"Our total impact since 2004 is over $1.2 million. In 2017 alone we saw $108,000 in cash donations."

DESTIN — The Destin Commons is more than a retail haven.

Since the entertainment center opened 14 years ago, it's been a gathering place for the community, not to mention one of the largest private employers in our area, said Heather Ruiz, director of marketing for Destin Commons.

And beyond retail, Destin Commons strives to make the community a better place.

"Because of the impact the center has, it is imperative that Destin Commons do its part to strengthen our community by giving back to local organizations striving to support those in need," Ruiz said. "Our total impact since 2004 is over $1.2 million. In 2017 alone we saw $108,000 in cash donations."

The Commons' Coins for a Cause parking meter program has raised not only funds but awareness about various nonprofits that serve a variety of causes including children’s welfare, active duty military and veterans, education, health and wellness, arts and culture, and animal welfare. Over 49 nonprofit/school organizations have benefited from donations through Coins for a Cause.

"We want to generate awareness about the issues various populations face and the ways our local nonprofit organizations are helping," Ruiz added. "We want to educate the public on all of the ways they can get involved and join us on our mission to make our area the best it can be."

From cornhole to classic cars, Destin Commons is often a venue for popular fundraising events. In 2017 alone, seven nonprofit organizations held fundraising events on Destin Commons property at no charge and raised over $90,000 at no charge to the organizations.

You'll also find Commons management staff putting in some service hours. In 2017, management staff volunteered more than 384 hours through nonprofit board involvement and community service opportunities.

"The management staff at Destin Commons prides itself on being community leaders," Ruiz said. "We are involved in all areas within our community, whether it be civic and governmental support to serving on boards of nonprofit organizations. We dedicated over 400 hours of service in 2017 through volunteer work and civic positions held by our staff, and we will continue to be shining examples of community stewards."

Destin Commons also hosted 13 blood drives in 2017, collecting 299 units of blood with the potential to save 897 lives. Nine pet adoption events at Destin Commons helped more than 25 pets find their forever homes.

Looking at 2018 and beyond, Ruiz said the center is hoping to increase donations through the Coins for a Cause program to help make an even bigger impact on the community. 

"So, please next time you snag a front row parking space in front of your favorite store, throw your spare change in the meter or swipe your card and help us 'change lives one coin at a time,' " Ruiz said.

For more information on Destin Commons, visit destincommons.com.