JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Since March of 2000, the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center has worked with victims of child abuse and sexual violence by offering to be a refuge for victims and their families to heal.

Now they are expanding their services to a new building they will call their own right in the heart of Marianna.

For years now, the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center has been working these designing plans to have this space in Jackson County.

“We are renting two different locations currently in Jackson County, so we already have space that we’re occupying. We are currently providing services in all six counties,” said Executive Director, Lori Allen.

And despite many obstacles along the way, their plan is finally in action.

“We started back in 2013- 2014, with our strategic plan. We wanted to have a location in Jackson County that was the second largest population in our catchment area,” said Allen.

$400,000 will be allocated to the new center from a federal grant.

“The services that we provide are unique, so we really needed to be able to take a space and start from scratch,” said Allen.

Executive Director Lori Allen says she has seen the need in that area increase over the past several years.

“Even before the hurricane we were seeing several hundred kids every year there in jackson county, now it’s a couple hundred kids every quarter. But we’re already seeing a tremendous increase in the need for these types of services in the northern counties and this will just fit right in with being able to provide those in the best space possible,” said Allen.

They hope to be able to fill a need for all families in the northern counties of the Panhandle.

“We’re hoping that having the accessibility to that, that children will be able to have courage and know that there’s a safe place to go to when something bad happens. But that doesn’t define them, that’s just a part of their journey but they are a survivor and they can be anything in this world that they want to be,” said Allen.