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"More than 300 people with a keen interest in the Emerald Coast's real estate market gathered Wednesday at Destiny Worship Center to ask for God's blessing.
The Real Estate Prayer Luncheon was organized in hopes of breathing life and positive thinking into the area's slumping housing market.
It was the first of what the organizers - co-owner of Crye Leike Coastal Realty Wanda Duke, former Destin City Councilman Mel Ponder and Destiny Worship Center Pastor Steve Vaggalis - hope will become a regular, uplifting event.
"The heartbeat of today's economic community is on the backs of the real estate community," Ponder told the crowd.
The event was an hour and a half of fellowship over lunch, scripture readings, prayer and testimonials. Those gathered had one goal - "changing the climate in the area."
"We need to think positively and get everyone on the same page," Duke said. "Positive things that come out of your mouth will end with positive results. If we lose hope, we lose everything."
Real estates sales are down all along the Emerald Coast. According to figures from Metro Market Trends, total sales in Okaloosa County in May were down 44 percent compared to May 2006, and year-to-date sales in 2007 are down 36 percent compared to last year.
During the luncheon, several speakers, including Buddy Runnels of Cornerstone Development Group and the Sterling Co., reassured the crowd by reminding them that the market has gone down before, but it always comes back up.
"You must have vision, perseverance and passion," Runnels said. "Work hard. Things are positive; they're just in the future."
The luncheon ended with Vaggalis inviting all Realtors present to come to the front of the church auditorium for a special prayer directed toward them.
"We are helpless people turning to a helpful God," Vaggalis said. "That's what this luncheon is all about."