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Business owners gather to save Kiwanis Scholarship Fund

April 20, 2016
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

Several local business owners met at Century 21 Sunbelt Realty last Wednesday to discuss how to make up the losses from the cancellation of Pine Island Kiwanis "Taste of Pine Island."

"We rely heavily on the Taste of Pine Island as a fundraiser for our scholarship program," Century 21 broker Mike Shevlin said. "Every year, for a number of years, we've held this event in the fields at the Bobby Holloway Jr. baseball field. This year, with the record rainfall in January and again in February, we were forced to cancel the event. That means unless we can find the funds, a lot of kids won't get scholarships."

The mission of the Kiwanis is children and the national Kiwanis has a scholarship program focusing on children in need of funding to further their education.

Article Photos

From left, Bernard Johnson & Kim Holland (Bert's), Bill Thacher (Greater Pine Island Water Association), Buzzy Phillips (Raymond James), Joy Veatch (president Kiwanis) and Mike Shevlin (Century 21 Sunbelt Realty)


"We took their program and adapted it to Pine Island," Shevlin said. "Pine Island Kiwanis keeps the funds raised here on the island to benefit the children of Pine Island. Last year 19 Pine Island students received scholarships. This year, unless we get some help, there won't be nearly as many."

This year the Taste event was rained out twice, first on Jan. 30-31 and then on Feb. 27- 28.

"After we were forced to postpone the 'Taste' in January, all of our hopes were on Feb. 27-28," Buzzy Phillips said. "We were ready to go that weekend when we had heavy rains on the Wednesday before forcing us to cancel.

"Some of the vendors who signed up for the event know that the money is used to help educate our children and said we could keep the money," Phillips said. "But we're far short of where we need to be to help 19 or 20 kids this year."

"After we were forced to cancel in February, I got several calls from Bernard (Bert's Bar & Grill) asking 'What are we going to do?'" Shevlin said. "We didn't have a plan and that's the purpose of this meeting."

There are many stories of Pine Island kids who furthered their education because of the Pine Island Kiwanis scholarship funds.

"I have a nephew years ago who came to the Kiwanis for a scholarship," Bill Thacher said.

Thacher has been director of the island water company for many years and Kiwanis member. "I think we gave him $500 to continue his education at auto repair school. Today he has a wife, family and a job for 8 or 9 years with Toyota."

"I remember a woman we gave a scholarship to whose husband was permanently disabled serving his country," Phillips said. "She used the money to get a degree, then came back to Pine Island and has been working at the Beacon ever since. There's no telling how many lives that one scholarship donation has touched."

"We've had lots of success stories," Shevlin said. "We've had Pine Island kids start their own businesses, become civil engineers, some have earned doctorates and one became an assistant principal. All of them have made their homes here and give back to the community. To date Pine Island Kiwanis has given well over $300,000 is scholarships. We generally raise from $15,000 to $18,000 but we only have a fraction of that and our kids graduate in a month or so."

Johnson, owner of Bert's, donated $1,000 to kick off the fundraising.

"I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship and I can tell you it made a world of difference to me. That's probably the main reason Bert's gave $1,000. I'd like to offer a challenge to other business owners to help these kids," Johnson said. "These funds can make a huge difference in their lives. Whether they can give a little or a lot our kids need our help."

The Pine Island Kiwanis Club meets at Bert's Bar and Grill, 4271 Pine Island Road, in

Matlacha, every Wednesday at 8 a.m. (except the last Wednesday of the month)

The club also meets at Island Grill, 9856 Stringfellow Road, in St. James City, the last Thursday of the month at 6:30 p.m.

Any donations may be mailed to: Pine Island Kiwanis, PO Box 111, St. James City, FL 33956. Email:



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