"He told me, 'This needs to be opened,'" said Michelle Jones, city director for Refuge for Women Emerald Coast. "I was crying I was so emotional."

NAVARRE — Refuge for Women Emerald Coast is getting closer to its goal of building a safe house for women.

Last week an anonymous donor pledged to match up to $10,000 in donations during November.

"He told me, 'This needs to be opened,'" said Michelle Jones, city director for Refuge for Women Emerald Coast. "I was crying I was so emotional."

Since last February, Jones, who lives in Navarre, has been raising money to build a safe house for women seeking help after being sexually exploited. Women in the program go through a 12-month program focusing on physical and emotional health, life skills, education and spirtual growth. The program is free.

The donor, who chose not to be named, has been a regular supporter of Refuge for Women Emerald Coast, Jones said. The generous donation gives an encouraging push to Jones and the volunteers behind the Refuge.

"It's validating," she said. "Most of our supporters have been women, but this man told me,'These women could be my sister, my mother, my neighbor.'"

Refuge for Women was formed in 2009 in Lexington, Kentucky, and has spread to cities across the country, including Atlanta and Chicago. Since the organization was founded, it has served more than 100 women. Jones said she's been receiving on average about three calls a week from women in need. The timing of the generous donation is perfect, she said.

"I recently got a call from a woman who was living in some sort of shelter that has been trafficked by her (abusive) husband," she said. "That's why we're doing what we're doing."

Jones said she's still aiming for a goal of early 2018 to open the safe house. The organization is looking at properties in the Milton/Pace area in Santa Rosa County and Walton County.

Refuge for Women has raised half of the $100,000 needed to open a house. In the first year, Jones said she plans to have six residents and will add more in the coming years as the program reaches sustainability.

"This is just the beginning," she said. "I'm fighting for women that are out there with no hope."

Donate to Refuge for Women Emerald Coast at rfwemeraldcoast.org