Destin Forward learns how to give back

Staff Writer
The Destin Log
The 2016 Destin Forward Class heard from non-profit board members about what it is like to sit on several boards.

Editor's Note: Shelby DeSoto is a member of the 2016 Destin Area Chamber of Commerce's Destin Forward class and will be filing stories monthly chronicling the program.

Tis the season of giving and our Destin Forward class learned all aspects of non-profit organizations in the area last week.

We were inspired by many people from many organizations who are the faces of the organizations they run or volunteer for. While each non-profit we spoke with serves a different need, the overall goal is the same; to make a positive impact within the community.

Many non-profits do their part to implement art education in schools like the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation. I remember having an art class when I was in grade school. Nowadays, most students are lucky to get an art session a few times a year. Art helps shape and inspire creativity in the young minds which in turn can help them be creative with everyday tasks.

But just how Mattie Kelly helps incorporate arts, culture and education, Food For Thought Outreach provides food to children in need.

Without proper nutrition, students do not develop as well as they should, cannot focus in the classroom and fall behind in their studies. Why? Because they are starving. Imagine going an entire weekend without eating anything and then having to be ready for school on Monday. Being hungry is all they can think about. Food For Thought has been making big strides in helping students on a free or reduced lunch program by providing backpacks filled with food items kids bring home with them to have over the weekend.

Harvest House of Destin has been serving the area as a food pantry and thrift store for 30 years. They also provide shelter to those in need.

Board members also spoke to us about the importance of serving. Each person might have said it in a different way but the reason was the same: get involved with an organization you’re passionate about serving. There’s something positive and inspiring that occurs when you volunteer your time and efforts to an organization in need. And even though it is a selfless act, there’s pride in knowing you are helping strengthen your local community.

The need to volunteer is stronger than ever, and not just because it’s that time of year. Harvest House is bursting at the seams and needs more space for their food pantry. Children in Crisis needs supplies and volunteers as well as every single non-profit we heard from that day. The biggest issues each organization faces are fundraising, sponsorship and volunteering.

If you want to see our community be a better place for you and your family to live, then volunteer. Get involved. Make it better. That’s why I am so thrilled that our Destin Forward class is working with Food For Thought and helping build their new food pantry in Destin. While it may be the time when everyone makes an effort to give back, volunteering is an ongoing effort. Our class’ next session will cover the local environment in January. Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Destin.

To learn more about the Destin Forward program, see