Holiday goodwill: Beachside communities rise to occasion

The spirit of giving was in full force along the barrier island, as local municipalities and departments joined together in a variety of charitable endeavors

In Melbourne Beach, Indian Landings held its second annual Christmas collection for Toys for Tots, and Brevard County firefighters from Engines 60 and 65 collected the toys.

“Firefighters picked up the toys with fire trucks and ate dinner with us,” said Judy Whitaker of Melbourne Beach. “The toys will be delivered locally in south Brevard County.”

In Indialantic, Town Manager Michael Casey said the elves were very busy, with the police department also running a Toys for Tots drive – and then, along with the fire department, they hosted the annual Santa run, distributing gifts on Christmas Eve atop a firetruck, throughout various neighborhoods.

“The town also had a mailbox at the tree lighting and town hall where letters to Santa could be dropped off and everyone was answered individually,” Casey said.

But even with the holiday season now past, the spirit of giving goes on.

At Hoover Middle School in Indialantic, Principal Catherine McNutt decided to do something immediately following Christmas break as a way to give back.

Along with Vice Principal Paloma Ferreira and science teacher Laurie Chalko, they came up with Community Service Day, and enlisted the assistance of Curtis Byrd, chairman of the Melbourne Beach Environmental Advisory Board.

“These three dynamic educators saw the importance of showing students how community service is gratifying and fun,” Byrd said. “The entire school will be working on different community service projects which could easily become the building blocks of future volunteering efforts for these up-and-coming young citizens.”

The event will take place on Jan. 8 from 10 a.m. to noon at Bicentennial Park in Indian Harbour Beach and Loggerhead Park Preserve in Melbourne Beach. More than 100 student volunteers will take part, along with local volunteers and assistance from the Melbourne Beach Police Department and Public Works.

Melbourne Beach Public Works Supervisor Tom Davis said the town is always happy to have help from individuals and groups such as this.

“Curtis works hand in hand with us to preserve our environment. He is a very dedicated leader in our efforts in sustainability,” Davis said. “He is our ‘go-to guy’ when we address environmental issues.”

Melbourne Beach Police Chief Melanie Griswold said her officers were especially happy to work with the students at Hoover.

“It is an excellent example for them to see how volunteers from our community can partner together and get projects done for the betterment of our environment,” Griswold said.

Crystal Cain of the Melbourne Beach Garden Club also volunteered her services and will be in charge of the crew at Bicentennial Park on A1A, while Byrd will take the lead for the group at Loggerhead Park Preserve.

“We will be removing exotic invasive plants, such as Hawaiian Half Flower and Mother-in-Law tongues, and planting natives,” Byrd said. “We will also be cleaning up the Park and conducting a beach cleanup.”

Other participants in the day included the Surfrider Foundation, the Global Sustainability Group WFIT, and the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

The community is also invited to come out and take part in the endeavor – but you don’t necessarily need to get your hands dirty in order to help.

“We are looking for native plants of all sorts,” Byrd said. “Since we have both dune and inland types of areas to work in, we are accepting any types of natives including ground cover.”

Suitable donations include Sunshine Mimosa, Beach Sunflower, Beach Creeper and Blanket Flower, in addition to shrubs like Yaupon Holly, Scorpion Tail, and Walter’s Viburnum. They also need mulch and garden tools.

“Of course, refreshments and cash donations would be greatly appreciated,” Byrd said. “We are also looking for members of the public that could help with educating the students on native plants, gardening, beach cleanups and the importance of removing invasive plants while we are on site.”

Donations can be dropped off at Town Hall on Ocean Avenue. For more information, email: CurtisByrd@gmail.com.

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