The Emerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau is spreading holiday cheer to their neighbors in Northwest Florida with Operation Santa Boat, a philanthropic effort designed to brighten the season for residents in Bay and Gulf Counties who were impacted by Hurricane Michael.
Now through Saturday, December 15, Operation Santa Boat is rallying residents and businesses in Okaloosa County, as well as visitors and beyond, to donate unwrapped gifts for children and adults. Gifts donated to Operation Santa Boat will be delivered to Bay and Gulf Counties before Christmas by local fishing captains using the one thing that connects the region, the Gulf.
This fall, Hurricane Michael touched down in the Florida Panhandle devastating the region. The storm’s destruction will make celebrating the holidays challenging for hundreds of families, particularly those in Bay and Gulf Counties which were hit especially hard. Inspired by the maritime culture of Okaloosa County, the Emerald Coast CVB created Operation Santa Boat not just for hurricane aid, but to help spread happiness and share the special feeling of the holidays with their neighbors, especially those in need.
“There is no region like Northwest Florida,” said Jennifer Adams, Executive Director of the Emerald Coast CVB. “Our maritime culture has built a strong and resilient community tied together by faith, family and friendship. Being a good neighbor is a way of life here, and the Gulf is what keeps us connected. We look forward to delivering the gifts donated to Operation Santa Boat to Bay and Gulf Counties with the help of our charter captains that know our waterways so well. Everyone deserves to have a Merry Christmas.”
The Emerald Coast CVB has partnered with a number of local organizations to kick Operation Santa Boat into high gear. To make participation easy for everyone, the Emerald Coast CVB has created a microsite, OperationSantaBoat.com, with everything needed to make a donation, including:
–An Amazon Wish List featuring 90 unique items that will bring joy to children and adults alike, including practical and useful items. Perfect for donations from those located outside Okaloosa County, all items purchased through the Amazon Wish List will be delivered directly to the Emerald Coast CVB. Please visit: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/3OG6JYFCJZDBT
–Six Operation Santa Boat collection points located throughout Okaloosa County for resident and visitor drop off, including: the Emerald Coast Convention Center, Destin Commons, Emerald Grande, Okaloosa County Administration Office in Shalimar, Brackin Building in Crestview and Emerald Coast Marine in Niceville.
–Donations can also be made at a series of Holiday Events and Parties including Project Holiday Concert, Holiday on the Harbor and Destin Boat Parade and Santa Cause Pub Crawl at HarborWalk Village.
–A Volunteer Sign-up Sheet for area residents and businesses to volunteer at an Operation Santa Boat collection point or help load boats with gifts prior to travel to Bay and Gulf Counties.
Participating partners include Allegiant Air, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Legendary Marine, Step One Automotive Group, as well as Okaloosa Commissioner and Captain, Kelly Windes.
For more information about Operation Santa Boat, the maritime traditions of the Emerald Coast, or visiting the region throughout the year, please visit EmeraldCoastFL.com.