We are pleased to present the Fresh Start Family Activity Center. This shovel-ready project addresses a need for the Fresh Start program residents to have a supervised place where children can socialize and play while parents pursue their training and education goals.

Impact 100 funds will purchase a multi-purpose building, an ADA compliant playground, recreational play-pad, pavilion, sidewalks, fencing, lighting, and utilities for plant boxes and landscaping. Fresh Start will fund plants, art panels, environment features, furniture, and ongoing support (utilities, upkeep, etc).

Fresh Start has served homeless families in Okaloosa/Walton County for over 30 years by providing both temporary assistance and long-term relief via a Transitional Housing and Life Skills Program, leading to affordable “Step-up” housing. Fresh Start gives a pathway out of homelessness to 25-40 qualifying families each year. Our campus in Fort Walton Beach consists of two apartment buildings for residents enrolled in a nine-month transitional program and “step-up” housing for program graduates; an administrative building with learning center, food pantry and office; and the nearby “Repeat Street” thrift store.

A need exists for a dedicated children’s activity place that frees their parents to focus on acquiring self-sufficiency by escaping the factors that led to homelessness. In the absence of a secure play area, some families have left the transition program early because of difficulties in providing childcare while parents attend to program training requirements. The new facility will be next to the existing buildings, providing a gated playground and multipurpose room for the transitional and step-up housing residents. Privacy fencing will ensure a safe playground area in an environment free of the negative influences common in public parks. Most importantly, the new building will allow for supervised children’s activities.

Program support comes from United Way, Combined Federal Campaign, thrift store revenue, fundraising events, and private donations. The activity center will not add significant burden once constructed since the land and facility resources are already in place.

Construction can be completed within 18 months. Volunteer help and donated materials will speed project development, and the land has already been partially cleared by volunteers. Design and permitting are simplified by the purchase of a turn-key manufactured building, and a professionally installed playground designed for long-life and low maintenance. The Fort Walton Beach planning department has assisted in planning and sees no issues with zoning or permitting.

The Fresh Start staff and Board of Directors are eager to partner with Impact 100 to advance our families toward a stronger tomorrow.