The evening of Aug. 6 was a night for tears of joy and gratitude as 14 Northwest Florida charities received checks adding up to $1.375 million from Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation.
Founded in 2005, DCWAF has donated more than $6 million to Northwest Florida charities through hosting world class wine and culinary events. These funds have impacted the lives of more than 50,000 youths.
The organization was founded by Wine World owner Chan Cox.
Calling Tuesday a huge day, he said, "I continue to be surprised. The auction is ranked as one of the top in the country and we're able to do all this through community support of this small community. It's a tribute to the generosity of the people here. The day we present those checks is the best day of the year for me. I am blessed to be in this area. We have great people who are very generous. We are all blessed to be here."
One by one, representatives of each charity took the podium as the foundation's president presented the checks, and a spokesperson for each told how the monies will be used in their organization. After receiving more than $1 million from DCWAF over the years, Children in Crisis has been able to build three homes on its campus to house children who need a place to go. CIC received $150,000 Tuesday night to go toward more housing for abused, neglected, and abandoned children in the area.
During the ceremony, other organizations also received checks:
- Pathways for Change received $163,500 to fund comprehensive addiction treatment and family programs.
- Emerald Coast Autism Center received $150,000 to fund a land purchase and facility construction, and scholarships for children on the autism spectrum.
- Horizons of Okaloosa County received $145,000 to fund the renovation and expansion of the Children's Center for those living with disabilities.
- Children's Volunteer Health Network received $139,000 to fund more than 1,000 underinsured and uninsured children's healthcare.
- Emerald Coast Children's Advocacy Center received $130,000 to fund more than 2,000 direct mental health therapy sessions and child services for abused and neglected children.
- Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast received $110,000 to fund healthcare and a Pediatric Navigator for children.
- Habitat for Humanity of Walton County received $101,000 to fund the building of two homes for families with children.
- Shelter House of Northwest Florida received $85,000 to fund support groups, counseling, and advocacy for youth ages 6 months to 17 years, who are touched by domestic violence.
- Youth Village received $71,000 to fund 40 low-income children's scholarships for after school and summer learning programs.
- Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast received $50,500 to support the Club Power Hour tutoring and Healthy Habits youth development programs.
- Food for Thought received $40,000, which will fund food insecurity prevention for school-aged children by providing weekend backpacks of nutritious meals.
- Opportunity Inc. received $30,000 to maintain the children services department at Opportunity Place, an emergency shelter for homeless families.
- Fisher House of the Emerald Coast received $10,000 to fund housing for military families during medical emergencies.
This is the foundation's largest charitable distribution to date and represents a 12.7 percent increase, up $155,000, over 2012.
"We are grateful for all the support that has made this possible," said foundation President John Russell.
He said raising $155,000 more this year is consistent with the goals and mission to always be growing the auction.
"The needs of the children we are helping are going up, not down, so, we must do likewise and raise more," said Russell.
He plans to continue that mission and to accomplish it through diversifying.
"Typically, we have relied on the wine weekend, but now we are adding wine dinners, a golf tournament in the fall, we are partners with the Taste of he Beach, and we are the beneficiaries of the South Walton Beaches Food and Wine Fest," he said. "And we are continuing to work hard to make sure the wine weekend grows by attracting more vintners."
Russell has held the position of president with DCWAF for 18 months.
"I love it. It's nice to be around generous people. They are our partners and it's a recipe for success," he said.
DCWAF's wine auction was ranked as Wine Spectator Magazine's top 10 charity wine auctions in the United States last year.
"It was great to celebrate for one night, but now we have to get back to the work of raising more funds for children in need," said Russell.
The next event is the DCWAF Vine to Wine on Aug. 23. Tickets are on sale now online.
The dates for next year's Destin Charity Wine Auction weekend are April 25 - 27.
For more information visit www.dcwaf.org.