Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation gives $2 million to local charities

Ken Hair accepts a check for $200,000 for the non-profit organization Children in Crisis.

The Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation handed out more than $2 million Tuesday in donations to area non-profits that help local children.

A private ceremony was held Tuesday evening at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville in Destin to hand out the largest donations in the foundation’s nine-year history. This year’s auction raised money for 12 local charities designed to help children along the Emerald Coast.

“All of these charities do programming,” said John Russell, president of the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation. “They’re teaching autistic children and they’re sheltering people and feeding people, but they all have to raise money. If they don’t have to work as hard to raise money because we did it, they can focus on their programming.”

The Destin Charity Wine Auction was started in 2006 and that first year the foundation collected $80,000 for the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation. Since that time, the auction has grown substantially and last year ranked as the sixth highest grossing wine auction in the nation having raised $1.375 million.

Children in Crisis, Children’s Volunteer Health Network, Emerald Coast Autism Center, the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, Food for Thought, Habitat for Humanity of Walton County, Horizons of Okaloosa County, Opportunity Inc., Pathways for Change, Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast, Shelter House of Northwest Florida and Youth Village each received between $100,000 and $300,000 during Tuesday’s ceremony.

“Words can’t even express how much this money is needed for our organization and our families,” Teresa Imdieke, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Walton County.

L.A. Woodall, director of community development for Horizons, said the wine auction brings Horizons’ fundraising to an entirely different level and represents about 25 to 30 percent of their total annual fundraiser collections.

“They provide the local charities an opportunity to participate in a national class fundraiser,” Woodall said. “Horizons would never be able to put on a wine-tasting event, even if we coupled with many other charities locally, with the success they put this one on.”

Russell said he hopes the wine auction continues to grow in the years ahead. The foundation’s forecast is for the auction to raise $5 to $6 million annually in the next five years.

“To me, it’s amazing the level of generosity you see (in this area),” Russell said.

Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation donated $2.035 million to 12 Northwest Florida children’s charities at a private ceremony at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Tuesday evening.

The donations were the foundation’s largest charitable distribution to date, representing a 48 percent increase from last year. Below is a look at how the funds were distributed and how they will be used:

Children in Crisis received $200,000 to fund housing for abused, neglected and abandoned children.

Children’s Volunteer Health Network received $175,000 to fund a mobile dental clinic, health care referral program and CVHN Dental Clinic to serve more than 1,000 underinsured and uninsured children in need of dental care.

Emerald Coast Autism Center received $300,000 to fund scholarships and capital campaign purchase of land and facility construction to serve children on the autism spectrum.

The Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center received $150,000 to fund more than 2,000 direct mental health therapy sessions and child services for abused and neglected children.

Food for Thought received $100,000 to provide 68,000 backpacks of nutritious meals, reducing food insecurity and feeding more than 500 school-aged children on weekends, holidays, and summer break.

Habitat for Humanity of Walton County received $150,000 to fund the building of two homes and half of a third home for families with children.

Horizons of Okaloosa County received $235,000 to fund the renovation and expansion of the Children’s Center for children living with disabilities.

Opportunity Inc. received $100,000 to support the children services department, including children’s coordinator, educational supplies, outdoor classroom, field trips and child care at Opportunity Place, an emergency shelter for homeless families.

Pathways for Change received $215,000 to fund comprehensive addiction treatment programs and operate the family center.

Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast received $150,000 to fund healthcare and a Pediatric Navigator for children.

Shelter House of Northwest Florida received $150,000 to fund support groups, counseling and advocacy for youth ages 6 months to 17 years, touched by domestic violence.

Youth Village received $110,000 to fund summer camps and after-school programming for more than 40 low-income children along the Emerald Coast.