Jim Shields Receives Inaugural Don Eslick Estero Person of the Year Award


By Cheryl Mandell


Jim Shields with the Inaugural Don Eslick Estero Person of the Year Award

Jim Shields with the Inaugural Don Eslick Estero Person of the Year Award

For nearly 20 years, Jim Shields has been a true community leader, providing unwavering commitment to making Estero a wonderful place to live and learn, with a particular passion for supporting education.

Shields is the last person to seek praise, but Engage Estero and members of the community were eager to recognize his selfless dedication with the inaugural Don Eslick Estero Person of the Year Award. Shields worked closely with Eslick over the years as a key member of the Estero Council of Community Leaders (ECCL) – now Engage Estero – on many community initiatives.

Mike Wasson, a fellow member of Engage Estero’s Board of Directors, has worked with Shields on many projects and admires his ability to inspire others to service.

“Jim knows how to encourage people – figure out what they can do and how he can help them serve Estero,” said Wasson. “He has an incredible ability to get people to give of their time and resources and explain why it’s important. It’s an incredible trait that he has, and it comes from the heart.”

Shields and the ECCL created the “2-5-8 Graduate” program for second, fifth, eighth and 11th graders in Estero schools through Junior Achievement, giving students the knowledge and skills needed for financial literacy.

Fellow Engage Estero member and Grandezza resident Amy Kuchenbecker began volunteering with Shields in 2018 in the “2-5-8-Graduate” program.

“His leadership made teaching Estero-area school kids a blast,” said Kuchenbecker. “Jim never treated me as an underling, but always as a treasured team member. My husband Don and I consider Jim and his wife Lanell special friends.”

Shields also worked tirelessly to create and organize the Breaking Par at Grandezza golf and gala event, which he started in 2013. Over the past decade, the event has raised $561,000 for educational programs such as Junior Achievement and, more recently, a student-led non-profit called LEAD Estero, which provides scholarships and leadership opportunities in the community.

This year, Breaking Par at Grandezza will be held on April 13 and 14. The theme is “Classic Hollywood,” and members of LEAD Estero will be dressing up as their favorite classic Hollywood stars. Attendees are encouraged, but not required, to join in on the fun and dress up, too.

Shields has also served on the FGCU Daveler and Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship Advisory Board. Sandra Kauanui, Associate Vice President for Community Entrepreneurship Initiatives at FGCU, began working with Shields years ago on business initiatives for students, including Junior Achievement.

“When we began the School of Entrepreneurship, I asked Jim to be one of our first members of the advisory board,” said Kauanui.“He always provided insightful information and was extremely supportive of our students. I truly believe Jim has been one of the most impactful individuals I have ever met. The one thing I know is that if you ask Jim to help you, he will always do whatever he can do.”

While his accomplishments within local education are invaluable, Shields was also instrumental in helping the Village of Estero’s incorporation in 2014. A large share of the required petition signatures were obtained by Shield’s efforts within his Grandezza community.

He also recognized the power of posterity and encouraged fellow Engage Estero member and Chief Communications Officer Allan Bowditch to interview the early visionaries of Estero, who played key roles in shaping the vision for what Estero is today. The result was Bowditch’s book, “Forging a Better Path.”

On Feb. 8, Engage Estero hosted a gala at the Club at Grandezza in honor of Shields’ many accomplishments. Over 120 guests attended, including representatives of Lee Health, Lee County Schools, Sigma Chi fraternity, FGCU, and a large contingent of Grandezza residents. Prominent members of the community were eager for the chance to thank Shields for his myriad efforts that have touched many lives through the years.

Bob Lienesch, who served in many roles within the ECCL from 2009 to 2019, spoke of Shields’ character and his worthiness of the inaugural Don Eslick Estero Person of the Year Award.

“Personally, I think Don’s legacy results in part from his ability to attract and gain the support of civic-minded people that shared his passion for Estero’s future,” said Lienesch. “Just like Don, Jim has demonstrated foresight, boundless energy and a passion for giving back. Certainly, Jim has made a difference in so many young people’s lives, and we thank him for all he has achieved.”

Jim Shields (left) and ECCL leaders at a community event in 2018

Jim Shields (left) and ECCL leaders at a community event in 2018

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