Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Chairman’s Message: Farewell to 2014

I knew this day would come. Frankly, in January, it seemed like a long way away.  But now that the end is near, it seems like this past year flew by at the speed of light.  Maybe that is because things ran so smoothly. 

My approach to the Chamber was much different than I thought it would be when I first found out I was going to be the 2014 chairman – way back in late 2012.  I had BIG plans – we were going to make changes, be everywhere all the time, yada, yada, yada.  Well, things have a way of changing and adjustments must be made.  Wisdom must be used (I am not implying that I had any great wisdom, but I did remember a lot of wise sayings and advice I have heard/been given over the years).

The course of action I chose to take was “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”  I did not think that our Chamber was broken.  Could we improve?  Always.  But overall the Destin Area Chamber is a great Chamber. So, I let the professionals do their jobs. I provided guidance when it was needed, did what was asked and required of me, provided what I could to make their jobs easier, and then stayed out of their way. 

I also vowed to listen to anyone who needed the Chamber. The traffic light versus a signalized cross-walk comes to mind.  Last, year the Chamber supported building a traffic light at Marler Street and Highway 98, as opposed to a fully signalized cross-walk.  This year, several property owners asked the Chamber to support the fully signalized cross-walk over a traffic light.  We listened.  Then decided that the best approach for the Chamber was to support getting pedestrians across U.S. Hwy 98 SAFELY. The details of how that should happen we left to the professionals.

We also let go of an event that had run its course.  Goodbye, PUTToberfest. I enjoyed this event, but it was time to say farewell.  While the events that are growing got even more focus from the Chamber.  Paddle at the Porch was successful, as was the second Bourbon at the Bay at Regatta Bay.

So, what did my “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” approach yield? Glad you asked!  The Chamber is in the best financial shape it has been in in years.  New memberships and renewals are higher than they have been in years.  Our relationship with the City of Destin is very good (thank you, Mayor Ponder, Greg Kisela, City Council, and Staff), as is the relationship with the Economic Development Council (thank you, Nathan Sparks).  Destin Forward is growing.

Is this the right approach for 2015? I don’t know, but the good news is Ken Wampler is on the job in just a few short weeks! To borrow a line from Oprah, what I know for sure is that I am turning over the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce in a healthy condition.  What I also know for sure is that it had little to do with me and everything to do with Shane, Elizabeth, Suzy, Dena, and Jacqui, the Board of Directors who were so engaged, our wonderful Ambassadors and Volunteers, and, most of all, YOU.  You make this Chamber the great Chamber it is today.  Be proud of that, I am.

Now on a personal note, I want to say a special thank you to Karen McCarthy, who chose me as her special appointee to the Board of Directors when she was Chairman in 2009.  Karen was (and still is) a wonderful mentor to me and an even better friend.  Thank you to my two appointees, Michelle Terry and Fred Fenn, for accepting three-year Board terms.  You both bring unique perspectives and were great additions to the Board (big pat on the back to me for great choices). Thank you to Shane Moody, you are great at what you do and do not ever let anyone make you doubt that; Elizabeth Spies, your quiet strength inspires me more than you know; Suzy Nicholson Hunt, you provide so much humor and comic relief, I get a little mini-vacation every time I enter your office and have a few laughs; Dena Critch, you have so much professional experience, and I am so happy the Chamber gets to enjoy the benefit of that, plus you are just awesome on the phones; and Jacqui Luberto, you have only been with us a short time, but WOW, you have made a big impact.  Ken Wampler, thank you for the notes during our Board meetings (and you’re welcome!!).  Bill Head, I appreciate your kindness at every single lunch this year – you always took care of me. 

Thank you to everyone at Pleat, Perry & Ritchie and to my law partner, West Ritchie, who is the Walton Area Chamber Chairman this year – you were a good sounding board for me, I hope I was for you.  Thank you to my paralegal, Sharlene, you kept me organized and helped me do so much more with less time and kept so many calendars straight for me.  Thank you to my husband, David Pleat, who knew what I was getting into because he did this seven years ago and yet he still encouraged me to do it anyway.   Thanks for covering me at work when I needed it.

A new year is on the way, and the possibilities are endless! Let 2015 be your best year yet!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year, 

Amy Perry
2014 Chamber Chairman

Pleat, Perry & Ritchie, P.A.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Chamber Bowling Tournament Returns to Hurricane Lanes

Thank you to everyone who joined us at Hurricane Lanes for our Dec. 9 Bowling for Business Tournament & Lunch Sponsored by Outback SteakhouseCongratulations to our winners, including top team Trustmark National Bank, top male scorer Don Edwards from Trustmark National Bank, and top female scorer Brittany Boykin from Pleat, Perry & Ritchie, P.A.

Click here to see more photos from the event.

Thank you to those donating door prizes, including the following:
Emerald Coast Chiropractic
Emerald Coast Wealth Advisors of Raymond James
- Pleat, Perry & Ritchie, P.A.

Join us on Jan. 13, for our Leaders In Business Lunch Sponsored by Warren Averett. Register by 3 p.m., on Friday, Jan. 9, and be eligible to win FREE advertising on!

Superheroes Converge in Destin for Jan. 24 Bayou, Bay & Back Run

Destin’s 5th Superhero Bayou, Bay & Back 1-Mile Fun Run, 5K Run/Walk, 10K & Half Marathon Sponsored by Shoreline Church is set for Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. The race features USATF-certified 10K and Half Marathon courses, and racers are encouraged to embrace the superhero theme. 

A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance. The start/finish line is located at Clement Taylor Park in Destin.

After the Awards Ceremony, which will take place at the race site, the Superhero Party will move over to Fudpucker's on Okaloosa Island, to enjoy big food and drink discounts for those in superhero costume and arcade tokens for the 1-Mile Fun Run participants.

Registration for the event is now open on Visit or follow for details.  Please call (850) 837-6241 for more information.

Thank you to title sponsor Shoreline Church; accommodations sponsor ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals; silver sponsors Buffalo Rock Pepsi, City of Destin, Destin Magazine, and Fudpucker’s Beachside Bar & Grill; and bronze sponsor Coastal Skin Surgery & Dermatology.

Monday, December 15, 2014

December 2014 Business Briefs / Member News Part 3

Millions Saved Using Early Payment Discounts
According to the Ben Anderson, Okaloosa County Tax Collector, property owners saved more than $6.1 million dollars on their tax bills by taking advantage of the 4% early payment discount during November. More than $153 million dollars was collected. The Tax Collector staff processed more than 100,000 total transactions, 75,000 of which were tax payments. A 3% early payment discount is available until Dec. 31.

McDonald Leads Culinary Crew of Bud & Alley’s Pizza Bar
Chef Phillip McDonald joined the Bud & Alley’s team as executive chef of The Pizza Bar at Bud & Alley’sin Seaside. McDonald, who was born and raised in Destin, recently returned to the Emerald Coast after a year honing his culinary skills with some of the best in the New York culinary scene, including a six-month stint as sous chef at Reynard in the Wythe Hotel. Before opening a private, personal chef and catering service in 2006, McDonald worked in many of the area’s finest restaurants, including Cuvee Beach, Criolla’s, Fish out of Water, and Onano. Beyond New York, he has also worked in the kitchens of the culinary meccas cities of New Orleans, San Francisco, and Portland.

#ResolveToHelp During the Holidays
This holiday season, Food for Thought Outreach is asking you to #ResolveToHelp its program during a critical time of year when student recipients are away from their school’s free and reduced meal program. In addition to its weekly backpack and monthly classroom snack programs, which offer access to healthy, easy-to-prepare foods, it supports Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday break programs, which feed the Food for Thought student and their family. Its goal is to bridge the meal gap throughout the year, in order to remove the negative impacts of going hungry and allow children to focus on their education and development to improve their futures.

Okaloosa EMS Takes Patients Home for the Holidays
Okaloosa County Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Medical Services (EMS), will be offering free transportation on a space available basis to local residents who would otherwise be unable to come home for holiday celebrations. The program is designed to allow patients in skilled nursing and adult congregate living facilities to go home and be with family members for the holiday dinner. Patients must be self-supporting while at the residence and be left in the care of a responsible family member. The “Home for the Holidays…” program will provide transportation on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day only, from the hours of 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. All requests for transportation must be received by 1 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 22. If you need additional information or would like to schedule transportation, please call 651-7150, Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Niceville Realtors Make $2500 Donation to Taylor Haugen Foundation
The Taylor Haugen Foundation received a big surprise Tuesday morning. Emerald Coast Association of Realtors Niceville Chapter and representatives of the many businesses who support them gathered to celebrate another successful year of partnerships at the TradeWinds Restaurant in Niceville. During the event, the chapter presented a $400 donation to Kathy and Brian Haugen to help the foundation outfit students with the much needed safety gear. After the presentation, realtors in the audience pledge $2,100 more. Combined, it is enough to outfit an entire middle school team.

Seagar’s Named One of the Top 100 Steakhouses in America 
Seagar’s Prime Steaks and Seafood, the only AAA Four-Diamond restaurant in Destin, has received OpenTable Diners’ Choice Awards for Top 100 Steakhouses in America. The accolade, which honors hospitality excellence, is derived from more than five million reviews submitted by OpenTable diners for more than 20,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Legendary Leadership Team Expands
Peter Bos, chairman of the board and chief executive officer, announced the promotion of Pete Knowles to president and chief operating officer of the Legendary family of companies. Bruce Craul will continue his responsibilities as chief operating officer of all the HarborWalk Village-related companies. Knowles joined Legendary in January 2013 as executive vice president and since his arrival has assumed an ever expanding management role in the varied Legendary Companies. Prior to joining Legendary, Knowles spent 24 years in finance and banking, culminating as president and chief executive officer of BankTrust. 

PBS Digital Learning Resources are Customized for Florida Schools
Florida’s teachers, students, and lifelong learners now have access to thousands of customized digital learning resources at no cost through Florida PBS stations, including WSRE, with support from the Florida Legislature. Florida Public Broadcasting System was awarded $1 million in the 2014-2015 state budget to customize more than 85,000 digital learning materials from the national PBS LearningMedia library to meet Florida state standards. The customization is complete, and now Florida PBS LearningMedia provides access to free educational materials, which meet the specific needs of Florida’s K-16 educators and students.

Guy Harvey Presenting a $7,456 Check to Gulf World Marine Institute 
On Thursday, Dec. 11, Gary Wakstein, the owner of Hy’s Toggery, presented Gulf World Marine Institute(GWMI) with a $7,456 check from the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. These funds are the result of the Guy Harvey Retail Partners’ Conservation Program, where a percentage of the sales from Guy Harvey merchandise is given to non-profit organizations who are actively engaged in making a difference in marine conservation. GWMI was the nonprofit organization recommended by Hy’s Toggery, in partnering with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation this past summer. 

GCOP Recognized in Top 50 Independent Dealers
Gulf Coast Office Products (GCOP) was recognized as one of the top 50 Independent Dealers in the U.S. Independent Dealer is the official publication of the National Office Products Alliance. Also, GCOP recently held its annual vendor show, which was attended by 800 customers, prospects, and business partners. During the event, $2,400 was raised for a local non-profit serving people with developmental disabilities.

Blue Marlin Realty Group Raises $15,087 for Taylor Haugen Foundation
Blue Marlin Realty Group hosted its second charity golf tournament at Regatta Bay Golf and Country Club on Friday, Nov. 14, benefitting The Taylor Haugen Foundation. In total, Blue Marlin Realty Group raised a total of $15,087, which will fund three scholarships for Okaloosa County senior high school student-athletes and THF YESS Program, which equips youth contact sports teams with the same technologically advanced safety equipment that professional athletes wear. The money raised we will be enough to outfit an entire school, including middle school, junior varsity, and varsity contact sports athletes, with protective equipment. 

BancorpSouth Announces Stock Repurchase Program
BancorpSouth, Inc., recently announced its Board of Directors has authorized a stock repurchase program through Nov. 30, 2016, to purchase up to an aggregate of 6% or 5,764,000 shares of BancorpSouth’s outstanding common stock, par value $2.50 per share. BancorpSouth has approximately $13.1 billion in total assets with equity capital in excess of $1.6 billion as of Sept. 30, 2014.

Dan Rollins, BancorpSouth chairman and chief executive officer, in announcing the stock repurchase program, said, “We believe repurchasing our shares demonstrates our continued confidence in our ability to generate long-term growth and profitability. This authorization reflects our commitment to strategically managing capital levels and delivering value to our shareholders.”

Results for 4th Annual Shelter House Luminaria Run Released
Shelter House presented its 4th Annual Luminaria Run to End Domestic & Sexual Violence in Destin and raised $20,000. The 5k and 9k courses were illuminated by more than 2,000 luminarias, representing how Shelter House and its community partners light the way to a safer place for victims of domestic and sexual violence. The 9k distance serves as a reminder that a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds in the U.S. More than 360 runners turned out for the race. The fastest male in the 9k race was Scott Liechte of Fort Walton Beach with a time of 35:01. The top female on the 9k course was 12-year-old Delaney Cookman of Destin, clocking in at 43:27. The 5k was led by Lena Railey of Destin, who came in at 18:13. The fastest male in the 5k was James Finucane of Destin, finishing the run in 19:44. Team Move Strong Destin, seen here, took home the award for largest team.

“12 Days of Giving” to Save Lives Donors Receive A Holiday T- Shirt and $10 eGift Card 
This holiday season, share your power and give the gift of life by donating blood. Donate blood Saturday, Dec. 20 – 31, at any OneBlood Donor Center and receive a long-sleeve holiday t-shirt and a $10 eGift card voucher. For donation locations or to schedule an appointment, visit or call (850) 473-3853. In addition, all donors receive a wellness checkup of blood pressure, pulse, temperature, iron count, and a cholesterol screening. 

ResortQuest Real Estate® Congratulates Top Producers
ResortQuest Real Estate recently announced the September, October, and November top producers for its offices. The Nathan Abbott Team of the Destin office received highest honors for top closed sales in the months of October and November, as well as top closed listings for the month of September. Lauren Cottrell of the Destin office achieved top closed sales in the month of September. Liz Davis of the Destin office received top honors for closed listings in the month of November. Caroline and Chip Wasson of the Seagrove Beach and Destin Pointe offices achieved top closed listings for the month of October. These associates accomplished highest production for the months of September, October, and November out of more than 100 ResortQuest REALTORS® across Northwest Florida. 

Emerald Coast Toy for Tots Short on Toys
The need for gifts for Emerald Coast Toys for Tots has grown by more than 20 percent this year, which includes a list of 10,000 children. The Emerald Coast Association of Realtors (ECAR) is committed to making sure each child receives a toy. To make a donation, visit or come support the many upcoming events between now and Christmas:
Saturday, Dec. 20 
• Toy Drive Walmart in Niceville 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
• Toy Drive Walmart in Fort Walton Beach 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
• Toy Drive Walmart in South Walton 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 
• Toy Drive Bass Pro Shops in Destin 12 - 4 p.m. • Toy Drive Toys R Us in Santa Rosa Mall 12 - 4 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 21 
• Toy Drive Build-a-Bear in Destin Commons 12 - 4 p.m.
• Toy Drive Walmart in Destin 12 - 5 p.m. 
• Toy Drive Walmart in Niceville 12 - 5 p.m.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

December 2014 Business Briefs / Member News Part 2

Okaloosa Arts Alliance Accepting Grant Applications
The Okaloosa Arts Alliance (OAA) is accepting grant applications through Dec 15. OAA will be awarding $,4000 in grants to local non-profits and schools within Okaloosa County to aid in their art and/or cultural programs for 2015. The grant application and guidelines are available on the website at For questions or comments, please email Amy at

Saltmarsh Elects Landers as Shareholder
Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund is pleased to announce that Chuck Landers has been elected to shareholder as of Jan. 1, 2015. Landers joined the firm in 2005 and has served as a senior manager in the Audit & Assurance Services Department. His primary areas of focus include providing audit and assurance-related services to not-for-profit and governmental entities, utilities, manufacturers, contractors, home builders, and related trades within the construction, real estate, and development industries. His professional designations include Certified Public Accountant (Florida) and Construction Industry Technician (CIT). 
Vaughn Graduates from the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute Senior Leadership Program
The Okaloosa County Department of Corrections is proud to announce that Operations and Security Captain Stefan W. Vaughn has graduated from the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute Senior Leadership Program. Each candidate must submit an extensive application to the Florida Criminal Justice Institute. The application requires a minimum tenure of five years in criminal justice, a history of increasing supervisory responsibility, and the agency chief’s endorsement. The course of study include topics, such as leadership, communication, criminal justice research, budgeting, managing change, and team building. He is one of 33 graduates of the 17th Criminal Justice Executive Institute Senior Leadership Program.

Welcome the New Year on the Water with Fireworks, Dinner & Dancing
Ring in the New Year in true Emerald Coast style and on the water. SunQuest Cruises is hosting its annual New Year’s Eve Fireworks, Dinner and Dancing Cruise on the SOLARIS yacht on Wednesday, Dec. 31, from 8 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. Patrons will embark on a memorable evening that includes a five-course seated dinner, live entertainment, fireworks, party favors, and champagne. This is an all-inclusive event for $110 per person. All guests over 21 are welcome to attend. Reservations required by visiting or calling (850) 650-2519.

Okaloosa County Commission Chair, Vice-Chair Named for FY2015
Okaloosa County Commissioner Nathan Boyles and Commissioner Kelly Windes have been selected to serve as Chairman and Vice-Chairman, respectively, in January for the 2015 calendar year. Commissioner Boyles was elected to the Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners in 2012 and has served as the Vice-Chairman of the Commission for the 2014 calendar year. Commissioner Boyles is a lifelong resident of Okaloosa County and currently resides in Holt, representing District Three. He possesses a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering and a law degree from Florida State University. Commissioner Boyles and Commissioner Windes may be reached at (850) 651-7105 or 689-5030. Email Commissioner Boyles at and Commissioner Windes at

6-Year-Old Docent Gives “Tours for Tots” to Benefit Sharing & Caring
“Tours for Tots” to benefit Sharing & Caring will be presented by Selah Moore, a 6-year-old Docent at the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida, on Saturday, Dec. 20. Each guest who brings either a new toy or non-perishable food item will receive $2 reduced admission and a VIP-guided tour with Selah. Tour times begin at 10 a.m. and run each hour through 3 p.m. For more information, call (850) 678-2615.

Sinfonia Gulf Coast Receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant
National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu announced on Dec. 2, that Sinfonia Gulf Coast is one of only 163 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Challenge America grant. Sinfonia Gulf Coast is recommended for a $10,000 grant to support its Jan. 23, 2015, performance of the world premiere of American composer Nico Muhly’s electric violin concerto “Seeing is Believing,” featuring award-winning electric violinist Tracy Silverman. The performance will also include two special morning concerts for more than 2,000 third-eighth grade students in Okaloosa and Walton counties. This announcement marks the third NEA Challenge America Grant for the organization since 2010. 

A Little Joy This Christmas
Receive a free Italian Nacho when you drop off your “Toys for Tots” donation at Travinia Italian Kitchen.

Lucy Buffett Bringing LuLu’s to Destin 
Lucy Buffett, owner of LuLu’s Gulf Shores, plans to open her next restaurant in Destin. The Gulf Shores, Ala., landmark restaurant, Lucy affectionately calls the “Mother Ship”, is a 15,000-square-foot dining destination currently serving more than 4,000 guests a day during the peak summer tourist season. Creative chef, business woman, author and story teller, Lucy Buffett is more than a sibling of famous troubadour Jimmy; just as her business, LuLu’s, is more than a restaurant. Her love for living the “good life” has led to loyal followers of her LuLu’s and Crazy Sista brands, which include clothing, cookbooks, Bloody Mary mix, dried seasonings, hot sauces, and the new Crazy Sista Honey Ale, all in high demand. Buffett will be opening the Destin location of LuLu's within the Legendary Marine complex, at the base of the Mid-Bay Bridge. Like her Gulf Shores landmark, the restaurant will feature a family-pleasing complex with sandy “beach” areas, great views, and a winning combination of locally sourced food and live music. For more information, visit LuLu’s Facebook page or

Emerald Coast Parrot Head Club Helps Children in Crisis
The Emerald Coast Parrot Head Club continued its support to Children in Crisis (CIC) by presenting a $1,000 donation to help feed, clothe, and care for the children living at the CIC Neighborhood. Seen here, Emerald Coast Parrot Head Club President Hank Bittmann presented a $1,000 donation to CIC President and CEO Ken Hair.

Like Silver Sands Facebook Page
Premium Outlets is having a contest to see which shopping destination can increase its Facebook "likes" the most. Silver Sands Premium Outlets would love to have you "like" its page, not only to win the contest, but also so it can keep you posted on upcoming sales, events, and fun fashion trends that can be found at Silver Sands Premium Outlets. 

ECAR 2015 Board of Directors Installed
The Emerald Coast Association of Realtors, which represents more than 2,700 Realtors in Northwest Florida, installed its 2015 officers and directors on Friday, Dec. 5, at the Sandestin Hilton. Those installed include the following:
• President: Sam Kinkaid of REMAX Paradise Properties in Miramar Beach
• President-elect: Cathy Alley of as Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed in Niceville
• Vice President: Terry Pilcher of Merrifield & Pilcher Realty in DeFuniak Springs
• Treasurer: Diane Keller of Endless Horizons Realty Inc. in Fort Walton Beach
• Assistant Treasurer: Liz McMaster of The Premier Property Group in Destin
• Immediate Past President: Ed Smith of Real Estate Brokerage Inc. in Destin
• Fort Walton Beach Chapter Director Ben Acock of Emerald Wave Realty Inc. in Mary Esther
• Navarre Chapter Director Rob Brooks of Rob Brooks Realty in Fort Walton Beach
• At Large Director Mike Cadogan of Century 21 Wimco Realty, Inc. in Mary Esther
• Destin Chapter Director Eric Hanson of The Premier Property Group in Miramar Beach
• Miramar Beach Chapter Director Justin Lindsey of The Premier Property Group in Miramar Beach
• South Walton County Chapter Director Nina McCaslin-Horn of Scenic Sotheby’s Intl Realty in Santa Rosa Beach
• Niceville Chapter Director Susan Rood of Keller Williams Realty in Niceville
• Commercial Chapter Director Gordon MacLean of NWF Realty Inc. in Fort Walton Beach
• Crestview Chapter Director Kathy Wilhelm of ERA American Real Estate in Crestview

Hofstad Selected as Okaloosa County Administrator 
John Hofstad was unanimously supported as the next Okaloosa County Administrator at the Dec. 4 county commission meeting. Hofstad was Public Works director for the county for the nearly five years and has served as county administrator on a temporary basis twice in recent years. Hofstad has been a resident of Okaloosa County most of his life and has nearly 30 years experience in local government service, which includes 10 years with the City of Mary Esther and 14 years with the City of Fort Walton Beach, prior to his employment with Okaloosa County.

McGuire’s Hosts Dec. 17 Wine Dinner
You are cordially invited to enjoy a Holiday Dinner with McGuire's Irish Pub of Destin, featuring fine boutique wine's from Bordeaux, France, and hosted by French native Madame Cecile de Szolnok. The event, which features six wines and five courses, begins at 7 p.m., and is $75 per person. For reservations, please call (850) 654-7002.

Nominate a Distinguished Alumni from OWJC, OWCC, OWC, or NWFSC
The Northwest Florida State College Foundation is calling for nominations for its 2015 Distinguished Alumni Awards, and it needs your participation! This is a wonderful opportunity to honor a deserving alumnus of Okaloosa-Walton Junior College, Okaloosa-Walton Community College, Okaloosa-Walton College, or NWF State College. All Alumni Award recipients will be recognized at the 2015 NWF State College Foundation Annual Dinner. For more information, call the foundation office at (850) 729-5357 or email For complete descriptions of eligibility requirements and nomination information, please visit All nominations for the 2015 awards are due by Feb. 1, 2015. 

NWF Regional Airport Assists the USO with Military Student Exodus
The Northwest Florida Regional Airport (NWFRA) and USO are already hustling and bustling with set up for local military students traveling home for Christmas. The largest movement of students will be Saturday, Dec. 20. The USO and NWFRA set up an extended lounge to accommodate students beginning Friday, Dec. 19, and will run operations 24 hours until Dec. 23. The extra space will provide sleeping, movie viewing, showers, and more substantial food offerings for young military members that get delayed or stranded at VPS. The USO is accepting donations of individually packaged snacks and drinks, to host a large number of our military families. Call ahead to (850) 609-4738, and a USO volunteer will come out to the curb to retrieve donations. 

Emerald Coast Theatre Company Stages Three Productions
Emerald Coast Theatre Company (ECTC) continues its mission of providing art education to the Northwest Florida region by recently staging three after school/weekend program productions. Just prior to Thanksgiving in November, ECTC staged two productions of “Alice in Wonderland” at both Destin Elementary School and Butler Elementary School, and Saturday, Dec. 6, ECTC staged “Yes, Virginia: The Musical” at the Destin Community Center. For more information on Emerald Coast Theatre Company, call (850) 687-1637,, or visit

Kiwanis Helps CIC Build Next Home
The Kiwanis Club of Niceville - Valparaiso recently presented a $5,000 donation to Children in Crisis (CIC) to help build a new home for foster children from Northwest Florida. Seen here, Kiwanis Club of Niceville-Valparaiso President Tim Parsons presents a $5,000 check to CIC President and CEO Ken Hair, CIC President & CE

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Fun, Festive Times at Chamber's Annual Holiday Party

The Destin Area Chamber of Commerce and its members celebrated the holiday season on Dec. 2, with a festive Holiday Party at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa. Thank you to the members who attended, to DJ Johnny C at Jack Of All Trades Productions, and to the staff at the Hilton.

For more photos, please visit our Flickr photo album or follow us on Facebook.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December 2014 Business Briefs / Member News Part 1

Adopt-A-Family Underway for Children’s Advocacy Center
Want to help make Christmas merrier for some children and their families in need this year? The Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center’s (ECCAC) annual Adopt-A-Family program is underway. ECCAC is seeking donors who will purchase gifts for individual families who have been identified by the center. Last year, the program helped 261 children have a brighter holiday. Simply contact ECCAC and select a family from their list, shop for them, and bring unwrapped gifts by Dec. 14, or sooner, to the Niceville center. To make arrangements to Adopt-A-Family, call (850) 833-9237, or email Katie Crowell at

A Gift for You....A Gift for Them
$25 off of sunset and dinner cruises aboard SunQuest Cruises' 125’ Solaris yacht, with three decks of indoor and outdoor fun, chef-prepared meals, and live entertainment. Visit the SunQuest Cruises Facebook page for your $25 coupon. Give the gift of memories with an extraordinary experience they will remember for years to come. Whether you know someone who needs to get away, but won't treat themselves, or want to show your parents your appreciation, a SOLARIS dinner cruise gift certificate is always the perfect size and color. It also never expires. Call (850) 650-2519.

Gulf World Received 50 Cold Stun Turtles
Recently, endangered Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles from the New England Aquarium were flown by the Coast Guard to Orlando for rehabilitation. Gulf World Marine Park was selected by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to be one of the marine rehabilitation facilities. Last night, 50 animals were immediately transported from Orlando to Panama City Beach. In the upcoming weeks, Gulf World will continue rehabilitating these animals until NOAA/USFWS/FWCC identifies options for the animals to be released.

Museum Announces 2015 “Home School Fridays” & “Hands-On History Saturdays” 
The Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida announces its 2015 programs for “Home School Fridays” and “Hands-On History Saturdays.” Once a month, from January through June, a different program will be presented on Fridays for Home School students and on Saturdays for children and families of the general public. The fun and innovative programs are geared toward grades K-6 and meet the Next Generation Florida Sunshine State Standards for learning. In addition, each lesson will include tidbits about Okaloosa County history, as we celebrate the Okaloosa County Centennial in 2015. Space is limited, and preregistration is required. Click here for program dates, topics, and pricing. Call (850) 678-2615 or email

Sinfonia Presents The von Trapps for Annual Orchestral Holiday Concert
Sinfonia Gulf Coast will present its popular annual holiday concert, “Orchestral Holiday” on Friday, Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m., at Destiny Worship Center. This year’s performance features the world-beloved The von Trapps performing alongside Sinfonia Gulf Coast. You cannot find another name as universally beloved as von Trapp. The story of the family who escaped Austria, moved to the United States, and toured the world singing for two decades has inspired generations since the film “The Sound of Music” was released in 1965. The history continues as the great-grandchildren of the Captain and Maria von Trapp take up the family tradition anew. Meet Sofi, Melanie, Amanda, and August von Trapp, four siblings that, for the last 12 years, have been singing on stages around the world to critical acclaim and packed houses. For concert details, click here
Museum Trustee Receives Preservation & Stewardship Award
Donna Miller, former member of the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida Board of Trustees, was recognized at the board’s November meeting and received the 2014 Kenneth E. Bailey Preservation & Stewardship Award. This unique award is given each year to one member of the board of trustees who exemplifies giving of his or her time, talent, and treasure. Miller served as trustee for the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida during 2011-2014.

El Jalisco Open and World of Beer to Open in Destin Commons
El Jalisco and World of Beer, two more first-to-market restaurants, will be located in Destin Commons. El Jalisco, a Mexican restaurant, just opened in the corner location across from Bass Pro Shops. With seven other restaurants in Northwest Florida, founder Jesus Carranza is looking forward to the opening. Also opening by the first of the year will be the much anticipated World of Beer in the new expansion area of the center. World of Beer offers a full Tavern Fare menu, craft spirits, and signature handcrafted cocktails. 

Destin Woman’s Club December Meeting
The Destin Woman’s Club will hold its Dec. 10 meeting at Cuvee Bistro. It will feature a special seasonal program by Demetrius Fuller, conductor and music director for Sinfonia Gulf Coast. Also, donations of canned goods, bottled water, cleaning supplies, and kitchen products, which include plastic wrap, storage bags, and paper products, are requested. They will be given to the Fisher House of the Emerald Coast. The public is invited to attend, but reservations are required by Friday, Dec. 5. The event is from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., and the cost is $20. Email your reservation to

Scharf Named in Florida’s "Top 10 Public Accounting Professionals" 
Glenn Scharf, CPA with Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund, has been featured as one of the "Top 10 Public Accounting Professionals" in Florida by the National Academy of Public Accounting Professionals (NAPAP). To become eligible for this annual list, one must be nominated by a client or a licensed accountant. The lengthy evaluation process reviews various qualifications, including the years of experience, areas of expertise, and certifications. In the process, the research staff and processing committee verifies and evaluates the credentials of each nominee before advancing to the final selection stage. In the final selection stage, the NAPAP Board of Governors selects the top 10 candidates to be featured.