Helping Hands

Helping Hands

The Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation lifts up Northwest Florida children

Words by Ashley Locke

The Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation (DCWAF) has been serving up the perfect pairing since 2005—wine and philanthropy. Their unique events bring in wine enthusiasts from all over, resulting in millions of dollars of donations to Northwest Florida children’s charities. Over a dozen charities and 100,000 kids have benefited from their work. The impact is undeniable, and they’re just getting started. Here are just a few organizations DCWAF has partnered with to make Northwest Florida better for the kids that call it home.

Emerald Coast Autism Center  

When Heidi Blalock adopted a little boy with autism, she quickly realized that there were not many accessible resources for her in the area. Heidi saw an opportunity, and she started a school which now serves hundreds of kids—and ECAC just broke ground on a second facility that will house their Transition to Work program for teens that have aged out of the school program. “ECAC has been a beneficiary charity of DCWAF since 2010. DCWAF put their faith in our organization and our ability to help change the lives of children with autism in our community. One of the most wonderful things about DCWAF is that they truly partner with their charities. They get to know us, cheer for us, mentor us, and obviously invest in us as well. Since becoming a beneficiary charity, DCWAF has donated $1.8 million to ECAC. They have helped us provide scholarships to students with a true financial need, they have helped us build our own facility to support our kiddos, they have supported new programs and they are currently supporting our expansion with our Emerald Coast Learning Center Capital Campaign project,” said Heidi. 

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Food for Thought 

It all started with a single mom feeding hungry kids in her child’s class. Now, Food for Thought feeds over 3,000 school-age kids through their backpack program. Through partnerships with school guidance counselors, Food for Thought identifies children on free or reduced lunch programs that can benefit from their help. DCWAF helps to fund food costs for the backpack program.  “When we started working with DCWAF, we were serving 300 children in three schools. Over the past nine years, their funding and partnership have helped to fuel our growth and strengthen our organization. Today, we serve over 3,000 food insecure children across 34 school locations. Their support provides us the stability needed to continue to deliver on our commitment to the children who need us the most,” said Executive Director, Tiffanie Nelson

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Children in Crisis 

Children in Crisis is one of DCWAF’s oldest charity partners—they’ve been working together since DCWAF’s inception. CIC provides housing for abused and abandoned children, but they take their work a step further than the traditional foster care system. They also keep siblings together, housing them in one stable community with house parents. Through the partnership, DCWAF has been able to help CIC build more homes on their campus. “Children In Crisis could not have given a home to over 1,000 children without the wonderful support of the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation! For 16 years the DCWAF has donated a total of $2.7 million to keep the CIC Children's Neighborhood open and operating,” said Executive Director, Ken Hair.

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Westonwood Ranch 

One of DCWAF’s newest charity partners, Westonwood Ranch was founded by a family from Alabama with a nonverbal autistic son. They moved to Northwest Florida to utilize the service from another DCWAF partner, Emerald Coast Autism Center. The family noticed that there were limited options to help children low on the autism spectrum transition into regular school and work programs. Today, their work has expanded beyond autism to include kids with a variety of developmental differences. 

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Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center  

Some subject matters are exceptionally difficult to deal with, and ECCAC tackles one of the most difficult of all—child abuse and child sexual abuse. Their work is life-saving. Their partnership with DCWAF helps to fund outreach and prevention programs alongside child play therapy rooms. “The Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation has generously donated over $2,000,000 since our special partnership began many years ago,” said CEO Julie Porterfield. “Their gifts have helped us restore the childhoods of hundreds of child abuse victims in Okaloosa and Walton counties. Their gifts are helping create healthy communities with healthy children!”

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DCWAF is hosting the 6th Annual Harvest Wine & Food Festival from October 13-16 this fall, with proceeds benefiting their charity partners. Events include Winemaker Dinners, Brunch, and the Grand Tasting. To learn more about the events, visit


Through DCWAF’s fundraising efforts, many other children’s organizations are able to get the funding they need to continue caring for Northwest Florida’s children.  

AMIkids Emerald Coast 

Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast 

Boys and Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast 

Children’s Volunteer Health Network 

Habitat for Humanity of Walton County 

Mental Health Association of Okaloosa and Walton Counties 

Opportunity Place 

Shelter House of Northwest Florida 

The Arc of the Emerald Coast 

Youth Village