The Emerald Coast Children's Advocacy Center has received a 99-year lease after a unanimous vote from Walton County Commissioners at Tuesday night's board meeting.

The commissioners approved a lease of $1 per year for the non-profit to build a satellite office in DeFuniak Springs.

"We asked for a 50-year lease, and lo and behold, we got 99 years," said ECCAC Executive Director Julie Hurst. "It's unusual you get more than you ask for."

Hurst, along with a handful of ECCAC Board of Directors, were present at the board meeting. Stepping up to the podium, Hurst said a few words to the packed room before signing the resolution for the lease with Chairman William Chapman.

"With the stroke of this pen, we are making a difference for the kids in Walton County," she said.

Hurst even signed the resolution with her lucky pen, given to her by Art Miller and Bill Fletcher, two ECCAC board members.

"Art, Bill, Tom Copper and the rest of the board have been very instrumental in making this a reality," Hurst said.

Now, the next step is surveying the property on College Avenue in DeFuniak Springs. Architect Allen McGinnis will be handling building plans.

"My vision is to be open within the next year," Hurst said. "April would be a great time to celebrate Child Abuse Prevention Month."

Since the Emerald Coast Children's Advocacy Center (ECCAC) opened in October 2000, the accredited center has served Okaloosa and Walton County from its Niceville office. In April 2012, the center began renting a small space in DeFuniak Springs with the intention of finding permanent space.

 The non-profit agency provides services to prevent child abuse, reduces the trauma of sexual and physical abuse, protects and treats child victims and families while holding offenders accountable and restores the lives and futures of abused, neglected and drug-endangered children and their families. Law enforcement, prosecution, therapists, social workers and a child protection team work under one roof to better serve child victims of abuse. And all services are free of charge.

The center has already received sponsorship from the Republican Women's Club of Walton County and Graham Fountain at the Walton County Sheriff's Office and is looking for more support in terms of donations of time and money.

"We're out there in the community identifying people to be a part of the steering committee," Hurst said.


 WANT TO HELP? To learn more about the Emerald Coast Children's Advocacy Center, visit To contact Julie Hurst, email