It was a good news, bad news scenario when a fire occurred at the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center’s (ECCAC) 23 year old location in Niceville that provides healing and protection to area children experiencing abuse and neglect.
ECCAC’s CEO, Julie Porterfield commented, “We are just incredibly sad and devastated that our Niceville Center suffered significant damage Saturday, July 16th. Although there was much water damage from the fire sprinkler system, it prevented a what could have been a devastating fire. As heartbroken as I feel and fighting back the tears, I am thanking God for His saving grace – it could have been so much worse. We may be down, but will rise above the water. We know the days ahead will be long. We will need the community’s help to restore the joy, the cheeriness, the hope the Center once held.”
Recently, ECCAC announced an upcoming expansion to the Niceville Center. Now they are looking at achieving that, as well as a complete renovation of the existing building that was so severely damaged. The building may be temporarily closed, but ECCAC operations are not, the kids will still be served. The Center doesn’t house children, but is set up with a multidisciplinary team of child protection personnel, prosecutors, law enforcement, DCF, therapists, as well as ECCAC staff and volunteers to provide services to the children in a child-friendly environment.
The community support to date has been substantial. As an example, Mike Kay owner of Ocean Views has already been to the Center to save the fish located in an aquarium in the lobby. He will temporarily house the fish. Architect Allen McGinnis, who has provided all architectural services for ECCAC both in Niceville and DeFuniak Springs, and now the new addition, has also offered to provide plans for the restoration of the existing Niceville building. The City of Niceville has stepped to the plate to help, as well as Cross Point Methodist Church in Niceville that has offered office space to ECCAC’s therapists so they can continue offering their counseling to area children in need.
Solange Arnett, ECCAC’s Director of Operations, added, “We would also like to give great thanks to the Niceville and Valparaiso Fire Departments. They were on scene quickly and went above and beyond by securing electrical equipment with tarps they cut and provided. They also retrieved planners and precious keepsakes from offices that were reachable, They even went into windows on the first floor to secure valuable equipment used in the forensics done by the Child Protection Team. The damage to our electrical equipment could have been so much worse if not for their quick actions.”
ECCAC is also asking that people do not make any physical donations of clothing, toys, etc. as they are unable to accommodate these items until the restoration is complete. Monetary donations would be greatly appreciated.
With the concept of no child left behind, Porterfield and her dedicated staff have launched a 3-phase campaign. Phase One, Heads Above Water, has a goal of raising $100,000 to face their mounting expenses that will navigate
the costs of water remediation, relocation of staff and replacing all the items that made the Center so special and child-friendly.
Being unsure of what the insurance claim will reimburse at this time, Phase Two, Silver Lining, prepares ECCAC to be able to fund 100% of the restoration in advance. The community’s generosity is the children’s silver lining.
ECCAC’s Niceville Center Restoration
Phase Three, Over the Horizon, has a goal of raising $1.5 million to focus on what’s ahead for the Niceville Center. This will cover the already planned expansion project, as well as the finishing touches on the main building’s restoration.
ECCAC’s mission is to prevent child abuse and neglect, protect children in Okaloosa and Walton Counties, and restore the lives and futures of these impacted children. In ECCAC’s 23-year history, over 15,000 children have received more than 170,000 services at no cost.
Updates will be posted to ECCAC’s Facebook page. To make a donation, visit www.donorbox.org/eccac-restore. For further information about the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, visit www.eccac.org. If abuse is suspected, call the anonymous Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.