Zach Billingsley knows how important community partnerships are for organizations like the Children's Volunteer Health Network, so when he was able to partner with the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation in 2008, he jumped at the opportunity.
"We cannot do what we do without strong support from our community," CVHN's executive director told The Sun. "Partnerships with foundations like DCWAF, local businesses and individuals are critical because this community is why we exist, and this community is the reason we will be able to continue to meet the needs of our local children."
Since 2008, the DCWAF has contributed $395,000 to the help support the mission of the Children's Volunteer Health Network, a faith-based 501(c)(3) organization, which seeks "to enhance the lives of uninsured and underinsured school age children by facilitating free, immediate access to medical, dental and mental health care."
The CVHN, according to its website, estimates that 25 percent of Walton County and 13 percent of Okaloosa County children have no health insurance and 60 percent of Walton County's families have no dental insurance. The site also notes that there are only 15 dentists in Walton County to serve a population of more than 50,000.
"We utilize volunteers as much as possible, however, the reality is that funding is needed to take care of our local uninsured and underinsured kids," Billingsley wrote in an email to The Sun. "DCWAF has supported two of four major programs, the Mobile Dental Clinic called 'Just for Grins' and the new stand-alone 'CVHN Dental Clinic.' "
The Mobile Dental Clinic is a 34-foot RV that has been converted into a two-chair dental office. The clinic has treated more than 3,500 children and performed more than 21,000 procedures since 2008, Billingsley noted.
Located in Santa Rosa Beach, the CVHN Dental Clinic serves children in both Okaloosa and Walton counties. Like all of their programs, Billingsley said that all children that qualify for the free and reduced lunch program qualify for their services.
Open for only 11 months, the Dental Clinic has treated more than 300 children and performed more than 3,200 procedures, Billingsley told The Sun.
As the president of the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, John Russell said contributing to local charities is the main mission of his organization. In its first year, the DCWAF only supported one charity, and since then they have grown to support 14 charities from Pensacola to Panama City, including Children in Crisis, Shelter House, Emerald Coast Children's Advocacy Center and Food for Thought.
Since 2006, the DCWAF has donated more than $4.7 million to these charities.
In 2012, the Destin's wine auction was named as one of the Top 10 Charity Wine Auctions by Wine Spectator. Not only is this a tremendous accomplishment for his organization, but Russell said the prestige of being recognized is a tremendous benefit to the local charities that benefit from the foundation's success.
Based on live auction funds raised, Destin's $894,620 put them on the map with wine auctions from California, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta and New York. In total, Russell and his team raised $1.22 million in 2012.
"The beauty of it all is the amount of money we were able to raise for our charities," he told The Sun.
The 2013 Destin Charity Wine Auction weekend will be held April 26-28 as part of the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival. For more information visit www.DCWAF.org.
Without the funding from organizations like the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, Billingsley said there would be many children in the area who would suffer from a lack of care due to family hardships or other situations.
"We have seen children come to CVHN for help who have never seen a dentist, have multiple severely decayed teeth and are not able to afford the expensive dental work they need," he said. "They are in pain and many have lost hope. This funding will not only take their pain away and repair their teeth, it will return a smile to their faces, give them their self-esteem back and provide hope for their future."