By Dee Cruce
Let’s celebrate and praise the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, (ECCAC) celebrating 20 years of life-changing service within our community. With a mission of preventing child abuse and neglect, protecting children, and restoring the lives and futures of those impacted, the ECCAC fills a crucial need locally between two locations in Niceville and DeFuniak Springs. Both centers house a multidisciplinary team of child protection personnel, prosecutors, law enforcement, Department of Children and Families (DCF), therapists, therapy dogs, staff and volunteers. Providing services and emotional support to child victims experiencing abuse, abandonment or neglect is the 24/7 job of the multidisciplinary team of staff and volunteers. All services are provided at no cost by the non-profit organization. In 2018 alone, the ECCAC provided services for 780 children, each of whom received counseling and other assistance free of charge.
Since 2000, the organization has seen tremendous growth, but it took major grassroots work and support from our community. When the first center opened their doors, it was run by a staff of three on an annual operating budget of just $180,000. Today the organization has grown with two locations in Okaloosa and Walton County, a team of 21 people and an impressive $1.6 million dollar budget; some 60% of which is raised through special events, private donations and community-sponsored fundraisers. The remainder is generated through grant requests and government funding. To date, the ECCAC has helped more than 14,000 children and provided educational child abuse prevention techniques for 35,000 more.
As their 20th anniversary and the holiday season draws near, there are many ways you can support the organization and give back to the children in our community who need it the most. “Statistics tell us roughly 37% of all children under the age of 18 will be reported by child protective services every year.” These are sobering stats. What’s more, we know many of these children are within our own community and need our support. Please visit the website to learn more about the organization and how you can ‘Adopt a Family for Christmas’, donate, volunteer and much more. Just visit www.eccac.org. You’ll be glad you did. Thank you for all you do ECCAC. We’re so proud of your hard work and dedication to our community’s children!
Okaloosa and Walton County residents can visit the ECCAC at 401 McEwen Drive, in Niceville, or drop by the Pierce Family Children’s Advocacy Center at 336 College Ave. in DeFuniak Springs.
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