It’s gone from a fire-gutted shell of its former self – to a freshly drywalled interior that smells of fresh white latex paint. 


The headquarters of the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center (ECCAC) slowly continues to rebuild from the ashes of its former self after a fire gutted the building earlier this summer. 


Employees and the children who need the restorative mental health care the center provides haven’t had the ability to meet in the building for five months now. Instead, the center’s services have been spread across Okaloosa and Walton Counties. 


Counseling services have been provided at Crosspoint Church in Niceville – other services have had to move to DeFuniak Springs in order to remain operational. Several more staff members have relocated temporarily to county facilities in Shalimar. 


But the buzzsaws and drying paint point to progress. The remodelers and ECCAC leadership think they will return to the new facility in February of 2023. 


That’s a big deal to the kids and to the center itself – says Julie Porterfield, the CEO of ECCAC. “We’re all ready to get back under one roof,“ she added, “For me, i’ve been here for 22 years. I’ve seen so much happen under this roof – because of that the building is very near and dear to my heart. 

More than 20 years ago, Randy Wise – a local builder in Niceville – built the ECCAC building for these children. Luke Philpott, the Randy Wise Company’s man in charge for remodels, says the ability to remodel this building is a blessing for the company as well. 

"We've all been ready to get back under one roof... For me, I've been here for 22 years. I've seen so much happen under this roof - because of that, the building is very near and dear to my heart."
Julie Porterfield
Emerald Coast Children's Advocacy Center

“We hate the fact that you have to have a building like this and that you have to have the service, but it’s a need,” said project superintendent Luke Philpott, “these [employees of the ECCAC] do incredible work. Randy Wise homes was involved in building this building 22 years ago. And to come back in after all that time and to see all of the names of the children on the walls and their handprints, toes and all the little things that ECCAC had done to memorialize those kids that came through here – it’s kind of surreal to walk through and see the impact that this structure and these people are having on these kids’ lives.” 

a green roofed building in florida
A drone's-eye view of the Emerald Coast Children's Advocacy Center

more than 100 children a month in Okaloosa County are referred to the foster care system for one reason or another.

The pair, Philpott and Porterfield, expect the significant remodel to be completed in the new year – at a lower-than-average cost: Randy Wise Homes has agreed to do the post-fire remodel at pennies on the dollar in order to help out a good cause. 


Ultimately, the pair want to ensure that the building is able to empower children to move past a difficult past into a brighter future. 





“Hopefully, we can start to get children’s childhoods back that have been lost to abuse,” Porterfield said, “there’s a lot of love in this building and a lot of memories and I think that when we bring it back to life it’s going to look different.”

By building the ECCAC, they hope to achieve their ultimate goal – closing the doors for good. “Until that time, we want to make sure we have the best place possible for children to come.”


RELATED: Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center Kicks of 2022 Toy Drive


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