The story goes that 30 years ago, an advertisement was placed in a local newspaper asking if there was interest in forming a club for winter weather escapees who were temporary residents of South Walton. That is how the organization now known as the the Walton County Snowbirds may have come into being.
At the latest general meeting of the group, at the Destin United Methodist Church on Feb. 5, balloons, 500 cupcakes, and a large sheet cake that proclaimed “Walton County Snowbirds 30 years” announced celebration of the three-decade anniversary.
Immediate past president Karen Moosekian gave a speech reviewing the history of their club for the nearly 600 snowbirds attending.
Whether as a result of a newspaper ad or not, in 1989 a meeting was held at Sandestin Beach Resort. More than 100 people attended to select a steering committee that would plan special events for the Walton County Snowbirds. The impetus of the meeting was most likely the new geographical restriction imposed by the Destin Snowbird Club because of their high number of members. The Walton County line would now be the demarcation for membership. Winter residents of Walton County that had been participants in the Destin organization could no longer enjoy the activities it offered.
The new group’s 10-person steering committee established a slate of seven officers that were elected on Jan. 12, 1990. The club’s constitution and by-laws were adopted. Dues were $2 for the season. The Walton County Snowbirds was now a separate entity. In the first season, the roll increased to 755. Members were particularly interested in golf, especially the reduced rates available for groups, card playing, and socializing.
In the 2019-2020 30th anniversary season, there are over 1,000 members, and the board of directors numbers 11. The enrollment fee has increased fivefold, but now nearly 30 activities are offered, most with no further cost than the initial $10 dues.
At the celebration, seven former presidents and the present co-presidents, Sharon and Gary Pinylo, were recognized for their service to the group.
Willingness to volunteer service is a long-standing trait of Walton County Snowbirds’ members. All board members and activity coordinators donate their time and expertise to the organization.
Donations to the larger community are standard as well. At the Feb. 5 meeting, Ken Hair of Children in Crisis presented a description of that program, a primary recipient of funds from the snowbirds.
Individual members of the group volunteer at local churches, healthcare locations, libraries, and charities. They participate in environmental initiatives. They offer help to schools. This support of the community, not under the aegis of the Walton County Snowbirds per se, further spreads the reputation and mission of the organization.
For 30 years so far, the snowbirds have shown their appreciation of the Emerald Coast by helping to care for and improve where they have landed.
For additional information on the Walton County Snowbirds, access their website at wwww.waltoncountysnowbirds.com
Debra Wynn, whose other home is in Connecticut, is looking forward to her fifth year as a Walton County Snowbirds’ member.