Editor's Note: This continues our Celebrate Community series on nonprofit organizations that improve Santa Rosa County residents' quality of life.
MILTON — For the Children of Milton, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping homeless children, is in their final stages of planning and renovating and should be accepting kids this year.
Liz Gibson, the organization’s co-founder, decided to start FTC in 2014 after learning about the large number of local homeless children who needed assistance. According to a 2016 annual report from the Florida Council on Homelessness, there were 1,696 homeless students in Santa Rosa County last year, and the number is expected to continue rising.
“We [began] our journey in 2014 and have been restoring the building and preparing all the logistics ever since,” Gibson said. “I am presently the vice president of All Risk Insurance and one day a customer told me she was a nurse for homeless children in our area and that our county had 1,600 homeless children. The same night we had dinner plans with some friends who, when I shared the numbers, told me of a facility that was vacant and perfect for this type of venture.”
After hearing about the perfect facility for her new endeavor, Gibson researched the property and found a property management company out of California had foreclosed on it.
“The owner of my insurance agency bought the facility and is donating it back to FTC,” Gibson said. “One of the biggest obstacles was finding contractors who were able to donate time for such a large project, as the home is over 6,000-square-feet. We have had many local groups, organizations and churches step up and lend a hand through the years.”
Numerous renovation projects have been completed with help from local volunteers and organizations, and FTC is nearly complete. In 2016, unforeseen circumstances held up the process when they had to replace the home’s electrical system, as well as treatment for termites and mold.
Currently, FTC is in possession of the one home, but has dreams of opening a second home in the future. The house — located on seven acres at 5020 Whitmire Road in Milton — has eight bedrooms and will accommodate 16 children.
In a December 2016 interview with the Press Gazette, Gibson said they may restrict their population to one gender, due to safety concerns. Currently, they are focusing on school-age males.
“Our mission is to provide a long-term home for boys that are abused, abandoned, neglected or orphaned due to circumstances beyond their control,” Gibson said. “We are in the final stages now and will be open to accept children in November.”
The project is privately funded with the help of local donations and fundraising, according to Gibson. The “house parents” are Gibson, her husband, Allen, and another couple, Jeff and Marcie Hunt.