The first meeting of the 2019 season was held at the Fort Walton Beach Recreation Center on Jet Drive with over 300 members present to see history made when Tom Rice of the Magnolia Grill was presented his certificate declaring him the first ever honorary member of the snowbird club. Tom was thanked for all the support he gives us, and especially for the coffee and cookies before each meeting. We welcome Tom as a member of our club.

We were also treated to over 30 vendors from the Fort Walton Beach area, providing us with samples of their wares from various restaurants along with plenty of information from area golf courses, travel agencies, the historical society, the Gulfarium and local medical providers. It was wonderful to see all the vendors who support us while we enjoy the beautiful Gulf Coast.

The meeting was then called to order by President Debbi Garrett, and our Vice President Bill Jones led us in the invocation. Dave Rupe continued his tradition of leading us in the singing of the Canadian and United States national anthems. Fort Walton Beach Mayor Dick Rynearson then greeted us and gave us some history of the city and especially the construction of the beautiful recreation center that provides so many activities throughout the year. The mayor reminded us of the many attractions in the area and hoped that we would take advantage of them.

Next, Rachael Graves of the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce welcomed us and reminded us of the upcoming Winter Fest at the Convention Center on Jan. 17. She also made us aware of how the proceeds from the event help support One Hopeful Place.

One Hopeful Place is an ongoing project to provide permanent housing for the homeless in Okaloosa County. Nathan Monk, the executive director, was introduced and gave us a more detailed account of the success they have had in finding homes and providing education for the homeless population and hopefully providing medical assistance by the end of 2019.

We were then entertained by the Sugar Beach A Cappella Choir under the direction of Jeff Buhler. These delightful ladies serenaded us with tunes from the 1950's like "Rock Around the Clock," "I'm Walking" and "Splish Splash" before taking us on a stroll through San Fransisco and ending with some gospel selections that kept our toes tapping and many of us singing along.

After that activity, leaders then gave us updates as to when various activities would begin and where they would take place. New activities added this year are: pickleball, both indoor at the rec center on Thursday mornings and outdoor at the El Matador tennis area on Tuesday's along with mah-jongg. So join us for a spectacular 2019 here on the beautiful Emerald Coast.

Remember not to bring any leftover troubles from yesterday to the sunrise this morning. Make this day a special day of its own.

Larry Proper is the Publicity Chairperson for the FWBSBC you can email him at