A 'humanitarian effort': Community partners join forces, welcome Food For Thought to Destin

Staff Reporter
The Destin Log
Volunteers from Newman Dailey Resort Properties, the Destin Rotary Club, the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce's Destin Forward class and others spent Saturday morning working at the future site of Food For Thought Outreach's Destin location.

A transformation is underway at the former Pottery Barn site at 908 Airport Road.

Members of the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce's Destin Forward program, Destin Rotary Club, Newman Dailey Resort Properties and other volunteers spent Saturday morning demolishing the building's interior as they prepare the site for its new tenants — Food for Thought Outreach.

"I'm elated as mayor to see them come into this property," Mayor Mel Ponder told The Log. "It's going to be pretty amazing to have this operation along Airport Road. Anything that strengthens the community, I'm all for it."

Teams completely stripped the interior ceiling, tile floors, shelving and exterior patio covers, filling a roll-on/roll-off dumpster completely, then filling a second container 2/3 full. Jon Kazek with DKM Custom Homes is overseeing the demo efforts and renovations, which will include a new roof, air conditioner and window replacements, as well as new ceilings and a handicap accessible restroom. A new 28x28 food storage building will be constructed and used as a pantry.

Food for Thought Outreach is a Santa Rosa Beach-based non profit organization that provides backpacks filled with healthy, easy-to-prepare food for students who are dependent on free or reduced lunches on weekends and during holiday breaks.

The organization, which will lease the Airport Road property from the city, currently serves 15 schools in Okaloosa and Walton counties. It provides 1,200 backpacks to students each week.

"The added stability of a space we can grow with is priceless," Executive Director and Founder Tiffanie Nelson said in a press release announcing the organization's second location. "We will be sending out over 600 backpacks from this location alone."

Destin Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Shane Moody told The Log the chamber staff pushes the members of the Destin Forward class to find a project that includes all parts of project management. In addition, the project must also have an impact on the city as a whole.

"I think this year's project certainly meets those criteria, and I think it's a very aggressive choice," he said. "The partnerships they're creating are strong ones; and when you consider what Food For Thought does for the children and the impact they make in those children's lives on a weekly basis, I think it is a very powerful project."

Destin Rotary Club President Jeanne Dailey has issued a challenge to fellow community organizations, asking them to rally behind the Food For Thought project in Destin, calling it a "humanitarian effort."

"In keeping with The Rotary Club of Destin's mission to eradicate hunger in our community, our club has maintained a long-standing annual commitment to support Crop Drop, Harvest House and Food For Thought," Rotary Club of Destin Jeanne Dailey said in a press release. "It was only a natural decision for Destin Rotarians to embrace the Food For Thought Destin project with both a financial commitment and a commitment to help lead the renovation efforts occurring over the next few months."

If all the work goes as planned, Food For Thought will occupy the building in early March, city officials tell The Log.

City leaders purchased the Airport Road property for $400,000 in 2014 as part of a settlement agreement with property owners who wanted to open a strip club.

The proposed lease is for a period of three years, beginning March 15, 2016, and has options for the organization to renew the lease for additional years. Rent for the initial three-year term would be $800 monthly.

To donate time, funds or services to the project, email info@fftfl.org or visit fftfl.org/products/destin-pantry-project.