Unprecedented Times Bring Out the Best


    By Lori Leath Smith, Publisher

    Yes, our world has changed, at least temporarily.

    Local schools remain closed. Education for students is conducted from home. Many continue to work from home, while others may gradually return to their business as it opens.

    Stores close early to disinfect. Other stores are gradually opening limiting numbers of customers; there are arrows and tape on the floor to keep people six feet apart. Plexiglass has been added between customers and cashiers at checkouts and in waiting rooms. Local breweries are making hand sanitizer.

    Drive-through lines at food banks are miles long. Food pick-up and delivery continues. Area bars, nightclubs, gyms and fitness centers are still closed.

    Concerts, fairs, graduations and proms have been cancelled or rescheduled. Family celebrations, weddings like my daughter’s, birthday parties, bridal and baby showers have been cancelled or rescheduled.

    Zoom is the norm for how everyone gathers in a virtual world—teachers, families, friends, work, even happy hour! Birthdays are celebrated with drive-by parades.

    Many churches meet virtually. People wear masks. Some places require them. If you get sick, you go to the ER alone. Toilet paper and hand sanitizer purchases are limited. Banking is drive-through only. Families visit grandparents through windows.

    Countries have closed their borders; vacations have been put on hold. Vacation rentals are still prohibited.

    Roadside checkpoints are set up on interstates and main thoroughfares to check for potential COVID-19 cases coming into the state. No cash is used for tolls including the Mid-Bay Bridge, but still collected via SunPass or toll-by-plate.

    The Good News?
    In the midst of quarantine and chaos, hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer, maybe we’re rediscovering that our lives are gifts—that we’re blessed to be here in the first place. Everything we have in life is a blessing. Our families. Our friends. Our homes. Our jobs.
    As we begin to slowly re-open society, perhaps we’ll do so with more gladness for the simple things in life—true blessings.

    Destin and Okaloosa County beaches are open. The Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier, too.
    Restaurants and food establishments have been allowed to re-open, with full outdoor seating and indoor seating allowed at 25 percent of building capacity.

    Our local grocery stores continue to be open. A number of hiking trails within our parks have also remained open. Boating is permitted and most boat ramps are currently open as are some fishing charters and water sports, pending the number of people on board, including crew, does not exceed 10.

    And our communities are rising to the occasion! Within the deepest longings of our hearts, are we being convicted to live life all the more, even in this time of crisis, biding time by engaging in experiences to help others? From encouragement to “buy local,” to companies donating funds for business grants or food to feed the hungry, to locals purchasing gift certificates for future dining or shopping all contributes to cash flow and keeps our economy moving.

    And some are simply doing their best to cheer folks up! After finishing homeschool work, local resident Diana Graham (a.k.a. Nana) and her grandson, Conor, were discussing how some people are feeling down and the little things people can do to help them feel better. “When I told him about kids up north creating chalk messages, he immediately started making up his own and drawing ideas on the driveway.” The result? An uplifting message that gave passersby by a comforting pause. Nana noticed that almost all letters were capitalized, except the t’s. “They stood out to me like crosses and I’m sure he brightened the day for anyone who drove by and waved.” Mission Accomplished!

    Gregory Dedicke, a local author, copywriter for the Frances Roy Agency and co-founder of survival apparel brand American Renegades, has been using his 3D printer to make surgical mask straps for frontline medical professionals. Using a borrowed design, he prints and provides the mask straps to local professionals at no cost.

    Fudpucker’s received a generous donation of over $2000 that is feeding First Responders and hospital staff. They’ll even match your donation at www.fudpucker.com.

    Destiny Worship Center is feeding hospitals by sending more than 200 healthcare workers a meal each week. Cafe Destin (formerly Just Love Coffee Cafe) has been serving meals to the homeless each day. American Lunch continues to serve free lunches to those in need, Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the following restaurants: Harbor Docks – Monday, Wednesday and Friday; La Paz/Local Market – Tuesday; and Camille’s at Crystal Beach – Thursday. Mellow Mushroom and Shoreline Church sponsored free pizzas available for pick up. Sea Chase Water Sports and various sponsors distributed pizza, soda and popcorn every Wednesday in April. Landsharks has given out free pizzas. Culvers of Destin, The Destin Fishermen for Christ, The Destin Fishermen’s Foundation and Shoreline Church sponsored meal vouchers at Culvers and have fed over 150+ families. Immanuel Anglican Church gave out pre-cooked BBQ Butts and Ribs for over 100 families.

    Not only are schools providing virtual education for your children through in-home learning, they’re providing food for students, several meals on a weekly basis. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office is providing extra patrol and security checks for closed businesses to deter crime and burglaries. Contact Ashley Bailey at abailey@sheriff-okaloosa.org.

    Chambers have partnered with a new initiative, Save Florida Business. By visiting savefloridabusiness.com, you can choose a business from which to purchase a gift card. For $75, you’ll receive a $100 gift card for later use.

    Yes, we are indeed experiencing community like never before—this is but a small sampling of the fortitude, generosity and willingness to help. We’ve been forced to stop. And think. And through this physical quarantine, I believe we’ve actually enlarged our territory. I believe we continue to be changed, formed and forced to think in new ways. And while our physical security has been threatened, I believe we’re discovering something more inside our hearts, drawing strength from our creator, and, thus, helping others bravely carve their way through. We are aware that things can change in an instant. But we can live each day now as if it were our last. And, personally, I hope hugs and handshakes aren’t a thing of the past.

    Thank you for allowing Destin Life to continue to serve our community.

    Thank you, Bonnie Manthey, for inspiration and contribution to this article.

    Resource: Governor’s Step-by-Step phases—flgov.com.