One to Watch: Risa Garner

Photo by Scott Holstein
One to Watch: Risa Garner

Risa Garner proudly proclaims herself a “Bull Nole” — a term used for avid fans of both the University of South Florida Bulls and the Florida State University Seminoles — and says both universities ignited her commitment to community service.

“I truly believe that if you are going to be a part of something you need to go all the way and give it 200 percent,” Garner says.        

Garner, 31, is a member of the board of directors of the Destin Kiwanis Club, an organization that focuses on community and children outreach programs, and vice president of retention at the Junior League of the Emerald Coast. One of the Junior League’s biggest programs is the Child Clothing project, in which they purchase clothing for elementary school-aged children in Walton and Okaloosa counties.

She fell in love with Destin while vacationing here over the years, and jumped on the opportunity to move to the area. She has been working for the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce as director of events since 2006.

“A big accomplishment with my time at the chamber has been to consistently grow the Destin Seafood Festival, which increased from 25,000 to 36,000 attendees,” she says.

But Garner says nothing beats the satisfaction she gets from working with women and children. She especially loves the “bug” awards, where Junior League members give awards resembling ladybugs to Destin Elementary School students who brought up their grades.

“Things that influence (children) — and it may be as small as receiving a bug award — can make a difference in the things they do,” she says. “To know I can make a difference, even a small one, means the world to me.” — Chandell Dixon