logical partner in the endeavor given its work with area veterans.

“My father was a WWII Navy veteran on a destroyer in the South Pacific. He did not talk about it much while I was growing up,” Bilyeu said. “For the last eight years I have been working with veterans and veteran groups and it has confirmed how important what servicemen and women did in World War II is to this country and the world. From those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during their service, to those who have passed since 1945 and to those that are still with us … I felt that we as a community needed to recognize them over this weekend.”

“We believe it is important and appropriate to honor the ‘Greatest Generation’s greatest day’,” said Goodwill Manasota president and CEO Bob Rosinsky. “World War II forever changed our country and those who served should know that we will never forget their contributions – or their sacrifices. We hope the community will join us in recognizing our brave World War II veterans, both living and of honored memory, and those who supported the war effort from back here at home.”

For more information, call (941) 355-2721 or go to http://www.experiencegoodwill.org. To learn more about Spirit of ’45, go to http://www.spiritof45.org.

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Kelly Davis Strausbaugh
Goodwill Manasota
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