In these unprecedented pandemic times, the community has stepped up to help the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center (ECCAC) in Niceville and the Pierce Family Center in DeFuniak Springs. This is also a time to acknowledge the importance of the community working together to help prevent child abuse and neglect, and also to promote the social and emotional well-being of impacted children and their families. The circumstances surrounding the coronavirus change daily. For the safety of the children ECCAC serves, their Centers’ lobbies are closed until it is deemed safe to re-open. Although the lobbies are closed, the Center and its agency partners are still responding to and investigating child abuse cases. These children are being seen at the Center. Historically in times of stress and anxiety, child abuse reports escalate. ECCAC anticipates the same with this crisis. Their therapists are conducting virtual “tele-therapy” sessions with children, and staff is hard at work from home. Many members of ECCAC’s team partners are considered essential workers, such as law enforcement, prosecutors, child protection teams and the Department of Children and Families. Distillery 98, located in Santa Rosa Beach, was kind enough to donate 5 gallons of sanitizer. Velia Lala, an ECCAC board member and owner of Velia Lala Designs in Ft. Walton Beach, along with her team, have been making face masks. They have donated over 70 face masks in the past several weeks. Then there is long-time volunteer at the Niceville Center, Bernadette Williams. For the past 5 years, she has been an admin volunteer helping the staff. Now that she is adhering to Florida’s stay-at-home directive, she got busy and has made over 50 face masks for ECCAC and their partners. “We are so appreciative of the continued support we are getting from the community, as well as our own board members and volunteers, despite the circumstances,” commented ECCAC’s CEO, Julie Porterfield. “It definitely shows the spirit of this country and people’s innate desire to do something to help that starts right here in our local communities.” ECCAC is in its 20th year in operation this year. They have provided over 150,000 services at no cost to include mental health therapy, crisis intervention, referrals to other community providers, interviews and medicals to more than 14,000 children and their families. For further information, visit www.eccac.org. If abuse is suspected, call the anonymous Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.
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