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Author: Hansen Hasenberg

Santa Rosa County Animal Services to host a drive-through microchip clinic

During the clinic, traffic along Pine Forest Road will be limited to residents and microchip clinic participants. The road will be open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. SRCAS asks other drivers to find alternative routes during those hours.

Microchips are $10 per animal, cash only. According to SRCAS, depending on what veterinarian you go to, you would normally spend between $50 and $100.

SRCAS said all animals must be secured in the vehicle and cats should be secured in a carrier. For the safety of shelter staff, aggressive animals will not be eligible for microchips. The chip is usually placed just beneath the skin, between the shoulders of an animal. Microchips can take a few minutes to ensure they are properly injected and scanned.

“The chip program is really important because it makes to where an animal is identifiable,” Randy Lambert, Chief of Animal Services, said.

When an animal is found or brought in, the first thing SRCAS staff do is scan the animal using a device which determines whether it has been chipped or not. If so, then the scanner detects the chip and reads it. The information collected from the chip goes into a database and is used to help track down where the animal came from.

“It directs us back to the owner of the animal,” Lambert said. “We can get you reunited with your animal.”
Lambert said Animal Services helped reunite a family with their dog a couple months ago. The dog was brought into the shelter and scanned. As it turned out, the dog had been microchipped years prior. The information Animal Services received from the chip helped them track down the dog’s owners.

The dog was registered with a family in Pennsylvania. According to Lambert, the family told Animal Services they had not seen the dog in a couple years. After connecting with the family, who had since moved to Daytona Beach, Animal Services was able to coordinate a time for them to come get the dog.

Reunions like those are why Lambert says it’s important to get your pet microchipped.

“It was really the perfect story of how the microchip works and how it can get you reunited with your pet,” Lambert said.

SRCAS said community members wishing to participate should plan to arrive early and expect longer waits than other drive-through clinics. Lambert said this is the first time they are hosting a microchip drive-through clinic.

For more information on the drive-through clinic, contact SRCAS at 850-983-4680. To learn more, visit www.santarosa.fl.gov/animals.

King Middle academic team earns bid to national championship

The King Middle Academic Team earned that bid after competing in the Collegiate High at Northwest Florida State College Invitational Tournament on October 28. The tournament featured both middle school and high school teams from across the area.

At the tournament, King Middle found their way to the semi-finals of the tournament before finally being eliminated.

Out of 30 teams, six of whom were from middle schools, King Middle’s seventh and eighth grade team placed third in the high school division, defeating six high school teams in head-to-head competition using upper-level high school questions.

King Middle also finished first place overall in the Middle School division. The top four in the 30 team field will travel to the national championship as well. With their third place finish in the high school division, King Middle also earned a spot in the high school level championship.\

While significant, this year’s team isn’t the first from King Middle to make it to Chicago. In 2019, King Middle became the first ever Santa Rosa County school to earn a bid to the National Championship Tournament. Chris Early, a performing arts teacher and the team’s coach for the past couple years, remembers that team well.

“It was a whole new experience, the students didn’t know what to expect and neither did the coaches,” Early said.

This time, Early said, they feel like they are more ready for competition.

“I believe these kids have an actual competitive chance at this year’s tournament,” Early said.

There are going to be five students who travel to Chicago. Four are the academic team themselves and the fifth is an alternate. There are nine students who are members of the academic team at King Middle.

Early said the academic competitions are essentially ‘quiz bowls’ and teams have to answer an array of questions from school and beyond.

“It’s all things that you would learn throughout all levels of school,” Early said. “There are questions about advanced science, mathematics, art, literature, history, pop culture, and current events.”

The academic team meets once a week after school for two hours and as they get closer to nationals, Early said they plan to meet far more to practice both during the week and weekend.

Early said competing as a public school has its challenges, as they don’t have the same resources and time to focus on the academic team as private schools. Students must juggle schoolwork, fundraising, study time, and their own time.

King Middle School is a Title I school, serving roughly 660 students. With a national championship level team, it brings a lot of pride to the school, says Early.

“We are extremely proud of all of our academic team members and the staff that have worked with them, dedicating their time for this wonderful opportunity,” King Middle Principal Darren Brock said. “This year, we hope to return to the championship and represent our county while competing against other teams from around the country.”

To get to the national championship in Chicago, King Middle will have to raise the funds. Early said the total they are looking at is $10,000. To fundraise, King Middle is planning on doing spirit nights at local restaurants for the team and coupon sales. Early said they have even brought up the idea of wrapping gifts during the holiday season to earn money for the trip in May.

“Some of these kids will never get an opportunity like this again and it’s so important that we get them there,” Early said.

Santa Rosa County District Schools said f you would like to help the academic team students at King Middle School make it to the National Championship in May, you can contact the school at (850) 983-5660 or email PIO@santarosa.k12.fl.us.

Schism: Local churches leave United Methodist Church

As of Nov. 22, 1,314 churches have disaffiliated through annual conferences. More are likely on the horizon.

Disaffiliation is when a member church votes to separate from the denomination. There are several requirements for disaffiliation, namely a two-thirds majority vote of the church members and payments for apportionment and pension liability. The reason for the split can be traced back to a 1972 General Conference of the United Methodist Church.

In 1972, the United Methodists grappled with how homosexuality would be dealt with. After debating the issue, they reached a conclusion that drew a distinction between orientation and practice of homosexuality.

It has been the position of the church ever since that the United Methodist Church doesn’t condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching but accepts LGBTQ churchgoers and asks churches to not condemn lesbian and gay members.

In 2019, a General Conference was held to relitigate the question around LGBTQ acceptance within the church. The Commission on a Way Forward was created in 2016 by the Council of Bishops to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality.

From this Commission came three options: The One Church Plan, The Traditionalist Plan, and the Connectional Conference Plan. The One Church Plan and Traditionalist Plan were the two that received backing.

The Traditionalist Plan was designed to leave the language around human sexuality the same. The One Church Plan would have allowed the ordaining of homosexual pastors, as well as same sex marriages. The Traditionalist Plan was what the church stuck with after a vote of 438 to 384 delegates.

Another item was approved during 2019, paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline. This paragraph provides a pathway for disaffiliation. Now, traditional churches are leaving as they see the larger church becoming more accepting of LGBTQ, even with the 2019 vote around homosexuality.

Over the past few months, local churches have held discussions surrounding the question of whether to disaffiliate. At least four churches in Northwest Florida have split from the United Methodist Church because of those discussions.

On Nov. 12, The Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church held a special-called annual conference session to deal with the disaffiliation attempts by churches in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. It resulted in 35 churches ratified for disaffiliation by AWFUMC lay and clergy members.

Those churches included Chumuckla United Methodist Church, Grace United Methodist Church, Pine Forest United Methodist Church, and, Community Life United Methodist Church.
Navarre Press and Santa Rosa Press Gazette have reached out to these churches. Some have responded to our inquiries, others have not commented or refused to comment.

Grace Community Church, formerly known as First United Methodist Church of Pace, did not comment after we reached out to them, but their former pastor did.

Mark Lilly was pastor at First United Methodist Church of Pace from July 2017 to November 2022. Lilly and two other church staff members left the church following their church’s disaffiliation. He said the decision to disaffiliate, which he was against, was about the growing acceptance of LGBTQ in the United Methodist Church.

“The church adopted a very traditional stance in 2019 and you find that in the book of discipline. In general, the church overall is still predominantly traditional, however, there does seem to be a trend of growing acceptance,” Lilly said. “There are also some United Methodist bishops that have publicly stated they would not uphold the traditional stance and enforce it in their conferences.”

This has led many traditional churches choosing to part ways with the church.

While homosexuality has been the main topic, the supposed lack of disciplinary enforcement has led some churches, like Chumuckla UMC, now Chumuckla Community Church, to disaffiliate.
Pastor Johnny Johnson, who became lead pastor after the disaffiliation, said the vote to disaffiliate was unanimous at Chumuckla Community Church.

“We were not happy with the direction the leadership in the United Methodist Church was taking,” Johnson said. “We felt like it didn’t follow the Bible, so we decided to go our own way.”
Johnson said the Book of Discipline has been disregarded by the hierarchy of the church. He said they have been looking at disaffiliating for several years.

The decision to leave has not been without consequences. Johnson said it cost them $158,000. They paid with funds leftover from a previous land sale.

Several churches have changed their name since the split and are taking their disaffiliations as an opportunity to begin anew. Pine Forest UMC is now WildeLake Church.

At Chumuckla Community Church, which is now non-denominational, they have decided to remain independent for the present time. Johnson said they are currently in the process of writing their own by-laws.

Community Life Church in Gulf Breeze, which did not give comment as to why they left the United Methodist Church, has also decided to go down the route of becoming a non-denominational church.

On Nov. 13, CLC held a worship and ordination service to mark the new chapter in the church’s history.

During the ordination service, Pastor Scott Veroneau told his congregation that they were excited about what the future held and believed the church will continue to serve the community during this new chapter.

Lilly is looking to start anew as well. He and the other former Pace First UMC staffers are looking to open a church sometime within the next year. The church will be known as Open Door United Methodist Church of Pace. Lilly said the church centers on radical hospitality and grace for all people.

County Commission approves land purchase for possible Medical Examiner’s Office

The 9.17 acre site is vacant property which has been discussed as a possible site for the new Medical Examiner’s Office for the past several months.

Starting in 2021, the District One Medical Examiner’s Office has been looking to move out of their limited 4,000 square foot facility, which can currently be found in the basement of Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola.

On Oct. 26, District One Medical Examiner’s Services (DOMES) held a meeting in Crestview to see where their goal of a new facility was. DOMES has been holding monthly meetings to help coordinate and discuss a new facility. The process has been arduous at times, bouncing from meeting to meeting across the four counties that District One covers, especially with the questions of where the facility will be and how it will be financed still lingering.

During the October meeting, representatives from each county discussed the process moving forward. Brad Baker, assistant county administrator for Santa Rosa County, told DOMES that Santa Rosa County would be looking at purchasing the land off Commerce St.

Previously, the plan was for DOMES to buy the land for the future facility.

At a Nov. 7 Santa Rosa County Commission meeting, Baker told the board that while other counties, namely Escambia, are looking at options and waiting, Santa Rosa County should move to purchase the land.

Baker argued whether the site ultimately became home to the new facility or not, the county could have a use of the property for another county facility, an industrial property, or it could be sold in the future.

County Commissioner Bob Cole responded to Baker’s proposal with an interest in buying the property but wanted to reassure Escambia County that Santa Rosa County would be buying it for its “own best use at the time.”

Commissioner James Calkins said he would not support the purchase of the property. He stuck to his word on Nov. 10.

“My thing with this is, it’s a lot of money and, basically, we’ve got a new board coming in,” Calkins said.
Cole reasserted his support for the land purchase at the Nov. 10 meeting.

“Knowing that we are running out of industrial areas, this could be used for one of those purposes, it could be used for emergency management, it’s in close proximity to other areas we own in that area…just the potential being there, knowing the Good Lord is not making any other property, appreciating Brian Finger putting off another purchase because he’s been approached by another person to purchase this property, acknowledging that Escambia County has been told that this is not a step in the direction to squeeze them out, let them go ahead and try to do their due diligence on possibly a revamp on one of their locations, I think we’ve covered all of the bases to go forward with the purchase of this property,” Cole said.

Commissioners Sam Parker and Colten Wright agreed with Cole. They both cited the importance of buying the land for the purpose of a medical examiner’s office but also said the increasing value of the property and the closeness of it to other county facilities makes it a “wise investment.”

After a brief discussion, the board approved purchasing the land.

According to Santa Rosa County Property Appraiser’s website, the parcels off Commerce Road east of Trump Blvd. are currently still owned by Fort Storage Delaware Holdings, LLC. The two parcels were last purchased on Aug. 29 for a combined $637,800.

In June, Caldwell Associates Architects released a preliminary project budget for a proposed DOMES site in Milton. The land acquisition costs were estimated at $800,000. The overall project is projected at $24 million.

According to an Oct. 3 real estate appraisal prepared by realtors G. Daniel Green & Associates, the site is valued at $700,000.

While funding is still in the air for the medical examiner’s office, state Sen. Doug Broxson has indicated to the board he would be willing to get future state allocations if the counties agree to project funding. Previous allocations for the project were $250,000 to Santa Rosa County and $500,000 to DOMES for the design of the facility.

The next legislative session begins Mar. 7, but legislators begin returning to Tallahassee over the course of the next few months to plan and discuss bills as well as funding for the state budget. At DOMES’ last meeting in October, DOMES Director of Operations Dan Schebler stressed the need to come up with a plan within the next few months.

“Any special legislative project requests will need to be submitted to state legislators early next year,” Schebler said in an email sent to Navarre Press on Oct. 27. “I have not seen a specific deadline yet for those submissions. Any request for legislative funding support will need to be accompanied by a commitment of local funding.”

Thanking God: What Thanksgiving means to the faithful

Thanksgiving is also celebrated by other cultures and countries, where it is more directly tied into giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. In Northwest Florida, Thanksgiving is a popular holiday, especially for local churches.

According to Randy Jackson, associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Milton, the idea of giving thanks can be found throughout the Bible, especially in Psalms.

“In Psalms, there are several hymns that encourage people to offer thanks, or give thanksgiving to the Lord,” Jackson said. “In the sacrificial system in the Old Testament, you had offerings of thanksgiving, which were a recognition that everything we have comes from God.”

At First Baptist of Milton, they have a food pantry ministry. Jackson said it has a little bit more than usual in it, given the holiday season.

Thanksgiving is also a time to gather. At First Baptist of Milton, the congregation shares a meal the Sunday night before Thanksgiving.

Elder Alicia Pettus of Navarre’s New Life Deliverance Temple Church said Thanksgiving is all about showing gratitude and giving back.

“The reason for Thanksgiving was initiated as a way to give thanks to Him for allowing them to have a harvest and come together,” Pettus said. “I think one of the biggest things in the Christian community is that sense of coming together and helping to meet the needs of other people.”

She said being grateful and giving back during Thanksgiving and Christmas are important facets to the Christian Church and its mission.

“As a church we try and do that in our community,” Pettus said.

NLDTC has a partnership with Feed The Gulf Coast where they help distribute food to the community once a month. In October, NLDTC helped distribute 13,000 pounds. Pettus said they usually do about 5,000 pounds a month.

In addition to helping feed the needy along the Gulf Coast, NLDTC has also helped people with bills.

This Thanksgiving, NLDTC is holding a special meal for their whole congregation. Pettus said Bishop Mark Williams, the lead pastor at NLDTC, has a goal to see every family have a place to sit down for a meal on Thanksgiving. Pettus said she will be thinking about what God has given to her, her church, and the community.

“It is a time for all of us to sit back and give thanks to God and to the community for supporting us,” Pettus said.

At Woodbine Church in Pace, they too recognize Thanksgiving as both an opportunity to reflect upon your blessings and to help those who may be less fortunate than you.

“The big thing around Thanksgiving is remembering where our blessings come from,” Allen said. “The Lord provides for us, and He also provides for us to give to other people.”

For Allen, putting the “giving” back into the holiday is important. Woodbine Church has been collecting 162 bags of groceries for families through their ‘brown bags’ program. The church delivered the food to families on Sun., Nov. 20.

“When we do that, it reminds us of all the blessings we’ve been given,” Allen said. “Feeding the hungry is part of our faith, we do it throughout the year but especially around this time of year.”

On top of feeding the needy in their community, Woodbine Church also feeds their own. Each year, Allen and the congregation gather to have a Thanksgiving meal. It is a time of fellowship and reflection upon all the year has brought them and their church.

Navarre First Assembly of God also has used Thanksgiving as a time to help those less fortunate. Recently, the church took up a $75,000 offering to help feed those in need.

The offering will go towards One Day to Feed the World, which is a campaign run by Convoy of Hope, a frequent non-profit collaborator with Navarre First Assembly. Pastor Jon Skipper said they also have been collecting boxes for Operation Christmas Child.

“Everything recently has been about giving,” Skipper said.

On Mon., Nov. 21, Navarre First Assembly gave out thousands of pounds of Thanksgiving food for free, including more than 75 turkeys.

“We have a big truck that comes full of vegetables, and we have to unload it and bag it,” Skipper said. “It’s a lot of work.”

For every church, and really every person, Thanksgiving is a time to consider all the people and things which enrich our lives.

Update on three developments coming to Santa Rosa County

In Navarre, Elevate Navarre and Wynnehaven Plaza have been a hot topic of conversation, particularly as Elevate Navarre will bring with it 332 new apartments with direct access to Highway 98.

In Milton, Merganser Commons at Dogwood Estates has already seen its anchor store open. Publix Super Markets opened a location there on Nov. 3.

One company oversees all three projects. Branch Properties, an Atlanta based real estate development firm, has been overseeing all the projects for several months. The development firm owns 30 shopping developments across the southeast including in Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama.

Brett Horowitz is a partner with Branch Properties and has been shepherding the developments.

“We are a southeastern landlord and developer primarily focused grocery retail,” Horowitz said. “We have several Publix based shopping plazas in development.”

Merganser Plaza at Dogwood Estates is a 66,912 square foot shopping plaza that will be home to That square footage doesn’t include an outparcel which will be home to a Santa Rosa Medical Group facility.

The medical facility will occupy 7,500 square feet.

Horowitz said the project has been in development for many years.

“We are approximately 90% leased,” Horowitz said. “There are several tenants including some restaurants and we have about four suites left to lease. The rest is pre-leased.”

Horowitz said those shops and restaurants already leasing will likely be open within the next four to six months. Panhandle Restaurant Group is bringing several restaurants to the plaza. RibCrib and Teriyaki Madness will call the shopping plaza home as well as Scoop’s Ice Cream, Japanese restaurant Nikko Sushi, Great Clips, Domino’s Pizza, and Grand Nail Lounge.

Elevate Navarre will also have retail but is mostly an apartment complex. As of right now, the apartment complex is nearing completion and rooms are currently being leased. There are five floor plans people can select from on Elevate Navarre’s website. The smallest square footage for an apartment is 748 square feet and the largest square footage for an apartment is 1,251.

There are many “resort style” amenities for renters Elevate Navarre touts on their website. As part of the community amenities, the new apartment complex will feature a fitness center, outdoor kitchen and dining area, pool, club room with lounge area and billiards, pet spa, and electric vehicle (EV) charging.

According to the website, the apartments themselves include a private patio or balcony, custom cabinetry, and quartz countertops.

Other than the apartment complex, Elevate Navarre will see Starbucks, Buffalo Wild Wings, Wendy’s, and ABC Fine Wine and Spirits. There is one more outparcel left in Elevate Navarre, Horowitz said.
Wynnehaven Plaza is the third development Branch Properties is overseeing. The shopping center will be located on the corner of Rosewood Drive and Highway 98 on the Okaloosa and Santa Rosa county lines.

Like Merganser Plaza, Wynnehaven Plaza will be anchored by a Publix.
“We are currently under construction [at Wynnehaven Plaza] and we are looking to open Publix early next year,” Horowitz said.

According to Horowitz, there are approximately 17,000 square footage of shopping space at Wynnehaven Plaza. Some of the shops and restaurants that will be coming to the new plaza include a Mexican restaurant called El Jalisco’s, an ice cream shop, a medical use facility, and a Publix Liquors.

It had been reported that the developers of Wynnehaven Plaza were negotiating with First Watch, a breakfast restaurant chain, but Horowitz said in a conversation on Nov. 9 he had not been in any discussions with the chain.

When it comes to the question of why Branch Properties is bringing shopping centers to Navarre and Milton, Horowitz said it had everything to do with growth in Santa Rosa County.

“Substantial population growth, I mean pure and simple,” Horowitz said. “Florida has seen an immense number of new residents in recent years and the Panhandle has been a beneficiary of that.”
He also highlighted the coastal climate and beach tourism as reasons for their investment into these projects.

Compass Community growing in faith

Described by their pastor as a “new church plant,” Compass Community has not officially launched as a church, but that hasn’t stopped them from holding services and becoming an evermore active church within the Navarre community. There are currently 30 to 35 members of the church.

Compass Community meets regularly at the Beach House at Holley by the Sea for services and events. The church started as an idea around 2017 and over the past few years has steadily grown behind the leadership of Michael Bannon, the church’s pastor since 2018.

Just as the church was getting ready to springboard into its next phase and move closer to launching, COVID-19 hit the world.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many churches had to adjust to changes in health and safety measures. Compass Community adapted by going with a livestream of their Sunday worship services.

“We ran smack into COVID, it was tough,” Bannon said. “We livestreamed from my home for a couple of months and when we came back, we continued to livestream. We have been working that way ever since.”

Coming out of the pandemic, Compass Community is looking to grow their church in a new, fresh way.

One thing Compass Community has tried to do is bring all members of families together during their church services. At many churches, children leave the main church service to go to children’s church or some other age oriented worship service.

There are different levels, even up to high school. Bannon sees this as a potential problem due to what he calls the “fragmentation” of families as soon as they get to church.

Bannon’s solution is simple, bring the kids into the main church service, otherwise known as the family worship service.

“It’s been a desire of mine to have kids sit in our worship service,” Bannon said. “I remember having grown up sitting in worship service and I think its something challenging but beneficial.”

Bannon said he believes its beneficial because it helps make the children feel they are a part of the congregation, they learn how to worship via their parents, and they are exposed to bigger ideas around faith and Christianity.

“The idea is to make the children a participant of the event of Sunday worship,” Bannon said. “Are they going to get all of it? No. The adults don’t get all of it. But they will benefit from it nonetheless.”

Children read scripture to the congregation and also have roles in helping with communion. Bannon said the children, due to their involvement in the worship service, are more comfortable with the adults and seniors in the church.

For Compass Community, having the wisdom of elders and the vibrancy of youth in the same service allows for more opportunities to learn and grow as a church and as people.

While children are involved in worship service, they do have Sunday school at Compass Community. Sunday school is before the family service.

Outside of their worship service, Compass Community is holding several adult and children’s Bible studies.

For all ages, the church is doing an Old Testament survey led by Steve Linsky. The survey will teach the theme and key content of each book and its place in the overall message of the Bible.

“A survey is kind of like a flyover,” Bannon said. “You don’t get into too many details, but you try and give the big picture of what it is.”

The women and girls of the congregation have a Bible study centered on what it means to be female, specifically through the lens of the scripture.

The study is also meant to show participants how they can put Christ and the gospel on display in their lives. Bannon’s wife, Teresa, leads the study, which meets the second and fourth Tuesday of each month from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

For the men and boys of the church, there is “Ephesians: God’s Blueprint for His Church.” This study focuses on the process of building a church upon the foundation laid by God. Bannon said they discuss Christ’s work of redemption, the work of the Apostles and New Testament saints, and how the church has been built up to this day.

Bannon said he hopes the community comes to these studies to learn more about the Bible and about Compass Community. Beyond the church, Bannon has tried to reach the broader Navarre community.

Sometime in the next month, Compass Community is planning to hold their annual trip to Navarre Gardens, an assisted living facility, to spread Christmas cheer.

Each year, Compass Community sings Christmas carols and decorates hand-crafted Christmas trees for the residents and staff at the facility. The tradition started in 2019.

Bannon said they typically make the trees from pinecones but that this year they are looking to do it a little differently.

“I have reached out to Navarre Gardens to see what would be better,” Bannon said. “Pinecones degrade and can be hard to keep up with.”

Bannon is still in the process of setting up the Christmas event. The church will have a confirmed date sometime soon.

For those interested in finding out more information on Compass Community Church, you can visit compassefca.org or email michael@compassefca.org.

Immanuel Baptist set to host CCM artists, Building 429

Cameron Theodos, 29, the worship director at Immanuel Baptist, has overseen the setting up of the concert from booking to helping make sure everything is good to go for the show. Bringing a band like Building 429 to the Pace church is no small feat, but concerts are something the church has been getting into more and more over the past few years.

Building 429 is probably best known for their Grammy nominated album, We Won’t be Shaken, and its title track, which garnered lots of airplay when it came out on radio.

Normally, a band of their stature would play at a venue like the Pensacola Bay Center or Vinyl Music Hall in Pensacola, but Theodos said playing at a church like Immanuel Baptist provides the opportunity for a band to perform in from of a thousand or more people without having to spend a ton of money on a venue.

“It’s pretty conducive for bands that aren’t necessarily going to be in the [Pensacola] Bay Center but are still looking for a place that will hold 1,000 people or 2,000 people,” Theodos said.
Theodos said the facility at Immanuel Baptist has space for about 1,600 people to attend the concert.
Immanuel Baptist has been bringing concerts to its facilities for over 15 years. Theodos said before he got there, the church would bring in two to three southern gospel concerts and one to two contemporary concerts a year.

Since coming on staff at Immanuel Baptist two years ago, Theodos has put a bigger focus on bringing in shows like the upcoming Building 429 concert. He said he has tried to make it closer to four a year when it comes to contemporary concerts.

He said the number of concerts fluctuates due to bands’ touring schedules. According to Theodos, bands tend to tour region by region. Usually, a band or musical artist will come back to the Gulf Coast every couple of years.

To get more concert opportunities, Immanuel Baptist has become a venue partner with several promotion companies which bring tours across the country. As a partner, Immanuel Baptist has seen several high profile Christian bands and musical artists come through their doors.

Several weeks ago, We Are Messengers came to town to play at Immanuel Baptist. Phil Wickham, Danny Gokey, and Big Daddy Weave have also graced the stage at Immanuel Baptist in recent years. Theodos said they also do smaller, more intimate shows in their activity center, which holds 500 people. Typically, these shows are acoustic shows.

“Concerts and special events are really great first impressions,” Theodos said. “I really try to use these events as opportunities to open doors.”

He said people who might be hesitant to come to a midweek service or some other event at the church are more inclined to come when there is music. Theodos’ goal in everything he does as worship leader is to bring the positive affirmation of Jesus’ message to people through song.

“Ever since I came here, I’ve wanted to bring a heart of worship,” Theodos said.

As worship leader, Theodos has strived to bring the church into a more contemporary sound, while also paying respect to those who came before him.

“Its not that we are doing anything better, its just that we are stepping into a new season,” Theodos said. “It’s been really cool to see the church embrace that.”

According to the church’s website, their worship service is a combination of contemporary and traditional worship music.

Before coming to Immanuel Baptist, Theodos toured as the lead singer of Alive By Sunrise, a Louisiana based Christian band, for 12 years. He was also on American Idol in 2018. Although he only made it to the ‘Hollywood Week’ round, the publicity he got from appearing on national television opened the door to an opportunity to be an associate worship director at a church in Louisiana.

“From there, I felt the Lord leading me to be a lead worship director and go somewhere I was needed,” Theodos said.

Shortly after, he became Immanuel Baptist’s worship leader.

Given his time touring, Theodos has gotten to know different musical artists across the country, like the guys in Building 429, who he has opened for. These connections have helped bolster relationships between the artists and the churches they play.

“I love putting on shows,” Theodos said. “Getting the opportunity to still be a part of that and helping other artists get chances to play is really special.”

For those interested in attending the concert or finding out more information on Immanuel Baptist Church, visit their https://www.ibcpace.com/event.

Career academies prepare students for workforce

According to the Florida Department of Education, Florida’s CTE programs section is responsible for developing and maintaining educational programs that prepare individuals for occupations important to Florida’s economic development.

When it comes to CTE, Santa Rosa County District Schools has both academies and pathways students can take.

According to Jennifer Hines, the coordinator of workforce education in Santa Rosa District Schools, pathways are focused on getting students prepared through job skills. Academies start at the middle school level. Students can earn industry certifications through both.

The school district offers a variety of certifications. All of which are selected by the district for schools.

When the district picks which certifications it will be handing out, they do so based on a number of factors including whether a course curriculum goes with it or whether a teacher has the same certification.

“The standards have to be aligned to curriculum,” Hines said. “It can’t just be any industry certification.”
Hines said there is a list the state gives them about what certifications they can offer. The teachers must hold the certification prior to their students, meaning if they don’t have it, they don’t teach it.

The academies have grown tremendously in recent years. In 2012, there were 24 total academies across the school district. Now that number is at 66. That doesn’t even count the certifications Locklin Technical College offers. Approximately 9,000 students are in Santa Rosa’s CTE programs.
2022 is the first year the district is offering academies and pathways in elementary schools. The move is to help give students a look at potential careers earlier in their lives. Regional business needs have been the driver for the expansion of the program in local schools.

“The need and demands from industry are what drives the growth of academies,” Hines said.
Career Source Escarosa provides them with information on what career fields are in demand in Northwest Florida. The school district also works with community business partners to help formulate opportunities for students.

She said providing students access to all the academies no matter what school they go to is also a major reason the CTE programs have expanded.

Some of the biggest CTE programs the school district offers are teacher academies, health and science academies, and cybersecurity. Business, digital design, and entrepreneurship academies are also among the most popular in the district.

In the entrepreneurship academy, students learn critical thinking skills, how to adapt, communicate, collaborate, and how to develop a business model and plan.

Randy Parazine teaches several academies at Milton High School, including entrepreneurship, digital design, and Digital information technology (DIT).

Parazine teaches three different digital design courses, with each building upon the last. In his digital design courses, students learn how to use Adobe applications such as photoshop, illustrator, Premiere Pro, and InDesign.

Not only do they learn about it, but students also get certifications. In DIT, his students do essentially the same thing but with Microsoft Office applications.

The entrepreneurship class Parazine teaches has 14 students right now, who learn all about the ins and outs of running a business.

“In that class, we do a Shark Tank project,” Parazine said. “I have some people from the community come in.”

Shark Tank is a television show which features a group of successful businesspeople who listen to pitches from upcoming entrepreneurs about their business startups. Last year, Parazine brought business leaders from the Milton and Pace communities to judge his students’ pitches.

Parazine said a banker, a man who owns several businesses, a former business owner, and Alyssa Schepper, the owner of Alyssa’s in Pace, were among the panelists. To prepare for the Shark Tank pitch, students spent more than a month preparing their project.

“They had to come up with either an original business idea or an improvement on an already existing idea,” Parazine said. “They have to write a business plan, create a commercial, have some type of presentation, so it’s a pretty in-depth process.”

The day of their presentation, the students dressed up and went before the “sharks” to showcase their business idea. They videotaped the pitches and afterwards, the class dissected what improvements could be made to the presentation and pitch.

Parazine said he also does job interview training with the entrepreneurship students.
“Not only does it help them interview for a job, but it also helps them if they were ever to own a business to see what the process is like,” Parazine said.

The students fill out applications, create resumes, and prepare for job interviews for real life jobs.

As part of the academy, students take an entrepreneurship and small business exam to earn a certification. From the Shark Tank project to the exam, all of what is in the academy is meant to give students a better understanding of entrepreneurship and prepare them to potentially run their own businesses one day. This is especially true for students who are not likely to go to college.

“Not every kid is going to go to college,” Parazine said. “I’ve got a student whose dad owns a concrete company and he’ll never go to college, but this class allows him to help run his dad’s business. There are a lot of kids like that, they need this stuff because it gets them prepared for life.”

Coffee connection: Central School library offers more than books

Open for only 30 minutes, the coffee shop serves iced coffee and hot coffee, and offers hazelnut and French Vanilla options for creamers. A 16 oz. cup of coffee at Central’s coffee shop will cost you $3. On Tuesdays, the price drops to $2 a cup as a ‘two for Tuesday’ special.

The coffee is largely made beforehand due to the time constraints.

Nikki Golden, the media specialist at Central School, said the profits from the coffee shop go towards library services like literacy initiatives. They have used the funds to buy things for all the students across the school, from toys for elementary students to feeding the boys basketball team before a game.

“The students put the money into the coffee shop, and I want the profits to go back into the students,” Golden said. “What can we do to make this school better for the students?”

Two students, who are sisters, help Golden run the shop. Julia Campbell and Ella Campbell are teacher’s kids and are at Central early enough to work at the coffee shop. Golden said it’s a great opportunity for students like them to learn business and leadership skills like running the shop and taking inventory.

The coffee shop started in the 2019-2020 school year. Golden said she had the idea for the coffee shop before she was hired at Central. There are two libraries at Central, which is a pre-K through 12 grade school. One is for the younger students and the other for older students.

“When I interviewed for the position of librarian, they asked me what I envisioned for the libraries,” Golden said. “My goal for the high school library was to make it a hub for the kids, a safe place to hang out and socialize in the morning.”

The coffee shop emerged from that goal. Golden said her hope was to drive more students into the library and, by extension, get more people reading books.

While school, especially high school, can be cliquish, Golden has noticed the coffee shop is a place where every student feels welcome.

“It’s a solid atmosphere for everyone, we see all the students mingling together,” Golden said. “You have athletes, band students, avid readers and so many others in there.”

She said when kids get off the bus, many come straight to the library to grab some coffee. A few take it to go, but a lot of students stay. For those that do stay, there are games and activities for them to play like checkers, tic-tac-toe, connect four, and Uno.

Golden said even the students who don’t drink coffee come in and socialize with their peers. While the coffee shop is running, the library is too. They check out books to the students who come visit in the mornings.

Students aren’t the only ones who come to get a cup of joe, teachers also take advantage of the coffee shop. Golden said it provides the perfect opportunity for teachers to speak to students outside of the classroom setting.

“An elementary teacher might come in and see a student that she taught five years ago and just get a chance to catch up with how they are doing,” Golden said. “Its just a really warm atmosphere where people can have a relaxing start to their day.”

Golden said even the school’s administration can be found in the library at some point in the morning.

Other librarians have asked Golden about having a coffee shop in their library. She hopes others take a hard look at bringing it to their school, as it can help with library funding.

“This is a really great fundraiser,” Golden said. “We as librarians are always looking for fundraiser opportunities to support activities like accelerated reader awards.”



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