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Giving Back

11/04/2014 09:41PM ● Published by Jessie Cobble

We are blessed to live along the beautiful Emerald Coast.  Our towns are small and our communities are close and interwoven.  But still, many people, families and animals are suffering from hunger, lack of essentials and the inability to purchase enough clothing, shoes, and school supplies.  For many, the holidays can be an especially difficult and depressing time of year instead of a time of peace, forgiveness and thanks.  

Our time, support and donations are greatly needed in our area, yet it can be difficult to find the information, contacts, organizations and events that are available and helping our neighbors every day.  What follows is a list of just a few of the organizations, schools and churches that are helping our community this fall and winter.  

Please look over this list and make a connection with one of them.  Your help in any way will mean more than you know to a child, a suffering adult, or an orphaned pet.    Thanks to you and Happy Holidays!

Organization:  Alaqua Animal Refuge

Need:  Volunteers and donations to support the mission of providing shelter, safety, and second chances to animals

Date:  Every day

Contact:  Laurie Hood | (850) 880-6399 |

Location:  Alaqua Animal Refuge, 914 Whitfield Rd. Freeport, FL 32439

Organization:  Horizons of Okaloosa County 

Giving Tree Auction and The Horizon Stars Fashion Show

Need: Donations to help children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Date:  November 1 - 13th

Contact: Donna Tashik | 850-376-1037 | 

Location: Online for Christmas tree auction; the final auction will be at the fashion show at the Emerald Grand in Destin on Thursday, November 13th

Organization:  Harvest House

Need:  Food pantry and thrift store that feed and clothe those in need in Destin and the surrounding area 

Date: Every day

Contact: Lori Joyner | 850-837-2277 | |

Location:  300 Mountain Dr. Destin, FL 32541  

1. Become a food pantry partner (see website:

2. Conduct a food drive on behalf of Harvest House

3. Donate food directly

4. Donate clothing and other household items to be sold in the thrift store.  Proceeds from sales are used to purchase food for the pantry…well over $50K this year!

5. Shop in the store!  Our Christmas Bazaar is in November and is an all-day Christmas blowout.

6. Help manage our boutique store or our events such as the Postal Food Drive in May

Organization:  Feline Friends

Need:  Aid feral kittens/cats through Trap/Neuter/Release program [TNR] which also provides feeding stations for feral colonies.  Adoption of rescue kittens/cats are taken care of by the community in their own homes until they can be placed in a forever home through adoption at PetSmart. Foster homes are ALWAYS and DESPERATELY needed.

Date:  Every day 

Contact: or 850-837-3869

Location: PetSmart in Destin for adoptions  

34940 Emerald Coast Pkwy Destin, FL 32541

Organization:  Harbor Docks Restaurant Charities

Need:  Volunteers and kids for the 20th Annual "Take a Kid Fishing Day" with free breakfast, t-shirt, rod and reel

Date: Sunday, November 2nd

Contact: Jackie or Becky | 850-837-2506 - Must pre-register!

Location: Harbor Docks Restaurant - 8:00am - 12:30pm

538 Harbor Blvd.  Destin, FL  32541

Harbor Docks charters about 50 boats to take 350-400 kids ages 7-13from the Gulf Coast area.  After donuts and juice for breakfast, the kids board Destin's finest charter boats.  After they get back from fishing, there is a fish fry and t-shirts and a rod and reel to take home.

Organization: Harbor Docks Restaurant Charities - Destin Harvest and Habitat for Humanity

Event: Thanksgiving Dinner at Harbor Docks

Date: Thursday, November 27th

Cost: Free dinner - donations accepted

Contact: Jackie or Becky | 850-837-2506 |

Location: Harbor Docks Restaurant -   538 Harbor Blvd.  Destin, FL 

Organization:  Mattie Kelly Foundation

Event: Free Christmas concert with toy or gift donation

Need: Bring gifts for under-privileged children to the concert

Date: Friday, December 5th

Contact: Linda Blackwood | 

Location:  Village Baptist Church,101 Mathew Blvd.  Destin, FL  32541

Organization:  Angel Tree Program @ Village Baptist Church

Need: Gifts and necessities for under-privileged children

Date: Month of December

Contact: Linda Blackwood |

Location:  Village Baptist Church - 101 Mathew Blvd.  Destin, FL 32541

Organization:  Food For Thought

Need: Food for local children who don't have the luxury of food on the table outside of free school lunches. Food for Thought provides healthy, easy-to-prepare food weekly to elementary-aged children who might not otherwise have enough food. 

Date: Every day

Contact: 850-290-4056 |

Location: 174 Watercolor Way Ste 103  Santa Rosa Beach, FL  32459

Organization:  Fort Walton Beach High School Beta Club

Need: Backpack Program provides food for the weekend for elementary students at Edwins in FWB who would not have food if we didn’t provide it.  Students stuff backpacks with food and give them to the students every Friday afternoon.  On Monday, the students return the backpacks so they can be re-stuffed the following week.

Date: Every Friday during school year. This is the 3rd year serving a bag of food to 15 students per week plus a backpack of school supplies at the beginning of the school year, a large bag of food at Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break and at the start of the summer.  

Contact: Jackie Sheffield | |

833-3300 ext 1262

Location: Fort Walton Beach High School  400 Hollywood Blvd SW, Fort Walton Beach, FL  32548

Organization: Fort Walton Beach High School Leadership Students

Need: Christmas Connection - over 130 local families and 330 children receiving presents, bikes, food etc.  One of the largest high school-based charities in the nation.  Over $60,000 raised in 2013.

Date: Now thru December 17th - donations accepted at school

Contact: Kevin Schmidt |850-685-0633 |

Location: Fort Walton Beach High School, 400 Hollywood Blvd SW, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

Organization: Prison Ministry with Grace Lutheran Church

Need: Help give hope and faith to prison inmates.  See website for more info:

Date: Outreach weekends - contact Ken 

Contact: Ken Parlow |

Organization: Military Outreach with Grace Lutheran Church 

Need: Packages sent to the military in service

Date: Year-round

Contact: Joann Hailey | 850-622-0320 |

Location: Grace Lutheran Church - 4323 Commons Drive West Destin, FL  32541

Organization: Suppers on Sunday @ Grace Lutheran Church 

Need: Volunteers to distribute meals and love

Date: 2nd Saturday of each month

Contact: Mike Wind | 850-654-1679 |

Location:  Grace Lutheran Church - 4323 Commons Drive West

Organization: Crop Drop @ Grace Lutheran Church 

Need:  Volunteers to bag food from local farmers to distribute to people in need of food

Date: Saturday, November 22   8:00am - 12:00pm but, stay for fun until 3:00!

Contact: Tara Hearn - 850-420-7321| | |

Location:  Grace Lutheran Church - 4323 Commons Drive West Destin, FL  32541

Organization: Operation Christmas Child @ Grace Lutheran Church

Need: Shoe boxes filled with useful items and gifts for girls and boys between the ages of 2-14.  

Go to to see how to pack a shoe-size box and get a list of needs/ ideas for boys and girls. (Please include $7 per box for shipping. )

Date: We will collect shoeboxes until Sunday, November 23rd

Contact: Maureen Taylor 850-654-1679 |

Location: Grace Lutheran Church - 4323 Commons Drive West

Destin, FL  32541

Organization: Boys and Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast

Need: Christmas gift donations for local kids in need

Date: Now until December 15th

Contact: Rita Cummins | 850-862-1616 |

Location: Boys and Girls Club Administrative Office  

923 Denton Blvd.  Fort Walton Beach, FL  32548

Organization: Haven House - Addiction Recovery aid and JEANS Program - Providing back-to-school clothes for local children

Need: Donations for local thrift stores - pick up services 

Date: Year-round thrift stores


Locations: Santa Rosa Beach Store | 850-267-1061 3384 US Highway 98 W, Ste B, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

Destin Store | 850-837-1030

12381 US Highway 98 W, Miramar Beach, FL 32550

Organization: Shelter House for Women 

Need: Volunteers for upcoming runs

Date: November 27 (30A 10K run) December 6 (Luminaria Run)

Contact Name: Carrie Tabor | 850-243-1201 |

Location: 30A Run - Rosemary Beach,  Luminaria Run Destin's Bubba Gumps

Organization: Path of Grace Thrift Store

Need: Volunteers to run thrift store

Date: Every day

Contact: Eddie Mansfield | 850-974-4573 |

Location: Santa Rosa Beach

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