'Tis the Season for counting blessings!

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

EDITOR’S NOTE: Heather Pike, marketing coordinator at Destin Commons,  is a member of this year’s Destin Forward class. She will be filing stories monthly chronicling her experiences in the Chamber of Commerce’s leadership program.

As a resident of the beautiful Emerald Coast we certainly do not lack in things to be thankful for.  Our beautiful beaches, an endless supply of stunning sunsets, eateries that serve the best in local seafood and exciting community events top all of our lists. But, coming in at an unchallenged number one is the fervor in which our people care for each other and work to make our little slice of paradise the best place to live, work and play.

Arts, Culture and Non-Profit Day for Destin Forward couldn’t be scheduled during a more perfect time of year.  Holiday events and a large focus on providing for the less fortunate take a front and center role in December.  With Santa on his way, we are all on our best behavior and it’s a time for reflection on the past year as we make our New Year’s Resolutions to become a better you and me.

Our morning started with a resounding presentation by Mike Ullery, motivational speaker extraordinaire.  With the recitation of three soul searching poems and a box of soda cans wrapped in paper with an eye printed on them, he showed us how to prepare our minds each morning for optimal productivity:  1) Begin each day by saying “I Feel Great!” 2) Be a good finder- find something good in everyone and everything 3) Have an “I Can” Attitude (hence the soda cans with the eye on them) 4) Work toward being the best you can be 5) Be loyal to yourself

Mike left us with one final question, “What is the most powerful word in the English language?”  After several class member suggestions, he shared with us his answer – Choose. And with that, we got to see firsthand what the power of choice has on our community.

Art and Culture lay the foundation for any community; it holds the roots of an area’s past, present and future.  Hearing from Sinfonia Gulf Coast, Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation, Emerald Coast Theatre Company and the Heritage Museum we realized how important these organizations are not just for entertainment and economics, but for the education of our children and creating common ground for us all to come together on.  Nathanael Fisher, Producing Artistic Director for Emerald Coast Theatre Company, said it best, “Arts reflect the souls of our people.”   With funds being slashed in schools, these organizations must fill the void and this can only be done through business/ individual monetary donations and volunteering.  This was the perfect segue to the panels following.

Our next speakers were board members for various organizations, directors and executives of charities and community service organization leaders.  Bill Lindsely, Destin Rotary, echoed the sentiment that “Community service is the spirit within Destin, it’s who we are.  We take care of our own.”  Even though their roles varied and their organization’s mission focused on different things, one message rang true – there is a great need in our community.  Whether it be providing a future to our children through Children in Crisis, protecting abuse victims at the Shelter House, giving a helping hand to those less fortunate and providing them with a means to improve themselves with Fresh Start for Families, or to simply “just care” as Walt and Becky Chidsey from the Blue Door Ministry put it, we all have the choice and opportunity to help in different ways.  We were encouraged by Pam Martin of Gulf Power Company to get our companies involved in addition to ourselves personally, “You aren’t just a company or a person in the community, you are the community.  Why not volunteer and donate and give back to ourselves?” 

In the spirit of the Holidays and to jumpstart 2015, the Destin Forward Class of 2015 challenges you, as Mike Ullery challenged us, to do these four things over the next seven days: Drink, Steal, Swear and Lie.  Drink from the cup of life, Steal minutes daily to help the less fortunate, Swear to be better than the day before and Lie in bed at night and thank God for another day.  Choose (there’s that word again) to have passion for your community and the members of it and join together for a greater good.  You won’t regret it.

To learn more about the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce’s Destin Forward program, visit or call 850-837-2711.