Nashville-based Mercy Multiplied Women's Center is looking to build a 22-room center on 11 acres on U.S. Highway 331S.
The request passed the Walton County Planning Commission on March 8 by a unanimous vote with the condition that the request go before the design review board.
Representing the applicant, engineer Scott Jenkins said the organization is popular and he is excited about it.
The project, to be located at 24735 U.S. Highway 331S, would have a future land use of Village Mixed Use.
Mercy Multiplied is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young women break free from life-controlling behaviors and situations, including eating disorders, self-harm, drug and alcohol addictions, unplanned pregnancy, depression, sexual abuse, and sex trafficking. The website lists Florida as a top state from which girls apply.
Founded in 1983 by Nancy Alcorn in Monroe, Louisiana, Mercy is a Christian-based organization that accepts girls free of charge. The organization currently has locations in Monroe, Nashville, St. Louis, and Sacramento and has received a 4-star rating for sound fiscal management, accountability, and transparency from Charity Navigator for nine years.
A Mercy manager told commissioners that the organization is donor funded and uses the discipleship model.
"We are 80 percent funded by donors," said Mercy's Leah Hayes. "We are Christian based but not affiliated with any denomination or church."
This will be the organization's fifth home.
Although touted as a popular organization, one local was not in favor of the construction.
"I don't understand why this is appropriate for this area," said Coy Bowman. "It would be more appropriate for Fort Walton. This is a vacation place, not a place for rehabilitation. This is just an excuse for religion to come in. This does not belong here."
The project now goes before the Board of County Commissioners.