LAKEWOOD RANCH -- For his leadership and service as a Marine colonel, and for his hometown community philanthropy, John W. Saputo, president/owner of Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, was honored with the Ninth Annual C. John A. Clarke Humanitarian of the Year Award on Friday.
The presentation was a highlight of the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund grant awards, which saw 21 grants totaling $68,402 distributed to charitable organizations.
Dick Wharton announced the award of humanitarian award at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, citing Saputo's sustained contributions to the community.
Saputo and his staff at Gold Coast Eagle support more than 700 charitable events annually, and donate the facility's hospitality center to nonprofits, allowing them to raise more than $300,000.
"I have to hold my people up in awe," Saputo said of those at Gold Coast who help make the support to
worthy causes possible.
Saputo, who served in Iraq and Kuwait for Operations Desert Sword and Desert Shield and was awarded a Bronze Star for valor, and other decorations, credits his Jesuit and military background for his belief in helping others.
From the Jesuits, Saputo said he learned to "be a man for others."
From the Marines, he learned to "never leave anyone behind on a battlefield."
Saputo dedicated the humanitarian award to Marine Sgt. Dennis E. Kancler of Brecksville, Ohio, who recently lost his life during combat in Afghanistan.
"If we could, let's just dedicate the award to him," Saputo said.
The humanitarian award is named for former Schroeder-Manatee Ranch CEO and president John Clarke, who took the lead in establishing the community fund,
Diane Brune of the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund said the grants are designed to improve the quality of life "in and around our community."
Among recipients were Gullett Elementary School, which will use $3,380 for an after-school tutoring program; Palmetto High School, which received $5,000 for classroom technology; and Bradenton's Stillpoint House of Prayer, which received $5,000 for a monetary assistance program to help the needy with rent, utilities, and medical care.
Also receiving grants were Beyond the Spectrum, $2,500; Big Brothers Big Sisters, $4,000; Catholic Charities, $2,000; Community Haven, $3,500; Nolan Middle School, $6,580; Easter Seals of Southwest Florida, $2,500; Family Network on Disabilities, $2,500; Feeding Little Tummies, $2,500; Foundation for Dreams, $2,500; Manasota B.U.D.S., $2,998; MTI Farmworker Education, $1,360; Meals on Wheels PLUS, $2,000; Nature's Academy, $3,850; Project Light, $4,000; Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy, $2,336; Tidewell Hospice, $5,000; Visible MenAcademy, $2,398; and We Care Manatee, $2,500.
Friday's grants bring to $880,000 the total that the fund has distributed since 2002, Brune said.
"We're going to hit a million soon, right?" Brune said.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053, or tweet him @jajones1.