By Louis Cooper
At about 41 degrees, the water in Santa Rosa Sound on Friday might have seemed chilly — even frigid — to some folks, but to not Cleveland resident Lauren Kurgan.
"It's going to be warm for me," said Kurgan, who was vacationing in Navarre with her boyfriend, before the inaugural Penguin Plunge at Navarre Beach. "In Cleveland, we do this sort of thing all the time. Right now, Cleveland is covered in about a foot and a half of snow."
Kurgan and 166 others paid $20 each for the joy of dipping into the sound's January waters behind Juana's Pagodas. Proceeds went to the EscaRosa Coalition on the Homeless. A preliminary tally put proceeds at about $1,500.
The plunge was a project of the Pirates on the Panhandle Parrot Head Club, a new philanthropic organization in Navarre inspired by the music and beach-loving lifestyle of Jimmy Buffett.
Club president Jerry Foster said the group was inspired to help the coalition by media reports that south Santa Rosa has more than 200 homeless people.
"I said, 'Let's go freezin' for a reason. Let's do something to actually help somebody,' " Foster said.
Ken Rudski, one of the owners at Juana's, said he sees people sleeping on the beach and under nearby bridges all of the time.
"In the 20 years I've been here, until this year, I haven't seen the number of people that I have seen wandering," Rudski said. "It's a bigger problem than I had realized."
Through fundraisers at the club's socials, the Parrot Heads also teamed with Juana's to raise $3,000 for Fisher House, a foundation that builds resident homes on military bases for families visiting wounded warriors at military hospitals.
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski