Home Sales Benefit Abused Kids

Sell a House, Help a Child

By Lori Hutzler Eckert

Every day on the Emerald Coast, four children are physically or sexually abused by family members, legal guardians or figures of authority – the very people who should be protecting them.

This startling statistic has motivated the area’s real-estate industry, traditionally a competitive group, to work together to effect a positive change through a program that benefits the Children’s Advocacy Center in Niceville.

“It’s an eye-opening experience when you realize how much abuse is in your own backyard,” said Ron Friesen, owner of Century 21 Beach Realty. “Once you realize it, you feel you have an obligation to step up.”

Friesen, who has served on the Children’s Advocacy Center’s board for two and a half years, did step up, along with Southern Escrow and Title and Bank of America, by creating Klosings for Kids.

“(The Children’s Advocacy Center board was) brainstorming creative ideas,” he said. “And then the idea came up that on a closing, to get an agent to donate $50 to $100, and then the broker would match that as part of a charitable donation.”

The Klosings for Kids effort has grown during the past year, with more than a dozen real estate-affiliated companies participating. The program allows these agencies to work together in raising funds. If a closing is handled by Century 21 Beach Realty, Southern Escrow or Bank of America – or any of the other agencies supporting Klosings for Kids – then donations are given by an agent, broker, title company and lender, creating an even larger financial contribution.

The funds go directly to the Children’s Advocacy Center. The privately funded organization, which opened in 2000, provides a safe, child-friendly location where professionals treat and protect approximately 1,500 abused children each year while also working toward holding the offenders accountable for their actions.

George Brannon Jr., senior vice president of Southern Escrow and Title, said that “when you go to the (Children’s Advocacy Center) and see what a difference the organization makes and the impact it has on making a child feel comfortable in an already difficult situation, you can’t help but be involved.”