Amelia Island Convention and Visitors Bureau
May 5, 2021
More than $7,500 going to seven local causes
“Although misunderstood by some, this program was modeled after extremely successful programs on St. Simons Island and other tourism-centric communities and is clearly a viable model for Amelia Island,” said Maurie Dugger, Director of the Amelia Island Foundation. “
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. (May 3, 2021) – With a unanimous vote during its April 23 meeting, the board of the Amelia Island Convention & Visitors Bureau (AICVB) approved the distribution of $7,563 to seven different local charities and organizations. The funds were raised during a pilot program of the Amelia Island Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization created to supplement the work of various community partners, private organizations, and other nonprofits working to strengthen key assets of the island, which, in turn, ensures a healthy and sustainable tourism industry. While initially a success, the Foundation’s voluntary contribution program was ended due to ongoing COVID-related staffing issues in the local hospitality industry.
“The Amelia Island Foundation was originally formed to actively engage our visitors and the local community in a collective effort to enhance and protect the island’s natural resources, vital workforce, and cherished way of life,” said Jack Healan, Chair of the Amelia Island CVB Board. “Although short-lived, the pilot program demonstrated its ability to create a new funding source to support local improvement projects that don’t qualify for bed tax dollars, and thereby help ensure the continued viability of the county’s crucial tourism industry.”
The hospitality industry is the main economic engine in Nassau County, generating almost $900 million in total annual impact, producing one-third of county tax revenues, and supporting more than 14,000 jobs. In March 2020, the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the tourism industry and its workforce prompted the creation of the “Amelia Island Tourism Gives” initiative, which contributed $50,000 to support displaced workers. According to Gil Langley, President and CEO of the Amelia Island CVB, the Foundation grew out of this one-time effort and the recognition that there will always be a need to supplement the many nonprofit and private partners working to reinvest in this community and its workforce.
“Although misunderstood by some, this program was modeled after extremely successful programs on St. Simons Island and other tourism-centric communities and is clearly a viable model for Amelia Island,” said Maurie Dugger, Director of the Amelia Island Foundation. “The purpose of the pilot program was to identify our pressure points. Unfortunately, lingering staff shortages and training issues made the execution of the program too cumbersome for some local tourism partners. Even so, I’m glad so many local organizations will see some benefit from the effort.”
The AICVB board approved the following distribution of the funds:
· $1,000 AL Lewis Historical Society Museum at American Beach, to support Museum
· $1,000 Barnabas Center, to support local tourism workforce during crises
· $1,000 Council on Aging, to support work related transportation programs
· $500 Eight Flags Playscapes, to support safe, accessible play spaces
· $500 Fernandina Beach High School’s culinary arts program
· $500 Keep Nassau Beautiful, to support Legacy Tree Program at Fernandina Beach
· $3,011.16 Nassau County Ocean Rescue, for offshore rescue Jet Ski communications system
The money being distributed is from voluntary contributions collected over a 34-day period at Sliders Seaside Grill, the local test site for the program. Sliders offered customers the chance to make a donation to the Foundation in the form of a 1% voluntary contribution on their bill. Out of more than 16,000 checks presented during the test period, fewer than 200 guests opted not to participate. On average, contributions were less than 50 cents. All donations were sales tax exempt for the business and tax exempt for the customer. The funds collected are being distributed to the local organizations, as approved by the AICVB board, which was temporarily serving as board of the Foundation.
“I think the Foundation’s program was a good thing for this community, but the continued shortage of workers makes it difficult to add additional training and service duties to execute it while maintaining a high level of satisfaction for our guests,” said Cason Zylinski, General Manager of Sliders Seaside Grill. “We were happy to be the pilot site for the Foundation and thankful for the opportunity.”
The Foundation reported that the pilot program raised more than $7,500 at one restaurant. A similar program has been in place on St. Simons Island to support the St. Simons Land Trust for more than a decade, collecting nearly $800,000 a year. The Amelia Island Foundation projected that the voluntary contribution program could have generated at least $300,000 this year, and had similar success to the St. Simons program in subsequent years for local charities and civic projects.