ECCAC dedicates new Justice Wing

Special to The Sun
The boards of Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center and guests were on hand to dedicate the Justice Wing of the Pierce Family Center in Walton County to DCWAF. SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It was a special evening, not only for the Pierce Family Children’s Advocacy Center, but also for the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation.

The Pierce Family Center in DeFuniak Springs is the second location for the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center that opened this past spring. DCWAF played a great role in making the Walton County facility a reality. So much so, that ECCAC dedicated the Justice Wing of the new center in honor of DCWAF.

ECCAC is one of 15 benefiting charities that receive funding from a variety of world class wine and culinary events hosted by DCWAF throughout the course of the year. DCWAF has donated more than $13 million to Northwest Florida charities in its 11-year history, including donating more than $1 million to ECCAC since 2007.

The boards of DCWAF and ECCAC gathered to place a DCWAF sign in the Justice Wing and tour the center’s child-friendly 15,000 square foot building with 45 offices in four wings to include a Welcome Wing, Path to Courage Wing, Healing Wing and Justice Wing. A multidisciplinary team of child protection personnel, prosecutors, law enforcement, DCF, therapists, and ECCAC staff and volunteers work there. They do not house children, but provide services at no cost to child victims who have experienced abuse, abandonment or neglect. Startlingly, there are approximately 1,100 cases of child sexual and physical abuse reported annually in Okaloosa and Walton Counties, an average of three a day.

“Last year we saw 760 children, and unfortunately, that is only helping about a third of the kids in need," said ECCAC CEO Julie Hurst. "There’s child abuse night and day. Even on Christmas, there’s no holiday for them. We are so appreciative of the many years of substantial financial donations made by DCWAF and have put the monies to good use to help our kids.”

Key speakers at the dedication were Jim Pierce, whom the Walton County center is named after due to his significant donation. His own troubled childhood has fueled his passion to give back to children in need. There was nothing like ECCAC around when he was a child to help him. Also, John Russell, president of DCWAF; Bob Gelardi, a DCWAF chairman of the Charity Relations Committee; Bill Fletcher, president of ECCAC; Mike Lolley, assistant chief of the DeFuniak Springs police department; Michelle Carroll, supervisor of the Walton County unit of the Department of Children and Families; and Angie Hogeboom, Walton County Sheriff’s Department lieutenant.

“We can’t wait to give ECCAC another big check in 2017," Russell said. "The best gift of all is to make the children happy, healthy and healed from their negative experiences.”