Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Chairman's Message: Dynasties, Teamwork and Returning to Relevance

I grew up a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers.  Magic, Kareem, Shaq, Kobe and others filled my life with winning and excitement for over 25 years.  Championships were expected, playoffs were demanded and relevance was a given.  They were a dynasty, not unlike the 1970’s Steelers, 1980’s 49ers and Alabama football.  
Something happened, though, along the way - the Lakers became complacent.   In recent years, the successes became less frequent.  Methods and styles that were once successful were now outdated.  Dynamics around the NBA changed, but the Lakers failed to adapt.  They became something I never imagined was even possible - the Lakers became irrelevant.
Where am I going with this?    The Lakers eventually bottomed out, posting one of the worst records in the NBA for the past 3 years in a row.   But now, after that struggle, something has happened.  The team is playing a selfless style, which benefits all of the individuals.  They are ‘buying in’ and uniting for the common purpose of winning and getting back on the path to relevance.   There is a lesson in this for all of us, including Destin.
We need your help, as our business community, to:

  1. Recognize that we are at risk of declining.
    1. Unless our methods change with the times, we will decline.  30a has become a premier community and Destin is known for traffic.   We need to ensure Destin is a business-friendly family destination.  That said, other communities around us have reversed that course, it is possible (Pensacola downtown revitalization, S. Walton).
  2. Foster an environment of teamwork.
    1. No individual agenda reigns, but that which benefits the entire community.  
  3. Be willing to adapt to what is next.
    1. For issues of traffic, land development codes, code-enforcement, beach access, etc.
  4. Prepare now for our future.           
    1. If we only address today’s problems, we fail to plan for the livelihood of our future generations.  What will the town look like in 10, 20, 40 years?   What infrastructure will we need?  Where will Destin kids go to high school? 
I wanted my last Chairman’s message to be about the heart of what I feel is important to our community moving forward.   I hope that Destin is not complacent like my Lakers, because I want Destin to be vibrant……like it should be.
The Destin Chamber represents over 900 area businesses and is here for the long haul.  We are committed to see our community be the best place possible - to live, work & play.  That said, we need your help, advocacy and voice to be most effective.  Destin has incredible natural resources and beauty that other communities can only dream about.   We have a close knit community and a bright future.  The task is not insurmountable but there is work to be done.  Go Destin. Go Lakers. 
Jonathan Ochs
Trustmark National Bank
2016 Destin Chamber Chairman of the Board

Friday, November 18, 2016

November 2016 Business Briefs / Member News

Gonzalez joins World Impact Real Estate
World Impact Real EstateRick Gonzalez is World Impact Real Estate’s newest realtor. Gonzalez spent the majority of his childhood in the UK, as his father was stationed there in the Air Force. He moved to Fort Walton Beach in 1989 and graduated from Choctawhatchee High School two years later. He then served in the US Navy until 1999. He has experience in vacation property management and real estate. He has recently added the ABR (Accredited Buyers Representative) and MRP (Military Relocation Professional) designations to his specialties, and he is working toward his broker’s license. You may reach him at (850) 687-9989.

Emerald Coast Foundation Donates $35,000 to CIC Kids
Children In CrisisThe Emerald Coast Foundation selected Children in Crisis (CIC) again this year to be one of the benefiting charities of its Boat Week and Poker Run. Seen here, Ken Hair, CIC president and CEO, receives a check for $35,000 from Wendy Perkins, Samantha Gusoff, Catherine Gauthier, and Deb Lunsford.  The funds will be used to help feed, clothe and care for the children living at the CIC Neighborhood.

Destin Commons Donates $10,000 to Sinfonia Gulf Coast
Destin Commons - SInfonia Gulf CoastDestin Commons made a $10,000 donation to Sinfonia Gulf Coast through the Center’s Coins For A Cause program, which has donated more than $1 million to area charities since its inception in 2003. Sinfonia Gulf Coast is the region’s fully professional symphony orchestra. The donation will benefit its music education initiatives, including free concerts for kids, musicians in the schools, Sinfonia Youth Orchestra, LINK UP in partnership with Carnegie Hall, Paint the Music, and Arts in Medicine with Sacred Heart Hospital. Seen here, Heather Ruiz and Michelle Sanchez of Destin Commons present the donation to Elaine Tucker of Sinfonia Gulf Coast.

Charity Cornhole Tournament Benefits Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center
Destin CommonsThe 1st Destin Charity Cornhole Tournament, held at Destin Commons in October, attracted 28 competing teams for a $500 cash prize and trophies. Proceeds of more than $4,000 from the event and a silent auction of five cornhole board sets custom painted by area artists benefited the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Centers (ECCAC) in Okaloosa and Walton counties. Participants and spectators also enjoyed visiting the Beer Garden sponsored by World of Beer, complete with free bottomless craft beer, bloody Marys, mimosas, and snacks. Seen here, even 3-year-old Zeke gave cornhole a try with his family cheering him on.

Landrum Recognized for PEO Industry Leadership Efforts
Landrum Human ResourcesThe National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO) has honored H. Britt Landrum, Jr., CEO of Landrum Human Resources, with the 2016 Michaeline A. Doyle Award for his leadership and outstanding contributions to the PEO Industry. The award is given annually to an individual who has provided exemplary leadership and service, who has a reputation of fair and ethical dealings, who demonstrates a willingness to help others, who is active in his or her community, who devotes time and energy to improving industry efforts on a local or national basis. Landrum, Jr., began his business as a small job placement agency. Now in its 46th year, the company has grown from two internal staff members to more than 160 human resources professionals.

Emerald Coast Foundation Donates $35,000 to Arc of the Emerald Coast
The Arc of the Emerald CoastThe Arc of the Emerald Coast received $35,000 from the Emerald Coast Foundation as one of the four non-profits benefiting from “The Big One” Poker Run, the Emerald Coast Foundation’s signature event. Seen here, Robin Hicks, marketing and events coordinator for Mojo Sportswear, a sponsor of the event, presented the check to Donna Tashik, director of community development for The Arc, at the check presentation event held at the Ramada Plaza Beach Resort

Help Bring Christmas to Children’s Advocacy Center
It’s not too early to start planning for this year’s Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center (ECCAC) Adopt-a-Family program to help children in need over the upcoming Holiday season. ECCAC is seeking donors who will purchase gifts for individual families who have been identified by the Center. Last year, the program helped more than 300 children in 125 families have a brighter Christmas. Sign up for Adopt-a-Family on-line at or contact Kim Henderson at or (850) 833-9237 x283 to make arrangements. 

Hilton Honored with ConventionSouth’s Prestigious Annual Readers’ Choice Award
Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa is the proud recipient of the 2016 ConventionSouth Readers’ Choice Award.  This is the seventh time the resort has received this honor, and it is among 250 convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs), meeting facilities, and hotels located across the South to receive this year’s Readers’ Choice Award. Throughout the year, meeting professionals nominated the meeting sites they believe provide exemplary service for group events. The nominated properties were then compiled into an online ballot where meeting professionals were asked to vote for the best of the best. More than 4,000 voters participated in the selection process. 

Sinfonia Gulf Coast Seeks Volunteers for Wine Women & Shoes
Kick up your heels (and helping hands) for a great cause. Sinfonia Gulf Coast is seeking volunteers for the 5th Annual Wine Women & Shoes. The multi-day event launches Jan. 12, with a Sole Sister Kick Off Lunch and Fashion Preview. The three-day signature weekend event begins on Friday, Feb. 17, with Vintner dinners and continues Saturday, Feb. 18, with Bubbles, Brews & Culinary Qs, and the final Wine Women & Shoes signature event is Sunday, Feb. 19. Volunteer opportunities are available now leading up to and then during each event. For more information about Sinfonia Gulf Coast’s volunteer opportunities, contact Elaine Tucker, director of operations and events, at (850) 460-8800 or         

Golf Tournament Raises $40,000 for Silver Sands School
Century 21 Fine Homes & Estates Blue Marlin hosted its 4th Annual Charity Golf Tournament at Regatta Bay Golf and Yacht Club on Friday, Oct. 7, benefiting the Silver Sands School. The tournament raised $40,000 for the Special Day School, which provides educational services to students who because of their mental functioning levels require services beyond those offered by other special educational programs in regular schools. Seen here, Century 21 Blue Marlin's Jerry Sullivan, Leslie Sullivan, Jordan Dennis, and Johnathan Hughes present Silver Sands School Principal Jon Williams, students, staff, and parents with the donation.
Roper Joins the Arc of the Emerald Coast as CEO
After an extensive search, The Arc of the Emerald Coast hired a new chief executive officer. John Roper will officially assume the role on Dec. 6, upon the retirement of the current CEO, Dr. Julie McNabb. He and his wife and family will be moving to the area from Wetumpka, Ala. Roper’s career began in law enforcement where he served as drug abuse resistance education instructor, canine officer, and patrolman, over the course of 15 years. He moved on to become a field director for the State of Alabama Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board and then to executive director with the US Green Building Council for the State of Alabama. His most recent position has been as executive director for Lighthouse Counseling Center in Montgomery. 

Coastal Bank and Trust Donates Food to CIC Kids
Coastal Bank and Trust - Children In CrisisSeen here, Ken Hair (center), Children In Crisis (CIC) president and CEO, receives a full truckload of food and other needed supplies from Jeff Hooten, Coastal Bank and Trust Fort Walton Beach branch manager, and Coastal Bank and Trust team members Samantha Martimer, Jeremy Blanton, and Kaylee Cannon.  The donation was from all Okaloosa County Coastal Bank and Trust branches. The much needed food will help feed the 50+ children living at the CIC Neighborhood and the 130+ that will call CIC home this year.

LuLu’s Destin named Best Outdoor Bar 
LuLu'sLuLu’s Destin was voted Best Outdoor Bar by the readers of Emerald Coast Magazine in this year’s Best Of competition. Sitting on LuLu’s sandy beach, just feet from the beautiful Choctawhatchee Bay with unparalleled sunset views, their Crazy Sista outdoor bar has the perfect beach ambiance. The restaurant serves Southern Coastal cuisine dishes. It has two bars, live entertainment 7 days a week, and a large sandy beach play area for kids, complete with pails, shovels and toys. LuLu’s also has an extensive Allergy Menu with options for diners with gluten, egg, seafood, shellfish, and dairy allergies. Seen here, LuLu’s crew members Matt and Lauren Reynolds, Gabrielle Barnett, Dustin Smith, and Austin McDaniels served their specialty cocktail, the Bama Breeze, to thousands of people at the Best Of winner’s event. 

Meet Keller Williams’ Latest Mover, Shaker & Dealmaker
Keller Williams Emerald CoastEach month, Keller Williams Realty Emerald Coast (KWEC) selects a Mover, Shaker & Dealmaker based on one of its agent’s successes and specialties. Meet October’s recipient, mega-agent Craig Baranowski. Coming from a software sales and Internet background in California, he relocated to Northwest Florida in 2004 and owned his own residential construction company from 2005 to 2008. Baranowski then exclusively went into real estate sales in 2008. He became very well versed in short sales, prevalent in the market place at that time, and now specializes in raw land and luxury investment property sales. Baranowski was named Cultural Agent of the Year by his Keller Williams Realty peers for his community involvement, primarily in the South Walton County area.

Department of Corrections Receives 4th Reaccreditation
Upon an extensive review of files, a multiple-day observation of jail operations, and numerous focused interviews with staff and inmates, the Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission (FCAC) found the Okaloosa County Department Corrections to be in full compliance with all required accreditation standards. FCAC voted unanimously to award the department its fourth reaccreditation at its fall conference held on Oct. 25, in Weston, Fla. 

The Henderson Opens on November 17
The Henderson, a Salamander Beach & Spa Resort, opens its coastal-inspired and luxurious doors on Nov. 17. Located along one of America’s top beaches and adjacent to a 208-acre environmentally protected state park, The Henderson is reminiscent of a grand seaside manor of yesteryear. It captures the romance of traditional coastal architecture by complementing its stunning natural backdrop with striking shingles, steep gabled rooflines and a reverence to Florida’s nautical history. Leisure rates for guest rooms range from $225 to $450 and from $595 to $1,250 for suites. Special packages and opening offers are available. For more information on The Henderson, visit or call (844) 395-4953.

Guardian Angel Donates $5,000 to Help Feed CIC Kids
Children In CrisiSeen here, Ken Hair, Children in Crisis (CIC) president and CEO, receives a donation of $5,000 from CIC Guardian Angel Judy Meadows of Shalimar. CIC donors that give $1,000 annually are members of Kid’s Club and those donors who donate $2,500 or more annually are CIC Guardian Angels.  The donation will help feed, clothe, and care for the more than 130 at-risk children that will call CIC home this year.

MKAF Draws Big Crowd, Awards Big Prizes
On a warm and sunny fall weekend, the Emerald Coast arts scene sparkled a little brighter as 27 local and regional artists who ventured to the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast to exhibit in the 21st annual Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation Festival of the Arts were awarded $10,000 in cash art prize awards honors. The two-day signature art celebration held Oct. 29 and 30, in the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village, featured exhibits of more than 100 artists from across the United States and Europe showcasing a diverse palette of artistic styles in 15 different art mediums.  More than 6,000 attended the event, which wouldn’t have been possible without 37 sponsors and more than 100 community volunteers.

West Florida Regional Planning Council Now Accepting Applications for Funding for Brownfields Cleanup
West Florida Regional Planning Council (WFRPC) was the recipient of a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant, which established a Revolving Loan Fund for the cleanup of brownfield sites, in preparation of redevelopment. A brownfield site is a property where the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Currently, WFRPC is accepting applications from eligible entities for funds to clean up brownfield sites throughout Northwest Florida. To request an application, or for more information about the West Florida Regional Planning Council’s Brownfields Program, please contact Kate Daniel at (850) 332-7976 x245.

Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast Earns “A” Grade for Patient Safety
New Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades, which assign A, B, C, D and F letter grades to hospitals nationwide,  were announced recently by The Leapfrog Group, a national patient safety watchdog. Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast in Miramar Beach and Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf in Port St. Joe were two of 844 hospitals to receive an “A”, ranking them both among the safest hospitals in the United States. To see Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast’s full grade, and to access consumer-friendly patient tips for staying safe in the hospital, visit

Museum Recognizes Volunteers
Heritage Museum of Northwest FloridaThe Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida held a Volunteer Appreciation Party on Oct. 6,  at CafĂ© Bienville in Niceville.  Nearly 40 volunteers gathered to enjoy coffee, beignets, door prizes, and recognition for giving of their time and talent serving our community through the museum.  Volunteers are the heartbeat of the Museum, literally keeping history alive with their passion and dedication.  It was volunteers who started the Historical Society in a Valparaiso home around 1968.  They began collecting items and in 1971 the museum opened in its current location, which was the original campus of now Northwest Florida State College, and the home of the Valparaiso State Bank building, which moved to John Sims Parkway and is now known as Coastal Bank and Trust.  

United Way Hosts Annual Coat Drive
United Way of Okaloosa and Walton CountiesThe United Way’s “Coats for Kids at Christmas…Share the Warmth” is well on its way collecting coats for the annual community coat drive. Last year, the United Way distributed more than 2,000 coats to many families throughout the community and schools in Okaloosa and Walton counties.  For details, including drop off locations, please visit Seen here, Harry LeBoeuf, project chairman for the Crestview Knights of Columbus, Council 7968, donated 50 new coats to kick off this year’s Coats for Kids at Christmas. 

The Arc Emerald Coast Participates in the Arc National Convention
A lucky group of 13 from The Arc of the Emerald Coast attended the Arc National Convention & International Forum in Orlando from Oct. 27- 29. Annually, Arc National meets in person to provide the opportunity for networking with other families, self-advocates, service providers, and members within the disability community.   The Arc of the Emerald Coast was able to send a group of its employees and clients to engage in various discussions, including life skills development, supported decision making, community inclusion, independent living, competitive employment and self-advocacy skills. 

Whole Foods Opens Its Holiday Table
Whole Foods Destin MarketWhole Foods Destin announced its Holiday Table is now open for your ordering convenience. You will find the table just past the produce department and right before the meat department. Whatever size your function, we can accommodate! We also offer online ordering if that is a better fit. You can find our menu guide here. We have delicious holiday offerings, from sides that are sure to steal the show, to turkey’s that make the perfect centerpiece. 

Building Our Mission on Jet Court
The Arc of the Emerald Coast is underway with the renovations for a new group home facility located on its property at Jet Court in Fort Walton Beach. The renovations are being made available through a Florida Housing Corporation grant that The Arc of the Emerald Coast won. The new group home includes renovating an older 1970s home that was not completely accessible for their clients who are disabled. This will increase the size from 4 bedrooms to 6 bedrooms and also include all green building features.  

Fort Walton Beach Medical Center and Twin Cities Hospital Earn “A” Grades                               
Hospital Corporation of America facilities Fort Walton Beach Medical Center and Twin Cities Hospital were both recognized for their dedication to patient safety by being awarded “A” grades in the Fall 2016 Hospital Safety Score by The Leapfrog Group, which rates how well hospitals protect patients from preventable medical errors, injuries, and infections within the hospital. Developed under the guidance of an Expert Panel, the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade uses 30 measures of publicly available hospital safety data to assign A, B, C, D and F grades to more than 2,600 U.S. hospitals twice per year. It is calculated by top patient safety experts, peer-reviewed, fully transparent, and free to the public.

Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast Welcomes New Clinical Nurse Educators
Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald CoastSacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald CoastSacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast

Alissa Bowden (left), RN, joins Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast as the critical care nurse educator. Bowden has 14 years of experience as an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse, including critical care, cardiovascular services, and trauma services. She is a member of the Association of Critical Care Nurses and has specialty certifications of Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) and Trauma Nurse Core Curriculum (TNCC). Bowden received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Business Administration. 

Stephanie Faist (center), RN, is the new clinical nurse educator for the emergency department. Faist, who has been with Sacred Heart Health System since 2013, is a certified emergency nurse with seven years of trauma experience, including a focus on pediatric trauma services. She currently holds two degrees in exercise science and nursing. 

Amber Lew (right), RN, joins Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast as the Family Birth Place clinical nurse educator. Lew has extensive experience in both ICU and maternity services, including labor and delivery, post-partum care, and nursery services. Lew currently holds her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and will graduate with a Master’s in Nursing Leadership and Management in early 2017.   

Newman-Dailey Real Estate Sales Division Announces Third Quarter Top Producer 
Newman-Dailey Resort Properties, Inc.Broker Associate Diane Green was recently awarded 2016 Third Quarter Top Producer and Top Listing Agent within Newman-Dailey’s Real Estate Division. After earning the title of ‘Top Agent for 2015,’ Green continues to be one of Newman-Dailey’s top real estate sales agents, serving Destin, Miramar Beach, and Highway 30A. Currently holding active Broker licenses in Florida and Georgia, and a Life Member of the Atlanta Million Dollar Club, Green has more than 34 years real estate sales experience. 

The Henderson Welcomes First Employees
The HendersonRecently, The Henderson, a Salamander Beach & Spa Resort, welcomed nearly 150 new hospitality employees for their first day on the job. As each employee approached the threshold of the 170-room luxury hotel, General Manager Douglas Hustad offered a warm handshake and managers and senior leaders opened the rich mahogany hand carved doors. Inside employees were all smiles as they took in the festive fanfare that filled the Crystal Ballroom, pulsing with glittering banners, high-energy music and a conga-style parade line. Seen here, Kathryn Lynch, Hugh Thomas, and Cathy Jones greet the new employees.

Okaloosa Arts Alliance Grant Applications Available
The Okaloosa Arts Alliance is accepting grant applications through Dec 2, 2016.  The application and guidelines are available on the website on at  The OAA will be awarding a $1,000 grant to a local non-profit and a $1,000 to an Okaloosa County school to aid in their art and/or cultural programs for 2017. Please contact Amy at for additional information on the OAA grant application.

Fitch Rating Service Upgrades Okaloosa Revenue Bonds to AA Rating
Fitch Ratings of New York has upgraded Okaloosa County’s sales tax revenue bonds from an ‘AA-’ to ‘AA’ based on its ability to manage expenditures and rebuild reserves in recent years. The rating upgrade reflects solid debt service coverage, expected growth prospects, and strong resilience through a moderate economic downturn scenario.

AHOY Sail & Power Squadron Donates to CIC Children
Children In CrisisThanks to the generous donations from the members of the Auxiliary Helpers of Yachtsmen, an arm of the Fort Walton Sail & Power Squadron, the kids living at Children in Crisis (CIC) will have a little extra for the holidays.  Customarily known as the AHOY, this group provided assistance to the squadron for more than 40 years to advance boating safety and education including on-the-water training. Seen here, Ken Hair, CIC president and CEO, receives the donation from AHOY President Yvonne Hardy, PC Ray Morgan, and member Bill Hardy.

The Premier Property Group Announces Two New Agents on 30A
The Premier Property GroupThe Premier Property GroupThe Premier Property Group is pleased to announce Donny Guercio (left) and Whitney Maloney (right) have joined the team as real estate agents operating out of the Seacrest office. An Atlanta native, Guercio is a part-time resident of Rosemary Beach, where he and his partner Rob have owned a home since 2011. Having graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications, over the past 30 years, Guercio has worked as a graphic designer/art director for his own company, Guercio Creative Services. A licensed Georgia realtor, Guercio has eight years of Georgia real estate experience and is now co-licensed in Florida. 

Another Atlanta transport, Maloney has lived in Northwest Florida for the past five years. Since moving to the area, Maloney has helped run her family business, Surfaces PCB, a family owned and operated company that supplies the 30A corridor and Florida panhandle clients with a varied selection of finishing touches for home, office, and commercial buildings. 

Sinfonia Gulf Coast Has Gone ‘Mad’ as a Hatter
Sinfonia Gulf CoastIn a festive fall garden filled with sponsors, donors, corporate partners, vendors, supporters, and volunteers enjoying wine, food, and live music, Sinfonia Gulf Coast music and artistic director Demetrius Fuller announced from Clay Garden & Gifts on 30A in Seagrove: “We’ve gone as absolutely mad as hatters, and as the Mad Hatter tells Alice: ‘The best of us usually are!’” Maestro Fuller was having fun with this year’s Wine Women & Shoes event theme: “Mad Hatters’ Garden Party.” This is the largest annual fundraiser for Sinfonia Gulf Coast, the only fully professional non-profit orchestra on the Emerald Coast founded in 2005 with the mission of redefining the symphony experience. The must-not-miss charity extravaganza kicks off Jan. 12, and continues Feb. 17-19, in an artful celebration of wine, fashion, food, and fun with four fun-filled “fashionable” events — all of which benefits Sinfonia Gulf Coast and its music education programs. For more information or to purchase tickets for Sinfonia Gulf Coast’s Wine Women & Shoes events, visit or call (850) 460-8800. 

Real Estate Life Lessons From Mentor to Mentee
Keller Williams Emerald CoastKeller Williams Emerald Coast Realty (KWEC) has created a unique mentoring program available to its real estate agents. Last year, chaired by Navarre agent Julie McGehee, a committee of seasoned agents was formed and the mentoring program became a reality within KWEC’s seven offices in Northwest Florida. The overall objective of the mentoring program is to help new agents through their first three transactions with the mentor assisting the mentee in all aspects of learning the business. Agents go through an approval process by the company’s Agent Leadership Council to become an official KWEC mentor. In just a little over a year, there are 12 mentors working with 10 mentees. Seen here are mentors Denis Milonas, consulting broker for all seven KWEC offices in Northwest Florida, and Gail Pelto from its Destin office.

Stores to be Closed on Thanksgiving at Destin Commons
As Northwest Florida’s premier outdoor lifestyle center, Destin Commons is taking the lead on the Emerald Coast and joining a trend beginning to happen across America. It has announced that it will be closed on Thanksgiving, with stores re-opening at 6 a.m. the following day on Black Friday. However, AMC Destin movie theater will be open on Thanksgiving and Bass Pro Shops Worldwide Sportsman and Belk will open at 6 p.m. 

United Way Needs VITA Volunteers
VITA is an IRS community initiative led by the United Way of Okaloosa & Walton Counties to provide free income tax preparation. The VITA program offers free tax help to people with low-to-moderate income in preparing their tax returns. Community VITA programs in Florida have aided working families in receiving more than $14 million from the Child Tax Credit, providing taxpayers a much needed financial boost to better support their children. To find out more about this program or to become a volunteer, email or call (850) 243-0315.  Please include all your contact information along with the location you would like to serve, either Crestview or Fort Walton Beach.  Informational orientations will be held in Fort Walton Beach and Crestview in December. 

“Cops Rock” Event Raises Funds for At-Risk Children
Children In CrisisThe first-ever Okaloosa Cops Rock event was a complete success!  The event was presented by Fudpucker’s Beachside Grill of Okaloosa Island to show appreciation to all the Law Enforcement officers that give so much to our community.  There was a huge crowd of participants and spectators. The event surpassed all expectations and raised $800 to help the abused, neglected and abandoned children living at Children in Crisis (CIC). Seen here (left to right) are Chaplain Larry Carter, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO); Steve Harker, OCSO Undersheriff; Capt. Michael Card, OCSO: Ken Hair, CIC president and CEO; Tim Edwards, Fudpucker’s; Chester Kroeger, Fudpucker’s; Capt. Larry Ward, OCSO; and Laura Moore, CIC volunteer/Events Director.  A check for $800 was presented to CIC from the recent “Cops Rock” Law Enforcement Appreciation Event to help the at-risk children living at the CIC Neighborhood.

Pink Party Raises $12,050 for Local
Jackacudas BrotulasSister restaurants Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer and Jackacudas Seafood/Sushi joined forces to host a fundraiser for one of their very own employees. The Pink Party, benefitting Carrie Bair, was held Thursday, Oct. 27, at Jackacudas at HarborWalk Village. A total of $12,050 was raised for the tenured employee and pivotal part of the Jackacudas family recently diagnosed with stage 1 Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Pictured here (left to right) are Christopher Ruyan, Carrie Bair, and Tyler Jarvis

4% Discount on Property Tax Bills
According to the Okaloosa County Tax Collectors Office, if property tax is paid by the end of the month, property owners can take advantage of a 4% early payment discount. Last November, Okaloosa County property owners saved more than $6.4 million. 

White of Sacred Heart Emerald Coast Receives Advanced Care Certification
Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald CoastRachel White, a registered nurse in the Progressive Care Unit at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast, recently received her certification in Progressive Care Certified Nursing (PCCN). This national certification is recognized by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) for nurses that care for acutely ill patients. White earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from the University of West Florida in Pensacola, in May 2015 and will be starting Nurse Practitioner school next year.