Thursday, March 9, 2017

March 2017 Business Briefs / Member News

Fort Walton Beach Medical CenterChildren In Crisis Receives $1,000 from FWB Medical Auxiliary
The Fort Walton Beach Medical Center Auxiliary recently presented a check for $1,000 to Children in Crisis (CIC). Seen here, Ginger Kelley and Frances Catlett, both of the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center Auxiliary, present the donation to Ken Hair, CIC president and CEO.  The donation will help feed the more than 100 at-risk children that will call the CIC Neighborhood home this year.

Winners of 2017 Wine Competition Announced
Tasting experts from the wine and culinary industries convened for South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival’s International Wine Competition to judge and award medals to the winning wines to be poured and sold at the 2017 festival, which will be held April 27 – 30, at Grand Boulevard at Sandestin. On Jan. 27, at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, nearly 600 wines were poured and judged by a panel of 21 vintners, educators, collectors, and restaurant owners. Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners were named in 71 categories. In all, 212 medals were awarded and four Best of Show winners named. La Rioja Alta ViƱa Ardanza Reserve 2007 was named Best of Show Red. Ramey Platt Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 was named Best of Show White. This year a new Best of Show category was added for Champagne/Sparkling Wine, which was won by Dolci Colline Rose Spumante Brut. Louis Martini Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 was named People’s Choice winner at the Tasting of Champions, the evening event that follows the competition where the public has the opportunity to taste the 600 wines judges earlier in the day. For details, visit
Constitution 101: Hillsdale College Course at Museum
Heritage Museum of Northwest FloridaOkaloosa County Residents Steve and Ann Czonstka, who are members and donors to the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida, met with Craig Kreinbihl, Hillsdale College Eastern Region Institutional Advancement director. They discussed adding Constitution 101, Hillsdale College’s most popular education course, to the Museum’s education programs. Contact the Museum at (850) 678-2615 or for details.

Social Media Scavenger Hunt Brings Positive Message to Teens
Shelter HouseShelter House and Project Respect kicked off Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month by hosting Quest 4 Respect, a social media scavenger hunt for teens. Dozens of young people dashed around Destin Commons snapping pictures on Instagram. The pictures were based on clues that carried messages about healthy relationships and warning signs for unsafe relationships. Follow Project Respect and Shelter House on Facebook and Instagram for more information on Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and future events.
Brunch and Bowl Raises More Than $6,000 for Shelter House
Shelter House - Okaloosa County Sheriff's OfficeTeams from the Walton County Sheriff’s Office and the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Star Charities, pictured here, were among the competitors who turned out for Shelter House’s inaugural Brunch and Bowl at Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl and Grill at Destin Commons. The family-friendly fundraiser brought in more than $6,000 for the domestic and sexual violence center and included an indulgent breakfast buffet, unlimited bowling, silent auction, and DJ services from B-Boy Productions. In addition to law enforcement, competing teams also included Century 21 Fine Homes & Estates Blue MarlinResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals, and others.
First Judicial Circuit Law Enforcement Assoc. Donates to Children In Crisis
Children In CrisisThe First Judicial Circuit Law Enforcement Association presented a check for $750 to Children In Crisis (CIC). The funds will be used to purchase computer and educational equipment for at risk children living at the CIC Neighborhood. Seen here, Ken Hair, CIC president and CEO, receives the donation from Crestview Chief of Police Tony Taylor, representing The First Judicial Circuit Law Enforcement Association. 

Palate & Palette Brings in Almost $18,000 for Shelter House
Shelter HouseArt and food lovers packed the Tack Room at Arnett’s Gulfside Ranch in Santa Rosa Beach for Shelter House’s newest signature fundraising event, Palate & Palette: Five-Course Wine Dinner and Live Painting. In just a few hours, the event brought in close to $18,000 to benefit the domestic and sexual violence center.  The first-time event offered a unique blend of art, food, and music and sold out well in advance.  

Coastal Bank and Trust is Healthy Okaloosa Worksite
Coastal Bank and Trust joins the Department of Health Okaloosa County's Healthy Okaloosa Worksites program, bringing the total number of Okaloosa County businesses in the program to 15. The purpose of the program is to recognize organizations that understand the importance of worksite wellness, value employees, and are committed to a Healthy Okaloosa. After all, Americans working full time spend more than one-third of their day, five days a week, at work. The step-by-step program can improve morale, reduce absenteeism, improve productivity, decrease injuries, and contain overall health care costs for businesses. For details, visit

Fresh Start Announces New Leadership
Fresh Start for Children & Families - HomelessFresh Start for Children and Families is pleased to welcome Mark Dutram, pictured here, as the 2017 president of the board of directors. Dutram will lead the organization, along with 20 other volunteer leaders from various industries. Dutram, CPWA®, CFP®, is the vice president of wealth management at First City Bank with more than 20 years of experience in the industry. He is an active member in the local community, serving as a member of the Fort Walton Beach Chamber, treasurer of the Emerald Coast Estate Planning Council, and now president for Fresh Start Children and Families, Inc.
Fresh Start’s 2017 executive board leadership also includes Karen Criter, President-Elect; Chandler Robbins, Secretary; and Wilma van Leeuwen, Past-President. The 2017 board of directors include Dave Parisot, Dallas Cochran, Steve Shippee, Kenneth LaPee, Steve Baxter, Ryan Price, Angie Sanchez, Riesa Lewis, Lacey Clark, Bert Everhart, Barbara Britt, Robin Heintzelman, Bob Pinard, James Krug, and Rocky Magee.

Bijoux De Mer Opens at City Market Bayside
Bijoux de MerBijoux De Mer, an upscale, fine jewelry boutique, recently announced its opening in the new Destin-based, retail development City Market Bayside. Owner and designer Renee Launiere held the shop’s initial grand opening on Dec. 21, and it is officially the first shop open for business within the center. Bijoux de Mer features exquisite fine jewelry, with an edge. Launiere, derives her creative inspiration from memories of summers spent at the beach, as well as international travel throughout her life. To learn more about Bijoux De Mer Fine Jewelry, visit or follow it on Facebook

Hilton Appoints New Executive Chef for Resort
Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa appointed Dan Vargo as the new executive chef for the property. In his new position, Vargo will blend Baltimore's traditional and historical influences, Martha’s Vineyard’s emphasis on organic produce and seasonal seafood, and the Ritz-Carlton’s world-class standards for fine dining and excellence in service into the Hilton Sandestin Beach experience. Vargo began journey at Hilton Sandestin Beach in April 2012, as executive chef at Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood, the resort’s AAA Four-Diamond restaurant.

Collins Earns NAR’s Military Relocation Professional Certification
Century 21 Fine Homes & Estates Blue MarlinNicholas Collins with Century 21 Fine Homes & Estates Blue Marlin has been awarded the nationally recognized Military Relocation Professional (MRP) Certification. The National Association of Realtors® awards the MRP certification to realtors who help military personnel, veterans, and their families find housing that lets them make the best use of their benefits and serves the unique needs of military life. A native of Charleston, W.V., Collins moved to Florida’s Emerald Coast in October 2011, after being stationed at Eglin Air Force Base with the Marine Corps. Having joined the Marine Corps in 2006 following graduation, Collins  is still an active duty service member.

Coach Mark Richt Visits Wounded Veteran
Building Homes for HeroesIn a gesture of kindness on his way to be the keynote speaker at the All Sports Association dinner at the Emerald Coast Convention Center last weekend, well-known University of Miami head coach Mark Richt paid a visit to wounded veteran, Capt. Nathan Nelson. Nelson is a Building Homes For Heroes recipient of a new home being built by Randy Wise Homes in Santa Rosa Beach. Purple heart decorated and a retired USAF Intelligence Officer, Nelson was severely injured four years ago, while serving his third combat deployment to Afghanistan when Taliban forces fired a rocket which impacted feet from Nelson. The blast broke some of his vertebrae, and he is wheel-chair bound. 

Landrum HR to Acquire Sarasota PEO Company
H. Britt Landrum III, president of Landrum Human Resources, announced recently that the company has acquired the assets of The Employee Management Team (EMT), a Sarasota, Fla., based PEO with small and medium sized business clients located throughout central Florida. Landrum will maintain the Sarasota office and employ the existing staff members. With this acquisition and the additional office location, Landrum will be better able to serve its existing clients in central and south Florida and will be able to extend additional benefits and resources to the newly acquired business clients and worksite employees.

BBVA Compass Donates PJs to CIC Kids
Children In Crisis - BBVA Compass BankBBVA Compass continued its great support to Children In Crisis (CIC) again this year.  Thanks to the generous donations from the staff and supporters, all the kids living at the CIC Neighborhood received new pajamas.  Pajamas are an item often overlooked or forgotten during the holidays. Seen here, Ken Hair, CIC president and CEO, and Allie Noah, CIC development director, receive the donation from BBVA representatives Justin Tate and Katie Sharon, market president.

Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation Presents “Champion For the Arts Award”
Mattie Kelly Arts FoundationThe Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation (MKAF) recently held its annual strategic planning session. More than 25 board members, staff, and stakeholders participated in MKAF’s annual strategic planning session to outline the 2017 strategic initiatives and long-term vision for the organization’s three pillars: Visual Arts, Performing Arts, and Arts Education Outreach. This year’s annual strategic planning session began with a first-ever special award presentation. Board chairman Matt Dahlman recognized Joan and Stephen Carter as “Champions for the Arts" for their generous and timeless contributions to MKAF. The Carters own and operate several entrepreneurial businesses, including Carter Enterprise Group, which provides organizational consulting services to companies from start-ups to Fortune 500s. Photo Credit: Zandra Wolfgram/Wordplay Ink

Calls for Entries for Northwest Florida Theatre Festival
Emerald Coast Theatre Company (ECTC) announces an open call for entries to its first-ever hosting of Northwest Florida Theatre Festival, which will take place May 12-21. The call for entries is open to anyone interested in staging plays, performance art, musical numbers, dance, and/or published or unpublished original work. Submitted pieces must not no longer than 60 minutes. The deadline for entry applications is April 10. For details or to download an online application, visit

Antinori Wines Winemaker Joins Celebrity Line Up for Wine & Food Festival
Grand Boulevard Wine FestivalGlenn C. Salva representing Antica Napa Valley wines, owned by the six-generation Antinori wine family, makes his first North Florida appearance as one of many celebrated winemakers, chefs, and entertainers, who will wine, dine, educate, and entertain as part of the four-day celebration of wine at the 2017 South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival. This year’s highly anticipated event will be held April 27-30, 2017 in Grand Boulevard at Sandestin. For festival details, visit

Hilton Appoints New Executive Chef of Seagar’s
Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa appointed Laurie Graupner as the new executive chef of Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood. Graupner joined the Seagar’s team five years ago as a part-time prep cook who quickly learned, moved up as a line cook, and then earned title of sous chef under the leadership of Chef Dan Vargo, the previous executive chef of Seagar’s and newly appointed executive chef of Hilton Sandestin Beach. With 14 years of experience in the culinary arts, Graupner has held a wide array of positions in the industry, training and studying alongside a diverse group of chefs. Originally from Menasha, Wis., Graupner moved to Florida to broaden her culinary skills, relishing the opportunity to experiment with the state’s abundant and accessible fresh, local produce and seafood. 

Premier Property Group Announces Record-Breaking Sale
Premier Property GroupThe Premier Property Group’s Channing Gardner, operating out of the Watercolor office, recently closed the highest sale ever for a residential home in South Walton. This beautiful 4,520-square-foot Rosemary Beach home sold for a record-breaking $12.5 million in the first week of February 2017. The sale of this luxury listing cements The Premier Property Group as the predominant locally based real estate agency in Northwest Florida. A graduate of the University of Alabama, Gardner received a finance degree in 1999. Prior to becoming a licensed realtor in 2013, Gardner was the CEO of his own company, LiveJam HD Inc., a concert broadcasting service. Originally from Montgomery, Ala., Gardner has been a resident of Florida’s Emerald Coast for 10 years. 

Keller Williams Emerald Coast Holds Annual Awards Banquet 
Keller Williams Realty Emerald CoastKeller Williams Realty Emerald Coast (KWREC) has seven offices serving five communities in Northwest Florida with more than 300 real estate agents. It hosted its annual awards banquet last week at The Henderson, honoring its agents many accomplishments. KWREC offices attained a #1 ranking for 2016 in sales volume and number of units sold in both the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors and the Navarre Area Board of Realtors. As the world’s largest real estate company, locally KWEC is the 75th largest Keller Williams franchise, and it has the largest number of agents in the Gulf Coast KW region. Agents received recognition awards in many categories from top sales associate, listing associate, team, rookie of the year, to KW humanitarian award, KW cultural icon, $1 million to over $12 million sales volume President’s Club achievement members, and more. Winners were as follows Cindy Cole – Top Sales Associate, The Meghan Hall Team – Top Listing Associates, The Laurie Hollowell Team – Top Sales Team, At The Beach Team – Top Sales Group, Jessica Drew – Rookie of the Year, Linda Grayson – #1 Profit Share, Denis Milonas – Most Agent Recruits, Andrea Farrell – Humanitarian Award, and Al Mader – Cultural Icon.

Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation Seeks Community Support
Mattie Kelly Arts FoundationOn Feb. 7, the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation (MKAF) was in the path of what is being identified as a microburst that made a direct hit to the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village. The Village is the sole host venue for the Foundation’s local signature events, such as the Concerts in the Village series and Festival of the Arts, contributing to the sustainability of the foundation and the outreach initiatives to serve K-12 students, children and adults with special needs, and the veteran community. The aftermath of the storm left more than $100,000 in property damages. The pavilion canopy, concession tent, and privacy fencing require replacement and repair to restore the integrity of the property.  In order for rebuilding to begin immediately without major financial harm to the Foundation’s outreach initiatives, we need the spirit of our community to rally behind this endeavor. Donations can be made directly by visiting, or mail to MKAF, 4323 Commons Drive West, Destin, FL 32541.  

Mardi Gras Parade Rolls Through Destin Commons
Destin CommonsOn Feb. 24, thousands of people lined the streets of Destin Commons to watch a fun and festive Mardi Gras parade roll through the center. The evening was full of beads and trinkets, face painting, stilt walkers, pirates making balloon treasures, and the crowds rocking to the live music of Mr. Big and the Rhythm Sisters. The Grand Marshall was Lansden Hill, owner of Pyro Shows, who put on firework shows throughout Northwest Florida. A non-stop line up of more than 40 floats and people took part in the parade.

King and Queen Crowned at LuLu’s Mardi Gras Ball
LuLu'sOn Feb. 25, locals attended LuLu’s Birds of Paradise Mardi Gras Ball to revel in an evening of Mardi Gras fun. Ladies and gents were dressed in festive island elegance with plenty of unique masques and hats along with beads and boas. Guests enjoyed a special freshly prepared menu, an open bar, and danced the night away to the live performance of Hot Wire, who brought the house down with its Motown classics and pop music. The highlight of the event was the official coronation of community leader King Cory Fosdyck and “foodie” critic and blogger Queen Susan Benton.  

Cobia Tournaments Join Forces to Create the 2017 Emerald Coast Cobia Triple Crown
Three of the biggest Cobia Tournaments along the Emerald Coast, Harbor Docks Crab Cruncher Classic, Boshamps Flathead Classic, and Outcast Cobia Invitational, have teamed up to create the 2017 Emerald Coast Cobia Triple Crown, a new tournament series to promote cobia fishing on Northwest Florida's Gulf Coast, and to crown an undisputed champion of cobia season. The Emerald Coast Cobia Triple Crown winning boat will be determined by the total points accumulated in each sanctioned tournament’s final standings, as well as any bonus points earned throughout the series. Boats signed up for any of the three tournaments will automatically be entered into the Triple Crown as well. The first tournament of the Triple Crown series will be the Outcast Cobia Invitational, held at Tailfin's Alehouse, from March 30 through April 1. The next tournament of the series will be the Harbor Docks Crab Cruncher Classic, held April 6 – 9, at Harbor Docks. The last of the Triple Crown Series will be the Boshamps Flathead Classic lasting from April 19 – 23, at Boshamp’s Seafood and Oyster House. 

Acentria Insurance Acquires Central Florida Based Agency
Acentria Insurance recently announced a finalized merger with Walker Insurance & Financial Services, Inc., located in Orlando, Fla. Having served local residents for more than 29 years, Walker Insurance specializes in personal and business insurance and will continue to provide exceptional coverage and service with the same friendly, professional team members. It will continue to operate out of its existing location and will slowly transition under the Acentria Insurance name. 

Elks Lodge of Destin Gives to The Arc of the Emerald Coast
The Arc of the Emerald CoastThe Elks Lodge #2688 of Destin provided The Arc of the Emerald Coast with 10 scholarships for its clients to go to spring break camp. Annually, The Arc of the Emerald Coast plans a trip to William J. Rish Recreational Park, a state park that is fully accessible to individuals with disabilities. The Arc of the Emerald Coast takes those it serves with intellectual and developmental disabilities on a 4-day trip to promote independence, life skills, and fun. Pictured from left to right are Lynn, Arc client; Donna Tashik, Arc director of community development; Terri Griffin, Elks leading knight; Joe, Arc client; and John Roper, Arc CEO.

Paint the Town Blue
Emerald Coast Children's Advocacy CenterApril is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This is a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect. That is the 24/7 job of the multi-disciplinary team of staff and volunteers at Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Centers (ECCAC) in Okaloosa and Walton counties.  ECCAC is a part of the National Children’s Advocacy Center non-profit organization. Show your support by participating in Paint the Town Blue for National Child Abuse Prevention Month. For a $100 donation, one will receive a yard sign and a blue front door wreath, which will help create awareness, while also benefiting ECCAC. Each package also includes a stuffed animal for a child. To participate, please call Kim Henderson at (850) 833-9237x283, email, or visit  

Seering & Friends Raise $26,000 for CIC Children
Children In CrisisLocal accomplished and talented musician David Seering and Friends performed their annual concert to benefit community charity Children in Crisis (CIC). This year Seering performed with singer Amanda Holmes, entertainer Crystal Gage, Sputzy, and the Bobby Van Deusen Trio. The show was held at the Village Baptist Church in Destin, and all the proceeds went to help give a home to the foster children living at the CIC Neighborhood. Seen here, Ken Hair, CIC president and CEO, receives a donation of $26,000 from entertainer Gage, Holmes, and Seering.