Stories From The Heart: John Russell
Service in Support of the Children
John Russell serves as president of the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation (DCWAF), one of the top wine auction foundations in the country and the largest nonprofit fundraising organization on Florida’s Emerald Coast.
Born in rural western Pennsylvania, John grew up with five sisters. As a youngster, his favorite sport was football, and he continues to be an avid Steelers fan. After graduating from Penn State, he began his career in the hotel business, which proved to be a great fit for him. “I’ve been in the service industry, one way or another, for as long as I can remember,” he says. “I was taught the value of service at an early age. I tell people that if I was born 300 years ago, I would have been a butler.”
John moved 20 times in 30 years working for major hotel chains. But once he arrived for work at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, he and his wife knew that the beautiful Emerald Coast was a home they would never leave.
Today, he oversees DCWAF events, raising money for organizations seeking to better the lives of children in Northwest Florida. It is work he is passionate about.
“The idea of having a greater reason to come to work is what I love about the foundation so much,” he says. “If any of us can lessen the burden of another human being, I don’t think you can do much more than that. I live for it.”
The first DCWAF event took place in 2006. Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast and Children in Crisis, Inc. are the two oldest organizations supported by auction funds. The 15th annual Destin Charity Wine Auction will take place April 24–26, 2020, with the money raised going to 16 charitable organizations.
“These nonprofits participate every step of the way, doing a lot of the work,” John explains.
“We’re just the glue. They make the auctions successful, and it is their mission that people are investing in when they come to the events. What makes this a great place to live is the generous spirit that’s here.”
Money raised by the wine auctions also gives charitable organizations the resource of time because they don’t have to expend effort seeking financial contributions.
They can devote that time to their mission.
“Children are our future,” John says. “As a society and as a community, we’re only as good as the people that live here. If our children aren’t given the opportunity to thrive, unless steps are taken to rescue the young who are suffering, they will have a very difficult time as adults.”