Nearly two-and-a-half years after Hurricane Michael destroyed a Panama City child trauma center, renovations to that facility have been completed thanks to a partnership between Lauren’s Kids and AshBritt.
In 2018, the massive storm ripped through the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, which helps more than 7,000 sexual assault survivors each year.
Lauren’s Kids is a charity organization launched by Sen. Lauren Book before her legislative career. Book is a child sexual abuse survivor. The Senator used her group to join with the AshBritt Foundation, AshBritt’s charitable arm, to find local partners — including Panama City-based GAC Contractors — to fund the center’s rebuild. That work is now complete.
“In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, therapists and survivors were completely displaced and therapy was being provided wherever possible, from fast food parking lots to atop downed tree trunks,” Book said.
“Today, this rebuilt Trauma Therapy House stands as a testament to hope and healing — reminding young survivors that strength and resilience can be found even after the darkest of storms. I am overjoyed to have been a part of this journey home.”
In 2019, Book and Lauren’s Kids launched a plan to renovate the center. That plan is now culminated thanks to the partnership with AshBritt, a contracting company which helps rebuild following natural disasters.
“AshBritt team members may only temporarily live and work in disaster impacted regions, but we become forever members of the communities where we live and work,” said Brittany Perkins Castillo, AshBritt’s CEO.
“We make it our mission to rehabilitate vital community resources impacted by disaster, like the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center Trauma Therapy House, which helps children recovering from the devastating effects of abuse thrive once again.”
Lauren’s Kids has long been associated with the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center. The facility served as a stop on Book’s annual 1,500-mile “Walk in My Shoes” program, raising awareness about child sexual abuse via a walk across the state.
Lori Allen, the center’s executive director, thanked those involved in bringing the building back to life.
“Our team of advocates and therapists were suffering themselves — no running water, limited electricity, many without homes to return to – but they showed up every single day ready to serve,” Allen said.
“After all we have collectively been through, our staff and the children and families we serve are overjoyed to be able to inhabit this beautiful new therapeutic space. We are all so grateful to Lauren’s Kids and the entire Ashbritt team for this incredible gift of a newly renovated, state-of-the-art therapy building.”