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Author: Hansen Hasenberg

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.”

Bringing in the dough: What makes a good pizza?

It isn’t a farfetched presumption that nearly everyone reading this has eaten pizza. The food with strong Italian roots has taken over. You can find it in a restaurant or convenience store on almost any street in America, and in some places, like New York City, it’s a way of life.

Although it is a far-reaching dish, with the simple ingredients of cheese, typically mozzarella, bread, and sauce, traditionally tomato, not all pizzas are made the same. Some places stick to the traditions of the old country while others choose to forge their own path with unconventional styles or ingredients.

Wherever pizza has been someone has left their mark on it, leading to new ways to think about how it’s made and eaten. But what makes a good pizza?

While there are many places you can get a pie or a slice, there are few places that serve fresh pizza. In Northwest Florida, there are some pizzerias, generally small businesses, that make their pizza fresh in house.

Places like Sal’s Pizzeria and Grill in Navarre, New York Pizza District in Navarre, Ye Olde Brothers Brewery in Holley, Socio’s Pizza in Pace, Ozone Pizza Pub in Pensacola, and Hideaway Pizza in Crestview make pizza from scratch.

Ye Olde Brothers Brewery begins the pizza making process by making dough from scratch, kneading it, pressing it into an eight- or 10-inch circle.
Jerry Rollison, the owner and co-founder of Ye Olde Brothers Brewery, said they put honey into the yeast.

By putting it into the yeast, the honey gives the dough a unique flavor which differentiates a Ye Olde Brother pizza from others.

Aside from that, Ye Olde Brothers tends to follow a more traditional style of making pizza.

Toppings are put on the pizza in an assembly line style. Usually, one to three people work in the pizza kitchen at a time. There are four ovens available but two are primarily used. Two pizzas can fit in an oven at a time.

Elijah Brightwell, who works in the pizza kitchen, said they cook the pizzas at anywhere from 500 to 600 degrees in their ceramic floor oven, which is warmed by firewood.

“Not really a time limit, it’s just about eyeing it,” Brightwell said.

The pizza is tended to during this process with a pizza peel, which looks like a large spatula. Once it is done, the pizza is pulled out by the peel and sent out to be enjoyed by the customer.

While Ye Olde Brothers Brewery makes their pizzas with a bit of the new and the traditional, some area pizzerias are more in line with what most people think of when they think of pizza, New York style.

Sal’s Pizzeria and Grill has been in several different locations in Escambia and Santa Rosa County over the last three decades. They have been at their current location in Navarre since 2004.

Sal Lacognata, the owner of Sal’s, said he learned how to make pizzas when he was a teenager growing up in New Jersey. He was born in Sicily, moving to the United States at age 10.

“I learned from the old school pizza shops, we would make authentic New York style pizzas,” Lacognata said. “These were guys that started in Brooklyn and then moved to New Jersey, and I learned from them.”

Lacognata said he has tried to take what he learned from them and build upon it with his own restaurants. His experiences at each restaurant or pizzeria he has worked at has informed him about the business, as well as the craft of preparing a pizza pie. Everything made at Sal’s is made in house daily, whether it is the dough or the sauce.

At Sal’s, they use a four deck, stone deck pizza oven. He likes to use the deck ovens because there are no moving parts, and the pizzas are more consistent.

Lacognata and his wife, Maria, teach their employees how to make pizza, which usually takes no more than a week and half. He said it really depends on the person as to when they are ready. For Lacognata, getting a feel for the dough is key. Once you have that, you’re ready.

“It’s something you can take anywhere in world and get a job,” Lacognata said. “It’s a craft, it’s an art and I wish I could teach more people.”

When it comes to all the different styles of pizza, Lacognata sees the diversity as an opportunity to showcase a person’s artistic flare and love of the craft.

“It’s a very volatile type of food, you can get very creative and do a lot of stuff with it,” Lacognata said. “You can do a New York style, which is thinner, you can do Sicilian style, which is thicker, there is all kinds of styles. It’s evolved like crazy.”

While he tries to stick to the traditional ways of making pizza, Lacognata approaches it with the question of what people want to eat. This drives his business. Ultimately, the goal of the pizzeria, as an institution, is to serve the customer. Perhaps that’s why it has had so much staying power.

Pizza can be simple, but it can also be complex. A perfectly malleable dish which has served countless generations of various socio-economic backgrounds.

In the end, what makes a good pizza cannot be answered with a simple answer of ingredients or skill. It is a combination of many elements coming together to create a great slice.

Community Life Church to hold pickleball tournament

The benefits from the tournament will go to the Community Life Church Outreach and Youth Group.

Todd Corbin, a Gulf Breeze resident, is organizing the event.

Corbin said the church allows him and other players to play Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon. Corbin isn’t even a member of the church.

“What they do there isn’t a member thing,” Corbin said. “It’s a community outreach thing.”

While Corbin is not a member of the church, they have entrusted him to lead the tournament. The tournament will take place inside the sanctuary, which doubles as a gymnasium.

Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in America.

The game is played on a 20×44 ft. court. The court is split into multiple areas which include service areas and non-volley zones called “kitchens.”

Players serve the ball, which resembles a wiffleball, underhanded and the ball has to bounce before it can be hit. The “kitchen” is essentially an out of bounds area during a volley, but if the ball is bounced then you can hit it from the kitchen.

The sport is like other racket/paddle sports like tennis. Most pickleball games are played to 11 points and you must win by two points.

Invented in 1965, the origins of the name “pickleball” are somewhat disputed. Some sources say the name came from a dog named Pickles, who was owned by Joel Pritchard, the man credited with inventing the sport. Pritchard’s wife said the name came from her, when she told Pritchard that the game reminded her of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.

Wherever the name comes from, the game has caught on around the country and in Northwest Florida. Corbin said Gulf Breeze just approved the addition of six new pickleball courts at the Gulf Breeze Recreation Center.

Pickleball is especially popular among seniors, as the game helps keep them healthy and doesn’t require as much running around as tennis, which can cause joint stress. Corbin said there is a little something for everyone when it comes to pickleball.

“It is a sport the whole family can play together,” Corbin said. “You can play for pure fun or be competitive. It is a lifelong sport.”

The tournament will have people from all over. According to Corbin, people from Fort Walton Beach, Foley, Destin, Fairhope, and other towns in the region.

“You meet a lot of new friends doing pickleball,” Corbin said. “A lot of people you would never meet otherwise.”

Corbin said there aren’t many tournaments around here. He has participated in four tournaments, including one in Opelika, Ala. which had 400 people at it.

“There really isn’t that many close to me,” Corbin said. “I’ve driven three or two hours, they generally start early in the morning, so you are paying for a hotel, food and by the time you are done you’ve got $300 to $400 in it.”

He has been trying to get a tournament closer to home to keep the cost down and provide a quality place to play and compete. CLC is making that happen.

According to CLC’s website, the tournament is being played under a round robin format and three skillsets: 3.0, 3.5, 4.0. It is an unsanctioned event.

The skillsets are determined based on how well players understand the game and how they play. Things like strategy and ability are taken into consideration when determining a skill level. While skill levels are listed on CLC’s website, Corbin wants people no matter their skill level to feel included. Corbin said there around 54 people signed up already.

If you are interested in playing in the tournament or finding out more information, visit Community Life UMC’s events page at https://www.clc.life/ministries/whats-happening/.

Meet Jamel Boast: Navarre UMC worship director

As worship is a key part of what the church does during services, its important to have a worship director who not only can play music but who lives for it. That’s where Jamel Boast comes in.

On Aug. 8, Boast was officially named worship director at Navarre United Methodist. He had been in the interim role for several months prior. While he has been on the job for just a few months, Boast is no stranger to music or to Navarre United Methodist.

Five years ago, Boast and his family moved to the area from Bozeman, Montana. His wife had talked him into attending several local churches to see if they would like any of them. When he entered Navarre United Methodist, he felt a sense of connection to the people there and the Boast’s decided to make it their church.

Soon, he started to get involved in what was going on at the church, most notably with then worship director Mike Conrad.

“Before I became worship director, I was substitute worship director here,” Boast said. “So, whenever Mike [Conrad] was out or sick, I would fill in for him.”

Conrad told Boast he was thinking of resigning to pursue other opportunities. When the church started looking for a replacement, all eyes turned to Boast. He said it wasn’t something he could see himself as.

“I said ‘no’ many times,” Boast said. “I felt like I wasn’t worthy enough for to take that position.”

He took the position after seeing the support of the community. Boast said it’s the best decision he has made in his life. Rev. Alan McBride, the lead pastor at Navarre United Methodist, has high praise for Boast and what he is doing with worship at the church.

“We love him,” McBride said. “He is doing an awesome job leading our church in worship.”
Outside of leading worship at church, Boast plays music at area restaurants like Al’s Beach Club.

Music has been central to Boast all his life. He said he got his first paycheck at age 12 for playing music and hasn’t looked back.

Growing up, Boast was a massive metalhead. He said Metallica and Iron Maiden are some of his favorite bands from that era. While he loved Metal, he also enjoyed Prince, Wham! and other non-Metal acts.

Being open to different styles of music has been a growing process for Boast, but he said it gives him the opportunity to be a better musician. Over the course of his music career, Boast has been blessed with chances to be near some of the best rock musicians of the past 50 years.

In 1989, Boast signed to Sub Pop records on a one year contract. That same year, a band from Seattle was on the Sub Pop label that would go on to change music history. Their name, Nirvana.
While being on a label presented opportunities, Boast said he never quite felt comfortable with signing contracts for record labels.
“The last thing I wanted to be was a puppet when it came to music,” Boast said. “I wanted to do it on my own terms.”
Boast spent time in several different bands before he became a member and the lead singer of Jamelution, a rock band in Bozeman.
As a band member, Boast has gotten the opportunity to perform as the opening act for the Doobie Brothers, Bret Michaels, REO Speedwagon, and Rick Springfield, just to name a few.
In 2013, Boast decided to become a solo artist. And, as they say, the rest is history.
For Sunday services, Boast selects worship music that reflects the message McBride is delivering in his sermon. He also likes to take inspiration from the previous week’s events, whether they be something that happened in the community or around the world. The curated selection helps bring a relevance to the music in people’s lives, Boast said.
“Being able to perform music for the man upstairs, that’s a whole other level,” Boast said. “I am so blessed.”
There are two services Boast must prepare for. The 9:30 a.m. service is more on the contemporary side of Christian music while the 11 a.m. service provides a more traditional take on worship. In the traditional service, they perform songs from hymnals.
Boast said it has been a bit of an adjustment for him when it comes to traditional, but he welcomes the opportunity.
“There is still a lot I have to learn,” Boast said. “I’m not afraid to admit that. There is always something new and being able to learn something new is awesome.”
For Boast, its never too late to grow and at age 51, Boast said he has come a long way in his music and his life. Boast credits his bandmates at Navarre United Methodist with any success he has had with building up the worship portion of services.
“They put in 115% into what they do, and I will back them up,” Boast said. “We are a team.”
Outside of music, Boast enjoys fishing and spending time with family.

Fall brings festivities, pumpkin patches to local churches

At Navarre First Assembly, the pumpkin patch started on Oct. 1 with the unloading of over 2,000 pumpkins off a truck. The pumpkin patch at Navarre First Assembly will run through Oct. 31. The prices of the pumpkins range around $12 but it depends on the size of the pumpkin.

The pumpkin patch acts as a fundraiser for Speed The Light, an Assemblies of God youth ministry which helps raise funds for missionary work. Closing day of the pumpkin patch coincides with a fall festival the church is hosting.

Isaac Librande, the outreach pastor for Navarre First Assembly, said the fall festival will have games, candy, face painting, and bounce houses. There will also be a chili cook-off.

“It’s always a great time,” Librande said. “It’s our big event that the pumpkin patch leads up to.”
St. Paul’s United Methodist is also hosting a fall festival, in addition to their pumpkin patch.

Savannah Bagby, office administrator for the church, said on Oct. 23, from noon to 2 p.m., there will be music, face painting, a food truck, silent auction, cake walk, games, and the pumpkin patch will be open.

“It’s a big event we do every year,” Bagby said. “Kids come dressed in their costumes and we have games for them.”

The pumpkin patch at St. Paul’s opened on Oct. 10. They got the pumpkins on Oct. 8 and had volunteers from Navarre High School, Gulf Breeze High School, and Lighthouse Academy help them set everything up.

According to Bagby, there was around 2500 pumpkins unloaded. The church is offering community service hours to help with the pumpkin patch.

St. Paul’s has had a pumpkin patch each year for over a decade. Bagby said the pumpkin patch has plenty of photo opportunities for families and games like cornhole.

Pastor Christina Shaver of St. Paul’s said the money raised by the pumpkin patch goes toward the church’s missions and ministries. They intend to donate some of the money to hurricane relief and will work to support the Embrace Florida Kids children’s home in Milton.

She said some of the money even goes to next year’s vacation bible school.

“It is very meaningful to me that people view our church pumpkin patch as part of their family traditions and we are just so grateful they come each year,” Shaver said.

The pumpkin patch at St. Paul’s officially ends Oct. 31.

Librande and Shaver said they both got their pumpkins from Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers, a company that works with churches and other non-profit organizations.

According to Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers’ website, the company began in 1974 as a partnership between a farming family and a local church in their North Carolina town. The company has since expanded and eventually moved their operations to the Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico after Hurricane Hugo hit the Carolinas in 1989.

Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers now works with more than 1,000 organizations across the United States. They work with 25 denominations of churches and youth groups, scouts, schools, fraternal organizations, habitat groups, and other civic organizations.

The company does not charge upfront costs to their business partners, instead they make money by taking a percentage of the sales. Librande said this helps make it affordable for churches to have pumpkin patches.
“Its really safe for churches because you don’t have to spend thousands to buy the pumpkins up front,” Librande said. “It’s real nice.”

Another church with a fall festival is Community Life Church. The 2nd Annual Community Life Church Family Fall Fest will take place on Sun., Oct. 23 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

According to Robyn Phillips, the church receptionist of CLC, the event is free and open to everyone in the community. The fall fest will feature inflatables, carnival games, trunk or treat, face painting, food and more.

On Oct. 29, Navarre United Methodist Church will hold their own fall festival, which will feature a trunk or treat area setup in the parking lot of the church.

Blessing of pets held at St. Sylvester’s

Blessing of the Pets is held in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, a Catholic friar and founder of the Franciscan Order. Francis was known for his teachings on nature and animals, eventually becoming the patron saint of animals.

In the tradition of loving animals and all of God’s creation, St. Sylvester’s hosts this popular event. At this year’s blessing, people brought everything from dogs to birds. One man even had his pet parrot on his shoulder for the blessing.

The event began with Holly Hoskamer, a Columbiette, explaining the reason for the occasion. After a brief synopsis of St. Francis’s work with animals, Harry Larimer sang liturgical music.

“This is all in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi,” Hoskamer said. “We need it now more than ever. Just imagine all the missing animals and pets from down in South Florida [following Hurricane Ian].”

Once the opening portion of the event was over, Kelly led a prayer and began to bless the pets. Kelly used an aspergillum, a liturgical device, to sprinkle Holy Water onto the pets.

The scene was comical at times, with the animals reacting to the water in different ways. The parrot, who was still on its owner’s shoulder, flapped its wings, hitting the owner in the face. Some of the dogs acted skittish about the water, while others didn’t seem to mind at all.

Treats for the animals were available near a statue of St. Francis and everyone seemed to have a good time.

“This year was the 14th annual Blessing of the Pets here at St. Sylvester’s,” Hoskamer said. “Next year, for the 15th anniversary, we hope to do it even bigger.”

Foster Grandparent Program returns to Santa Rosa County

The program, which serves Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties, has been around for 35 years, but has been on a bit of a hiatus in Santa Rosa County due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Santa Rosa County District Schools and the Council on Aging of West Florida coordinate and collaborate to put senior citizens into schools.

“Around the time of COVID, we stopped having volunteers in the schools,” April Martin, director of elementary schools and volunteer with SRCDS, said. “But we just didn’t have foster grandparents.”

Martin said the Council on Aging called her office to see if the program could start again. Alesia Macklin, director of senior volunteer programs with the Council on Aging of West Florida, worked with Martin and SRCDS to help bring back the program.

Currently, foster grandparents are going into elementary schools.

To be a foster grandparent, you must be 55 years old or older, live on a limited income, and can volunteer an average of 20 hours a week. The foster grandparents go through screening processes by both the Council on Aging and SRCDS. The main screening process is through the Council.

“We make sure this is a person that has been fully vetted, so the schools don’t have any issues with someone coming into the school that is not appropriate for the school,” Macklin said.
They also go through a 40 hour pre-service orientation, and a monthly training to keep them on top of what is relevant in education.

According to Martin, foster grandparents talk with children, read to children, model manners and behavior for them, help students with assignments, play games and help with crafts and activities. They also accompany classes on field trips and work with students who might be struggling one on one or in small groups.

“We have so many students who don’t have a grandparent or they don’t have an adult in the home who encourages them or just listens to them,” Martin said. “That foster grandparent is there just to encourage them, to say ‘you can do it,’ or if the child just wants to tell them about their day.”

According to Martin, there are some misnomers about what foster grandparents do and don’t do.

She said they don’t discipline students, do excessive paperwork, act as a substitute or teacher assistant, and aren’t left alone with students. Martin said her mother thought about volunteering but was worried about having to do certain types of work, particularly cleaning or paperwork.

“The main focus is they are the classroom grandparents, and they are there to provide additional support to struggling students,” Martin said.

In addition to potentially making an impact on a student’s life, foster grandparents can also get paid.

Through AmeriCorps, an independent agency of the US government that engages Americans in community service through volunteer work programs, foster grandparents can receive a small, hourly stipend of around three dollars.

Martin said this money can be a big help to seniors on a fixed income.

Starletta Britt, 69, said she became a foster grandparent to be more involved with her nieces and nephews. Britt serves as a foster grandparent at Montclair Elementary in Pensacola. Britt started in 2018.
There have been many positives to joining the program for Britt, but she said the best part is seeing joy in the faces of the students she works with.

“The biggest positive for me is the children, to see the joy on their face when they accomplish what they set out to do,” Britt said. “Whether its adding or reading, they say to themselves ‘I can do this,’ that brings me joy.”

According to Britt, it is experience she wouldn’t trade for the world and tells people, if they can do it, should become a foster grandparent.

With the return of the foster grandparent program, the Council on Aging of West Florida and SRCDS are looking for volunteers to be foster grandparents. According to Macklin, the program provides a great opportunity to make a positive impact on children.

For those interested, please visit https://www.coawfla.org/senior-advocacy-services/foster-grandparent/ or call Velma Franklin, foster grandparent coordinator, at 850-432-1475. Other people interested in volunteering at Santa Rosa County schools can call Martin at 850-850-983-5062.

Pace area Chick-Fil-A closes for remodel

“Chick-Fil-A remodels all their stores at 17 years or so,” Nicholson said.

According to Nicholson, the store will be completely gutted to make way for new accessories and a new layout.

“Its going to be pretty major,” Nicholson said. “The only thing that will remain is going to be the outer shell basically.”

During the construction process, which begins this weekend, the Pea Ridge location will be adding onto the back of the building, expanding the kitchen area, and redesigning the dining area.

In addition to the changes inside, a two lane drive thru will be added around the building. The two lane drive thru will completely encircle the building. There will also be a third lane to be able to park in the parking lot.

“They’re going to redesign the parking lot as well,” Nicholson said. “Hopefully, with the two drive thru lanes, we will be able to keep the traffic off Highway 90. It will be designed for a better flow and more handicap accessible parking.”

With the remodel comes a lot of new kitchen equipment as well. Nicholson didn’t get into specifics but said they will be able to better serve their customers once Chick-Fil-A reopens.

Nicholson said his restaurant will not be able to serve food or anything in the next few months, but the Chick-Fil-A off Nine Mile Road in Pensacola might come by with a food truck in the future. Either way, the people of Pace will have to make alternative plans for the next three months if they want a taste of the original chicken sandwich.

Woodbine congregation spends Sunday doing ‘God’s work’

The nonprofit also provides a place to call home for children who are otherwise abandoned, orphaned, abused, or neglected.

“We’ve been working with them for seven or eight years,” Missions Minister John Lowe said. “We have somebody on staff who was doing work with them before it was even called For The Children. That’s how we found out about it.”

In the past, they would go there once every year or so with 30 to 40 people to help clean the house, cook meals, mow the grass, or whatever else For The Children of Milton needed.

The event, known as “Magnum Opus,” is supposed to be a more grand or widespread version of something the church does called “faith in action.”

With Faith in Action, Woodbine Church members take a day off from church and go out to do community service work.

“In the past we’ve done up to 17 different sites at one time,” Lowe said.

Lowe said they would go to places like the homes of elderly widows to do service work such as cleaning up their yards and cleaning out gutters.

Magnum Opus will be the second event of its kind Woodbine has done. At these events, the church decides to go to one location, all together. They started planning the event about eight weeks ago, but they try and plan events several months in advance.

“This is probably the largest problem I’ve done here,” Lowe said. “This has been a big one.”

Lowe has been on staff for nine years at Woodbine. Before becoming mission minister, Lowe was a facility manager with the church and prior to that, he was a part of a commercial cleaning business.

As part of the cleaning business, Lowe would clean Woodbine Church. He eventually decided to start attending and has been a church member for the past 11 years.

While Faith in Action and Magnum Opus are some big churchwide events, Woodbine has a wide variety of ways members can get involved.

Lowe said the church runs a food pantry and a program which he refers to as “brown bags.”

Brown bags is a program in which Woodbine goes through the school system and any family, whose student or students get free or reduced cost lunches, can get a free Thanksgiving meal kit.

“Everything they need to make it is delivered to them free of charge,” Lowe said. “We deliver that to them the Sunday before Thanksgiving.”
They also do the traditional mission trips abroad, going to places like Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, and Jamaica.

Lowe said the church has been focusing on teaching locals in these countries how to build and run greenhouses to help with food supply issues and give them a dependable source of income.

“The short story of Guatemala is that 95% of the food gets exported and they’ve got a serious malnutrition problem down there,” Lowe said.

One member of the congregation owns a landscaping company and goes down to Guatemala to help them learn how to create these businesses, which help communities monetarily and with resources.

In Jamaica, they’ve built housing. In Haiti, they’ve built churches.

Lowe said they would do more out of the country, but they usually only go once a year. He said summer is the best time to go because children and teenagers are out of school and people have more availability.

While helping abroad is an important part of the work they do, the focus on helping right here, in their own community, is a large part of what Woodbine’s missions program is about.

“Everybody feels like ‘I need to go to Papua New Guinea,’ but there is plenty of stuff in our own backyard to be taken care of,” Lowe said. “It is refreshing to see the immediate gratification of seeing what you do make an impact, but there are long term impacts with things like what we are doing with For The Children.”

Aside from Faith in Action, Woodbine also has a group which goes out and does community projects.

“For example, somebody recently called me and asked if we could send somebody out to help this 74 year old who can’t take care of their yard anymore,” Lowe said. “We just do everything we can to help out the community.”

For Magnum Opus, the church not only relied upon the work of church members and volunteers, but local businesses as well.

Lowe said without local businesses, such as Pittman Lumber and Building Supply, the church wouldn’t be able to make the same impact.

Most of the help Woodbine gave to For The Children came in the form of renovations, from painting to insulation to sheetrock work. The group also worked to build a playground, which had been donated for this project.

While Woodbine got a lot done, the project is not finished yet. In January, the church will plan on similar events for 2023. For Lowe and Woodbine Church, doing the work of being Jesus’ hands and feet never stops.



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