Delores Helm and her helpers began passing out the steaming-hot breakfast Monday morning for 200 guests in the fellowship hall at Shiloh Baptist Church.
Two hours later, the 70-year-old cook was about to start washing dishes.
But organizers of the Greater Ridgecrest Community Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast had something else in mind.
She was summoned to the front of the gathering where family and neighbors honored her with the 2010 Community Servant Award for the Greater Ridgecrest Community.
"It seems she does the cooking at all the events in the community. She is always working,'' said Tasker Beale Jr., 60.
Beale, a past recipient of the award, grew up watching Helm and her family volunteer at his church, St. Mary's Missionary Baptist Church, which sits on land donated by Helm's father, Chester Goodin.
"She's full of vigor, and she cooks a great pound cake, too,'' Beale said.
On hand for the ceremony were two of her sons, Patrick Helm, 39, and Johnie Helm, 46, both of Largo; her first cousin, Robert Johnson, who came from Ocala; and her daughter, Elizabeth (Anne) Helm Frazier, 48, who surprised her by traveling from her home in Laurel, Md.
Helm's other two children, Bruce Oglesby of Miami and Leslie Helm of New Jersey, were not able to attend.
"My mother cooked and volunteered while she also raised us,'' Helm Frazier said. "It's wonderful that my mother is receiving this award on Martin Luther King Jr.'s Day. She taught us the call to service.''
Helm Frazier remembered her mother's reaction in 1968, when a neighbor came to tell her that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. "My mom screamed," she said. "I asked her later why she was so upset, and she told me, 'Because they killed the greatest leader black people in the world will ever have.' "
Patrick Helm stressed how his mother always provided for others no matter how tough money was. "She always put hot food on the table. She also fed so many people in this community,'' he said. "She was our mother, but she is considered everybody else's mother, too.''
The challenges she faced as a single mother came to mind for Pastor Benny Dyer of St. Mary's Baptist Church, who has known her for more than 34 years.
"Remember a few years ago when experts came out with how hard it is for single mothers to raise a boy right? Well, she did it. She's raised some pretty good men,'' Dyer said.
At the close of the program, Helm, a retired home health aide, hugged friends before returning to clean up the kitchen. "I had no idea this was going on today," she said. "To know people are thinking about me like this means everything.''
Reach Piper Castillo at [email protected] or (727) 445-4163.