BRADENTON — Manatee County’s prime location along the Florida coast has attracted more than Gulf breezes and opportunistic developers.
It’s the reason Jan and Chuck Entwistle settled here.
Thirty years later, the couple’s vision and commitment have shaped what Bradenton and Manatee County have become.
Jan Entwistle founded the Women’s Resource Center of Manatee, a 20-year-old support organization that served 6,400 women and men in 2009. She and her husband have contributed more than $100,000 to support the center and more than $500,000 to other area nonprofits.
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For those efforts, the Entwistles received the Lifetime Spirit award Wednesday during the fifth annual Spirit of Manatee Awards presented by the Manatee Community Foundation at the Bradenton Municipal Auditorium.
Chuck Entwistle, an author and member of the Alzheimer’s Association Board, deflected the spotlight toward his wife.
“I thought this was an absolutely perfect award. I’m happy to share it, but I think she earned the lion’s share of it,” he said.
It was Jan Entwistle who brought her family to Bradenton after her husband retired from the U.S. Marine Corps as a lieutenant colonel. At age 45, she got a job as a financial planner at Merrill Lynch. Her parents lived in Cape Coral, so she was familiar with southwest Florida.
“We didn’t want to live as far north as Tampa nor as far south as Cape Coral,” Jan said. “I had just started at Merrill Lynch, and I came down and interviewed and ended up in the Bradenton office. I am so thrilled.
“When we moved here 30 years ago, Manatee County welcomed us, and we still bask in that warmth of acceptance.”
Jan Entwistle said she is not surprised about what the Women’s Resource Center has become.
The center, which helps women through difficult transitions of life, has an annual budget of $400,000 and boasts three full-time employees, three part-time employees and 14 volunteers. It receives $26,000 annually from the county but no state or federal funding.
The center’s current executive director, Ashley Brown, paid tribute to Jan Entwistle’s pioneering spirit in a video that played before the award presentation.
“In the beginning days, that group of women would sit around the table, pass out bills and pay them from their own accounts. ... Jan, you’re more than welcome to come to any board meeting and do that again,” Brown said.
Manatee Community Foundation President R. Chris Jones said the organization created the awards to recognize the “complete outpouring of financial and physical help that we get from all these members of the community.”
Other Spirit of Manatee Awards winners honored during Wednesday’s luncheon include:
n Young Spirit: Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School student Jenna Turner. Jenna, 12, was nominated by Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee County for her collection efforts for the Food Bank of Manatee.
n Young Spirit: Teacher Jim Comkowycz’s educable mentally handicapped class at King Middle School. The class started Manatee Operation Troop Support in 2006 by assembling and sending monthly snack packs to soldiers overseas. Through fundraisers, the students collected $50,000.
n Community Spirit: Pittsburgh Pirates. Boys and Girls Clubs of Manatee Executive Director Carl Weeks serenading the team with the Sister Sledge song “We Are Family,” a tribute to the franchise’s 1979 world championship and its giving spirit. The team’s player initiative “Pirates Community Commitment Program” results in at least 600 hours of community service each year.
n Volunteer Spirit: John Horne, owner Anna Maria Oyster Bars. An active member of several community organizations, Horne was honored for his company’s philanthropy and his own work with PACE Center for Girls.
n Leadership Spirit: Ed Chiles, restaurant owner. The Anna Maria Island Community Center nominated Chiles for his fundraising efforts. Chiles’ leadership resulted in the area’s leading philanthropists donating $356,000 in cash and pledges in a 10-minute span, according to Executive Director Pierrette Kelly.
MCF also honored the legacy of Steven V. Mills, the former vice president and regional trust manager of Whitney Bank.
Mills, who was a board member of several community organizations and involved most closely with Boys and Girls Clubs and PACE Center for Girls, died July 11.