The Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation (MKAF), a not-for-profit charitable arts organization founded in 1995 to be Northwest Florida's champion of cultural arts and arts education for all, recently kicked off its 23rd season with an Awards and Induction Ceremony.

MKAF applauded the following retiring board members for their dedicated service: Brian Beauchamp, Melinda Bowers, Stacey Brady, Lorraine Christen, Donna Fox and Stephen Smith.

More than 300 annual volunteers support the MKAF, but there is always someone who stands out in the crowd. The Volunteer of the Year Award recognized Dale Hull and Jim Nissley for contributing countless hours of volunteer service. Not only have they supported the 19-year MKAF careers of their wives, Marcia Hull and Deb Nissely, but the two have worked quietly behind the scenes at MKAF events, general property maintenance and other odd jobs for nearly two decades.

The foundation's most prestigious award, the Chairman's Sterling Award, honors that special board member who exemplifies commitment, spirit and vision to the Foundation's mission. Stacey Brady of Grand Boulevard was this year's recipient recognizing her four years of dedicated service as MKAF's 20th anniversary chair and serving on the Public Relations, Friendraiser and Executive Committees.

"In my six years of board service, I have witnessed a steady growth in MKAF from the development of the Dugas Pavilion and Village Green at the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village, strengthening the organization's committee structure and fundraising efforts, venue leasing program to investing in an education director that has soared to new populations from students, adults and children with special needs to the Warrior Arts initiative with empowering people of all abilities and backgrounds," said 2017 MKAF Chairman Matt Dahlman in his closing remarks.

This year's chair, Jackie Ely announced her fellow executive committee members: Heather Ruiz, vice chairman; Kevin Bowyer, treasurer; Bill Lindsley, secretary; Shantelle Dedicke, Dion Moniz, Wayne Paul, and Kathy Whidden. Also installed were the 2018 elected board of directors Keri Atchley, Meagan Atwood, James Campbell, Debbie Dodge, Rand Fernandez, Teresa Halverson, Kim Holley, Meloney Howell, Denise Kendust, Pat Madden, Bill McQuillan, Misty Rae Ruthrauff, Elizabeth Spies, Alexis Tibbetts and Todd Wilkinson.

"I am honored to be a small part of the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation's long history,” Ely said. “I look forward to working with some of the best and brightest business leaders in the area in an effort to build on the success of 2017 and bring innovative changes to make 2018 our best year yet."