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City of Crestview joins in to celebrate Hospital Week

North Okaloosa Medical Center Human Resource Director, Brad McCullough, stated, “On behalf of everyone at NOMC, we want to express our gratitude to the Crestview Fire Department for coming out and serving our staff. The community support is what makes a great team and a city we can be proud to be a part of.”

Mayor J.B. Whitten and Fire Chief Tony Holland, along with other members of the Crestview Fire Department, joined in on Thursday, May 12, to cookout and provide lunch to all North Okaloosa Medical Center employees. There were over 1,200 hot dogs and hamburgers served that afternoon.

This year’s mayor slogan is POWERING PARTNERSHIPS and we love being able to partner with local entities to celebrate with them.

“We are honored to serve the men and women of North Okaloosa Medical Center,” Chief Tony Holland said at the close of the event. “They have always been there in our time of need, so it was a privilege to give back to them.”

Florida Artist Blacksmithing Association announces its schedule

The mission of the Florida Artist Blacksmith Association (FABA) is the teach and preserve the art of blacksmithing. Part of the FABA educational program is to host monthly meetings at six locations around the state.

The first meeting with FABA is always on the organization, after that we encourage you to join this fine organization. Membership is by family and for a family to join go to (click on the membership tab), the cost is only $30 per year.

Here’s the monthly schedule:  

February 26: 9-2, Traditions Workshop, 418 Green Acres Rd, Fort Walton BeachProject: forging a fork

March 26, 9-3, John Butler’s farm, 4112 Bell Lane, Pace

Make and take class $110, lunch included. Project: Make a Railroad spike knife.

April 23, 9-3, Location TBD- probably in Navarre

Jordan Borstelmann will demonstrate how to make one of his trademark axes

May 28, 9-3, Timber Creek Distillery, 6451 Lake Ella Rd, Crestview

Project: forging a sea creature.

Interested or need more information? Contact or call/text David at 850-974-1548.

Swim mission grows in Crestview: ‘We are saving lives’

Shoal River and Davidson will both have swim teams for the first time when the season begins next month.

All three schools can thank Emerald Coast Fitness Foundation, which leased Central Baptist Church’s five-lane 25-yard pool in May. Working in partnership with the church, ECFF – a nonprofit organization that also runs pools in Fort Walton Beach and Destin – made improvements to the pool and brought it up to code.

“People have been very excited that it’s there,” said Kathi Heapy, president and founding member of ECFF. “We reached a whole bunch of new north county residents.”

In addition to hosting practice and competition venues for the three public school teams, the pool has long been home to Rocky Bayou Christian School’s swim team.

In its first summer, the new pool – known as the Recreation Outreach Center or ROC Pool, offered lessons, a summer swim league, Aqua Zumba and scheduled lap and family swim times. Coast Aquatics, a year-around competitive swim team, also practices there.

Okaloosa Gas recently bought a new heater for the pool, which is open limited hours at this time.

Heapy said other businesses have also been very supportive of the pool, which is Crestview’s first community pool that’s open to the public. She also praised Central Baptist Church, which has worked cooperatively with them, including providing locker room use. 

ECFF is a nonprofit foundation that refurbished and reopened the former YMCA pools in Fort Walton Beach and Destin after that organization went bankrupt and closed them abruptly. 

Heapy said it was essential to offer lessons in the north part of the county, where the nearest public pools were previously between 30 and 45 minutes away.

North Okaloosa County is filled with rivers, ponds and backyard pools that children need to learn to safely navigate, she pointed out.

“We are saving lives,” she said.

Military instructors fly Santa in for quick visit

After circling the school multiple times, the Bell 206 “Sea Ranger” touched down in the middle of the school’s auxiliary field. Santa then made his appearance to cheers from dozens of young students. Sporting a big red sack full of candy canes, Santa greeted the children with high fives and festive peppermint treats.

Santa Claus arrives at Gulf Breeze Elementary in style thanks to the HT-8 Eightballers, a helicopter training squadron assigned to Training Wing Five at Naval Air Station Whiting Field. Photo by Nick Acevedo

According to Assistant Principal Kim McChesney, the helicopter training squadron reached out to the school first. Lt. Cmdr. J.T. Kadz, the “Ops Boss” of the HT-8 Eightballers, helped bring this event to fruition after some phone calls and numerous emails to school officials, local police and the fire department.

“We fly over this area every day and that’s one of the things I said to Principal Stevens,” Kadz said. “I said, ‘Hey, I’m sure you guys see our helicopters flying overhead a lot. How would you like us to land and bring in Santa?’”

Kadz got the idea to bring St. Nick to Gulf Breeze Elementary after some friends from his church suggested it. He originally wanted to land at his children’s school, but they’re desensitized to helicopters from being around them so often, he said.

After circling the school a few times and enjoying a smooth landing, Santa waves to the dozens of cheering elementary students while carrying a big sack full of candy canes. Photo by Nick Acevedo

“I’ve got four boys and I asked them if they wanted me to fly to their school and they were like, ‘No, we’re OK. We’ve seen enough,’” Kadz said, laughing.

According to Santa, the flight from the North Pole was excellent, but cold. The helicopter was flown by two instructors, while student naval aviators waited on the ground to help answer questions from hundreds of children.

“This is our training helicopter. We train Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and international students. This is the first helicopter they fly,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jim Mazel of the United States Coast Guard. Mazel oversaw everything on the ground, ensuring a smooth landing by the helicopter team.

“It’s fun for us, it beats working for the day, right?” Mazel said, smiling.

Lt. Cmdr. J.T. Kadz, the “Ops Boss” of the HT-8 Eightballers and 1st Lt. First Lieutenant Dan Konieczny, a student aviator with the United States Marine Corps, answer questions from dozens of elementary students. Photo by Nick Acevedo

Dan Konieczny, a first lieutenant and student aviator with the United States Marine Corps, arrived at the unit earlier this month, and is already getting involved with the local community.

“It’s cool to see them all get so excited about this. I volunteered to come out and do this just because I was one of these kids once,” Konieczny said.

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