The South Community Comunity Council has announced the three winners of their first annual Distinguished Service Awards. The awards go to an individual, a business, and an organization that have made outstanding contributions in furthering the SWCC mission-"to preserve, protect and enhance the quality of life and the unique natural environment of South Walton County". The winners are Dave Rauschkolb, founder of Hands Across the Sand, Hibiscus Coffee & Guest House managed by Cheri Peebles, and the South Walton Turtle Watch led by Sharon Maxwell. They will be honored at a banquet at Cafe 30A on Thursday, November 18 at 6pm. Individual Award
Dave Rauschkolb, owner of Bud and Alley's restaurant in Seaside, came up with the Hands Across the Sand idea in October, 2009, to galvanize opposition to a bill in the Florida legislature that would have allowed offshore drilling between three and ten miles of our beaches. The concept attracted countless volunteers, was endorsed by many environmental groups and by February 13, resulted in some 10,000 - 12,000 people joining hands on 80 beaches around the state. The bill i the legislature died in committee, never reaching the floor. Then came the massive BP oil spill and Hands Across the Sand became an international movement, protesting not only the safety of offshore drilling, but the larger issue of our dependence on oil. On June 26, Hands Across the Sand demonstrations occurred in all 50 states and more than 40 countries and was widely covered by the national media. All of this grew from an idea of one concerned, energetic and passionate individual - Dave Rauschkolb. Business Award
Hibiscus Coffee & Guest House was founded in 1994 by Kurt & Barbara Tapa, as a one room Bed & Breakfast. As the number of rooms grew and the cafe was opened to the public, the need for an innkeeper became apparent. The face that has become synonymous with the spirit of Hibiscus, is Cheri Peebles, who came on board in 1997. The shared vision of a place where the community and visitors could gather to enjoy the natural beauty of the environment, a hug, good food and great music was a good fit. "We've worked really hard to bring the community together and are humbled and honored receive receivee this award from the South Walton Community Council", Cheri said. Cheri's positive and loving attitude has helped the organic growth of this loving oasis on our coast. "When people walk into Hibiscus it sparks fond memories. I consider that quite an accomplishment. What a wonderful place to spend my day!", Cheri says.
This year Hibiscus added a new event to their repertoire, the Sunday Champagne Brunch, with live music. It was conceived as an adjunct to the 30A Songwriters Festival and a way to give back. They provide local non-profit organizations with everything they need to pour mimosas to the gathered guests for a donation. The selected non=profit then gets to keep the proceeds. They also allow groups like the SWCC to hold meetings, making Hibiscus a perfect choice for Distinguished Distinguised Service Award. Organization Award
In 1995, Sharon Maxwell and a few other volunteers started an organization that would become the SOuth Walton Turtle Watch. Each morning from May 1st through October, the turtle watch volunteers are on the beach looking for the telltale tracks of a mother coming ashore and laying her eggs or the tiny tracks of hundreds of newborns making the mad scramble to the sea. Each morning, seven days a week, Sharon is in constant radio communication receiving reports and responding to situations. Currently there are 70 dedicated people who get up at 5 AM and walk the Walton County beaches at sunrise. The volunteers represent the spectrum of the diversity of our society but there is one strong tie that binds them together-- they care about sea turtles and want to do their part to help ensure the ancient species lives on for future generations.
The South Walton Turtle Watch now has two permits, a website and an educational program for kids. Last year they joined with SWCC in sponsoring the first annual Turtle Fest, a festival celebrating the beginning of a new nesting season. This year, the Turtle Watch has a unique challenge with the BP oil spill. The eggs of 13 of the 31 nests found were dug and transported to the Atlantic Ocean for hatching there. Over the years, the organization has grown, volunteers have moved away while others have moved here, yet the cornerstone of the organization remains: Sharon Maxwell.