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Celelebrate The Givers Today By Being One

John Weichel

Last April–in a different sort of time–Manatee Community Foundation set the date for the Spirit of Manatee Awards Luncheon, an annual celebration of philanthropy, for March 25, 2020.

We had no idea what this day would be like, certainly not imagining that we would need to postpone the event due to public health concerns related to a virus we did not know existed at the time.

Today we are not hosting 500 people at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, but we are feeling deeply connected to the nonprofit, businesses, and community leaders who committed to attend in a spirit of togetherness and inspiration.

The Spirit of Manatee Awards Luncheon honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to their communities through philanthropy. But it also reflects an ideal that is important to all of us now more than ever: that every person can make a contribution. The level of goodness you share with Manatee County is independent of your financial resources or your position. The Awards has inspired others to do more, when they can and where they can.

The 2020 Lifetime Spirit Award winner is a humble and deeply admired community leader, nominated by the State College of Florida Foundation.

John Weichel served much of our community during his working days at Bradenton Insurance and Service Insurance Company, a business he started in 1954. His charitable giving has nurtured the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of young people. Now in his nineties, John is indeed an individual who has demonstrated a lifetime record of exceptional generosity.

John has gifted nearly $200,000 to State College of Florida (SCF) Foundation. His noteworthy and impactful philanthropy has included a major capital gift to SCF Lakewood Ranch Center for Innovation and Training Building which has served thousands of students and professionals in credit and continuing education classes and events. His gift has been vital to the technological and innovation needs for workforce development in our region.

John has given recent high school graduates a jump start on their college education through the SCF Summer Bridge Program and deserving SCF Music Excellence students opportunities through scholarships. His giving has also supported SCF’s
Presidential String Quartet and Presidential Jazz Quintet.

During his lifetime of contributions, John has made a significant difference in the work of Guardian Angels of Southwest Florida and its family foster homes in Palmetto. This model provides care and safe shelter for children, allowing siblings to stay together after the traumatic experience of being removed from their homes.

John has also contributed to the Manatee Performing Arts Center, Bradenton Christian School and through his fund at Manatee Community Foundation, SOLVE Maternity Homes, and Young Life of Manatee County. John was Scoutmaster for Troop 17 and an Elder at the First Presbyterian Church, Bradenton.

The Weichel grandchildren are encouraged to select a charity that appeals to their interests, a testament to John’s commitment to generational philanthropy. Imagine how many young people were given opportunities they might have never had, and now, a new generation is engaged in our social sector.

As you go about your day, continuing your lives to a different beat, we hope you will consider how strong our community is because of people like John and many, many others who give what is possible for them to give. Whether it’s from home, your car, or a quiet office today, the Spirit of Manatee says, “Seek opportunities to make a difference that bring you joy. Then, give. Give today when it means so much.”

We think John will like that.


Special thanks to the Milestone Financial Group of Morgan Stanley, the Premier Sponsor of the Spirit of Manatee Awards, and to Cassandra Holmes and her team from the State College of Florida Foundation.