Our Thankful Community

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By Heather Bennett

One of the many great things about living along The Emerald Coast is our sense of community. We cheer on one another, we pray for one another, and we show up for one another when we are in need. Our community is passionate about showing up for each other during the holiday season in particular.

This Thanksgiving is a little different than others. We’re a community full of hopeful people still recovering from the economic impact of Covid-19 on top of our everyday struggles. However, there are some really great nonprofit organizations and businesses here making sure that we still have a holiday meal to share with our families.

The Church on Bayshore is offering a community-wide Thanksgiving Day meal from 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. If you’re homebound, meals are available for delivery. You simply need to RSVP for the meal, to receive a delivered meal, or to volunteer. Please register at www.churchonbayshore.org/events or call the church office at 678-4621. By doing this for the community, the Church on Bayshore is keeping with its vision “to grow disciples of Christ who love God, share Christ and serve others.” You can visit www.fbcniceville.org for more information.

Other churches such as Crosspoint Church and Destiny Worship Center conducted Thanksgiving food drives for those in need in the community and are delivering to families in our area.

The annual Crop Drop Destin, which provides over 80,000 pounds of produce to more than 50 agencies and 6,000 families for Thanksgiving each year, is scheduled to taketook place Nov. 21 at Destin United Methodist Church. The organization coordinates with farmers in Florida and Mississippi to buy produce that wasn’t sold to the marketplace. Donations and sponsors are always welcome. The more produce they can buy, the more people they can reach. This year, the Crop Drop will be receiving produce in individual family style boxes. These boxes weigh roughly 32 lbs. and include produce and poultry. They not only supply food to those in need, but help our farmers. Partner agencies can drive in, pick up their boxes and take them back to their facility to distribute to their families. Volunteers will be limited to about 35 this year. If you are interested in donating, visit the website at www.cropdrop.org or Facebook page.

Food For Thought will be providing a pick-up service for the families that are enrolled in its school programs in Okaloosa and Walton Counties, which will take place at different locations. They will be providing food that children need during Thanksgiving break, which is about 10 meals, and they will also receive food for a holiday meal that includes a turkey, rolls and fresh produce. Donations are always welcome. Their holiday food list includes instant potatoes, stuffing, cornbread mix, canned veggies and rice. You can check out their website at fftfl.org to learn more about donating food or how you can sponsor a family at Thanksgiving for just $40. If you would like to learn more about how you can get involved, email volunteer@fftfl.org to learn about volunteering opportunities.

During the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, Sharing & Caring of Niceville, an all-volunteer agency (roughly 70), participates with area churches and civic organizations to provide meals and gifts for families, specifically coordinating community efforts to meet emergency needs of individuals and families in the Niceville-Valparaiso-Choctaw Beach area. Normal hours are Monday-Thursday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. – noon. Donations needed include non-perishable food, toiletries, diapers, laundry and dish soap. Monetary donations are used to purchase perishable food such as milk and eggs. If you are looking to volunteer for Thanksgiving or any other time or for an application, please contact them at (850) 678-8459 or visit sharing-n-caring.org/nicevillehome. The final day for Christmas signups is Monday, December 7.

Caring and Sharing in Walton County is providing holiday food items for pick up November 16th-20th, the week before Thanksgiving. People must apply by filling out an eligibility form and qualify for assistance and must live in Walton County. They will receive items for a holiday meal like mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, a turkey or ham and produce. Caring and Sharing is expecting roughly 300 families to pick up meals. They are looking for any additional volunteers to help pack meals, and to hand out food the week of pick up. If you’re interested in donating or volunteering, contact them at 850-267-2866 or visit the website at caringandsharingsowal.org for more information.

Harvest House Destin will be providing food items for an all-inclusive holiday meal to cook at home. Any families in our area in need of a holiday meal can contact Harvest House and they will be sent an invitation to attend a drive-through pick-up on distribution day Monday, Nov. 23. Harvest House is always looking for food donations if you are interested in donating. They are down to a limited number of volunteers. So, if you’re looking for volunteer opportunities, call them at 850-837-2277 to find out how you can help. You can also check out their website at www.harvesthousedestin.org.

Two restaurants will be hosting free meals on Thanksgiving. AJs on the Bayou in Fort Walton Beach will have free meals available. Harbor Docks will have free Thanksgiving meals to go. Donations are welcome.

This year, as every year, I am thankful for being a part of such a great community. I hope everyone gets to share a warm Thanksgiving meal with the people they love and care about.