How You Can Get Involved

How You Can Get InvolvedBy Wendy O. Dixon, Editor

Lately, I dread reading the newspapers. The daily updates on the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have dominated the front pages for weeks. As I write this letter, oil that washed ashore with the tide leaves an ugly stain on Pensacola’s beaches. Headlines read “Plate-Sized Tar Tattoos Navarre Beach,” “Crews Spot Oil in East Pass” and “High Tides Complicate Area Protection Plans as Officials Ponder Pumping Out Dune Lakes.” It’s enough to make a person not want to read the paper.

But I am encouraged to read “Protesters Join Hands Against Gulf Drilling as Oil Laps the Shore” and “Doobie Brothers Rock the Beach.” The people of the Emerald Coast are banding together to volunteer their time, money and resources to help Florida’s coast recover from the oil spill, just as they have done in every other crisis that has come their way.

According to the website, 3,508 volunteers have served 21,285 hours on oil-spill response activities.

To register as a volunteer for the oil spill cleanup, go to The registration database allows organizations involved in the response efforts to choose from a wide variety of volunteers to meet their needs.

You can also help by supporting your local fisheries and charter boat operations. Jerry Sansom, executive director of Organized Fishermen of Florida, says local seafood is perfectly safe to eat.

Organized Fishermen is working with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to create the Florida Gulf Safe Program, which ensures that Gulf seafood is safe for consumption and is labeled as such. So if you are concerned about the area’s fishing industry, continue to purchase local seafood.

You can adopt a pelican and stay informed about how the oil spill is affecting area wildlife through Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research ( Tri-State is leading efforts to rescue and rehabilitate oiled wildlife. Though Louisiana is seeing the highest number of oiled birds, the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge has treated birds and transported them to Tri-State.

Since the oil disaster began, a great deal of attention has been given to at-risk marine mammals, birds and sea turtles. But domesticated animals continue to need care, too. By shopping at S.A.I.N.T.S. (Saving Animals in Need Thrift Store), a store that benefits the local no-kill shelter Alaqua Animal Refuge, you are helping to support abandoned and stray animals. Alaqua also accepts donations and volunteers at the shelter. Become a fan on Facebook (Alaqua Animal Refuge) to keep up with the animals that are looking for a “furever” home.

From what I have observed, the character of the people of Northwest Florida is one of stewardship. And I, for one, am touched to see how much you care about your Emerald Coast.