BRADENTON -- More than a dozen Manatee County businesses were recognized Thursday for their contributions to the Manatee County School District.
The Manatee Chamber Foundation, an arm of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, hosted its 25th Annual Business and Education Partnership Awards at Freedom Village, a senior living facility.
The event began with two moments of silence for Manatee County community members who recently passed: one for Rick Fawley of Fawley Bryant Architecture, and another for Ellen Aquilina, who chaired the Education & Workforce Partnership Committee.
"We are so very proud that we now have more than 350 flourishing partnerships," Jonathan Fleece, chair of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, said in a welcome speech.
The chamber recognized Good Life Church and businesses including Anna Maria Oyster Bar and Bostock's Martial Arts & Fitness. The organizations support the school district by donating to the Manatee Education Foundation and providing scholarships, supplying lunches, supporting school staff and students during difficult times and encouraging healthy lifestyles.
Manatee County School Board member Karen Carpenter said solid partnerships between businesses and schools are essential for a thriving community.
"If businesses are doing well, schools are doing well, and if schools are doing well, businesses are doing well," Carpenter said. "You can't separate the two."
The partnerships not only help community spirit, said Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, but businesses and schools can work together to prepare the future's workforce.
"It helps businesses understand what's going on and understand the new workforce," Chappie said.
Businesses support the schools, staff and students because there's no group in greater need of support and resources. Sandy Birczak owns Rotations Indoor Cycling Studio in Lakewood Ranch and offers school staff a discounted price on cycling classes. She also supports health and wellness programs for staff through the school district.
"It's an amazing group of women and men, coming in after the school day and coming to the studio to release tension from the day," Birczak said.
Diana Greene, Manatee County School District superintendent, was unable to attend the awards breakfast because she was in Orlando for a statewide education panel, but appeared virtually through a video clip.
"Every time you reach out to help our students and schools, you're teaching a valuable lesson," Greene said in the clip. "All you do demonstrates how important education is in Manatee County."
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter@jayohday.
Full list of winners:
Rookie of the year, given to a partner with one year of participation -- The Ranch Grill
Civic Partner of the Year, given to a civic, church or non-profit organization that shows the highest level of participation -- Good Life Church
Good Things Come in Small Packages, given to a partner business with fewer than 20 employees that shows a high level of participation -- Bostock's Martial Arts & Fitness
Good Things Come in Big Packages Too, given to a partner business with more than 20 employees that shows a high level of participation -- The Rotary Club of West Bradenton
It's a Two Way Street, presented to a school and their partner for giving back to each other through publicity, recognition and support of the partnership -- Nolan Middle School
Partners Together, given to two or more partners collaborating together on a project -- American Legion Auxiliary Post 24 and Post 317
Special One-Time Project, given to a partner that gives a one-time, focused effort that displays creativity, teamwork, and resource utilization -- The Mosaic Company
The Mosaic Company donated $60,000 to Myakka Elementary School, used to purchase laptops for students and Mimeo boards were installed in all the classrooms.
District Wide Partner, given to the business that supports multiple schools throughout the District -- Chik-Fil-A Creekwood
School Coordinator of the Year, recognizes the school representative who provides leadership, dedication and communication, affecting the overall involvement of Business Partners -- Mario Mendoza, principal at Wakeland Elementary School of International Studies
Business Coordinator of the year, recognizes the business representative who provides leadership, dedication and communication, affecting the overall involvement of Business Partners -- Joe Martin of Mexicali Border Café
Barry Jones Business Partner Empowerment Award, named after the late Barry Jones, Tampa Bay Rays Community Representative and presented to a business partner that empowers others to make a difference for our schools, teachers and our students -- the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County
Partner in Excellence, described as the "pinnacle" of the awards breakfast. According to the awards summary from the Chamber Foundation: "This honor is bestowed upon the partner that has typified the mission of the Manatee Partnership Program through active and exemplary accomplishment of the various 'levels' of participation. The recipient of this award was chosen by the Selection Committee from all of the nominations submitted this year -- Anna Maria Oyster Bar