"I think this organization is vital to Okaloosa and Walton counties in teaching people how to remain stable and self-sufficient."

DESTIN — The Others of Destin doesn't believe in the "Band-Aid" approach.

If you ask the nonprofit's Executive Director Laurel Vermillion, the organization instead believes in repeatedly aiding individuals and families facing poverty, homelessness, job loss, addiction and more. 

"We're not a Band-Aid organization, meaning we're not just there for a one-time need," Vermillion said. "Our clients become friends. The organization becomes their community."

Described as a "stand in the gap" organization, the Others of Destin focuses its attention on six programs. Its main focus, according to Vermillion, is providing financial assistance to help struggling individuals pay rent, utilities, auto repairs, child care payments and more.

"It's basically in any area where we can help a family that's struggling to stay employed and going to work," Vermillion said. "Eighty-three cents on the dollar we receive goes towards financial assistance."

For the homeless, the organization has two programs focused on street outreach and special services. The programs help homeless individuals move into stable housing and provides meals, gas cards, clothes, bus passes and more.

"We provide them with all the necessary paperwork they would need to get housing, birth certificates, Social Security cards and emergency prescriptions," Vermillion said. "It's really important for us to fund the dollars for their financial situation and then connect them with one of our 40 community partners."

Founded in 2013, the Others of Destin began by serving 23 clients with financial and physical needs. In 2016, the nonprofit grew to serve 437 households and is projected to aid over 700 households this year.

Its annual budget is approximately $250,000 for financial assistance.

Another way the Others of Destin helps the community is through Housed and Hopeful. The organization partners with businesses in the area to pay first month's rent to those who cannot afford it. This year, 42 families received help through the donated funds.

The last two programs are Vortex of Volunteers, which opens an emergency weather shelter in Walton County when needed, and the Christmas program "Tree of Joy."

In locations throughout Destin, Tree of Joy decorates Christmas trees that also bear the names of children and their three gift wishes. Individuals are responsible for grabbing a card from a tree, purchasing the three gifts, wrapping them and returning them back to the Destin Life Center by Dec. 18.

"Last year we served 375 children," Vermillion said. "It ends up being (more than) 1,000 gifts because every child gets three."

The Others of Destin also holds special programs for single mothers, domestic violence victims, grandparents raising grandchildren, disabled individuals not receiving benefits and also those seeking rehab and recovery.

"I think this organization is vital to Okaloosa and Walton counties in teaching people how to remain stable and self-sufficient," Vermillion said. "We're also moving people from chronic homelessness to stable housing, which reduces harm for them and for our community."

Vermillion said the Others of Destin is always looking for volunteers to cook meals, drive clients to doctors appoints and more. The organization recently received a $102,000 grant from Impact 100 to build a new building, which will include a classroom to teach people life skills.

"Anyone who has expertise in financial development, budgeting, parenting skills or a mental health background we can now use to teach in our new classroom," Vermillion said.

Those needing services or wanting to volunteer can visit othersofdestin.com.