Steve Panagiotakis Wins State CARE Award

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BY MWEZI DAKE write4living@yahoo.com

Steve P. (holding award) pictured with Sarasota County Boys & Girls Club Board Members.

Steve Panagiotakis, better known as “Steve the Greek” won the CARE AWARD from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and according to all who know Steve the award is well deserved. President and CEO of the Sarasota County Boys & Girls Club, Bill Sadlo and Randy Bouck, Director of Facilities and Child Safety, said they couldn’t be prouder of Steve and sang his praises for his giving and constant presence in the Boys & Girls Club and for caring for youth and families in the communities. Randy Bouch stated, “Steve was nominated for the State CARE Award and when he won we were so proud. Steve is an amazing man, truly committed to the youth in the community and to all youth in the area. Steve is a “Gem” of a man. It’s because of his tireless work; giving to the Boys & Girls Club we have the Career Source Center. Steve is the driving force behind the Career Source program. Steve has provided major labor, materials and monies whenever we needed repairs on the buildings and his internships for students is selfless and so needed. Bouck explained how Steve has many youth working in as interns during the summer to get a feel and working knowledge of what the construction and electric work can be as a career. Booker High School students as well as others from Sarasota have been a part of the summer internships. Bouck added he believes Steve’s driving force behind all he does for the Boys & Girls Clubs and the community is based on the drive and passion Steve has to see the cycle of generational poverty broken and introduce and acclimate youth to the joy and need for “Blue Collar Workers” and the benefits of a career in construction and its many related areas.

Steve said during our interview, “The award is great but the greater focus should always be on the youth and their families and how we can help them. Kids need the attention and caring of mentors, to be given responsibilities and shown how working in the construction business and all that goes with it, a hands on career is rewarding, needed and prosperous.” Steve was a Board member for the Sarasota Boys & Girls Clubs for about a year when he realized that he could serve the organization in a greater way by being in the community and being a giver to the Clubs. He is credited by the Boys & Girls Clubs for pouring his time, skills and materials into much needed repairs at the Clubs. Steve is strong in his dedication to bringing youth to the understanding and experiences of working in the trades of construction and the many different areas available to work in. Steve said, “Somehow, Blue Collar Workers began to be seen as somehow less than valuable and college with four year degrees more important. But this is how I see it, plumbers, electricians, construction workers, general contractors built out country, are a part of every home built, how is this not valuable for skills? I am part owner of an electrical company (Bright Futures Electric) and now have the privilege of having offices in Sarasota, Orlando, Destin, Ft. Myers, Florida and Birmingham, Alabama. I’m prosperous because the trade I am in needed and valuable. Our company sponsors over twenty scholarships for youth interns, we have men who were once interns who now are married and work for our company. All fields in construction can lead to the average of $50,000 to $80,000 a year salaries with a General Contractor making easily a $100,000 a year and can employ many people.” Steve said Sarasota Technical Institute and Manatee Technical Institute have programs for high school students who can attend high school for half a day and Tech Classes half a day and when a student graduates they can work as interns in fields they are studying and begin work soon after with a career and salary of $30,000 a year and without student loan debt. All high school students who attend Technical Schools while in high schools go tuition free. Steve concluded by saying, “I am humbled by the attention but feel the attention should go the Clubs and the Technical Schools and to get youth involved and excited about the careers in Blue Collar Trade Industries. The plan is to have Career Centers at all five of the Clubs and have them full with students getting involved in their lives and getting careers they can be proud of. Imagine being able to break the cycle of poverty, debt and living a life where they can be proud of what they do and be able to give back to so many.” And he added, “Oh, by the way, did you know the highest number of millionaires in this country work a career as plumbers? That’s the benefit of skilled labor.”

In the interview with Steve, one can come away knowing how solid and committed he is to the youth, community and the people who live in Sarasota and each community he does business in. “Steve the Greek” deserves the applause and the award and when you see him, say, “Thank you” and follow his lead.

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