When people think of Fresh Start for Children and Families, most don’t imagine them having a beginning. It feels as if they were always there helping the community. But like most charities, Fresh Start came from one person having a desire to make a difference. In 1985, Former Florida Governor Bob Graham created a mission to work on homeless issues in Florida. His actions are the foundation of Fresh Start history.
The church’s golden rule is to love another. In 1986, before the name was “Fresh Start for Children and Families”, Shalimar United Methodist formed “Okaloosa Coalition for the Homeless.” They received a $10,000 donation from Hands Across America to help people with rent and utilities. The following year, in 1987, the coalition received a 60k gift to purchase three apartment homes where homeless individuals could stay for three months. One volunteer ran the operation during the day and one homeless person to watch overnight. The service was all made possible by Bob Graham’s homeless assistance grant called Continuum of Care program.
“Partnerships and Major Donations”
The organization showed great potential to be a difference-maker in the community.
In 1998 the coalition was doing well enough to be accepted as a partner with United Way, which helped pay for staff and operating cost.
In 2006, the coalition received $200,000 to build two new apartment buildings and changed its name to “Fresh Start for Children and Families.” The new apartment buildings completed in 2013 with the capacity to house 21 families. Most recently, Fresh Start received a $40,000 donation from Okaloosa Child Care Services, which funded a new children’s playground for the residents.
One of the essential parts of the Fresh Start operation is its’ thrift store “Repeat Street.” Repeat Street began in 2014. The store operates in an 8100-square foot facility located on Walter Martin Road in Fort Walton Beach, Fl. Repeat Street is a significant source of income for Fresh Start, generating over $200,000 in 2018 and allowing us to assist nearly 113 individuals last year.
Fresh Start hopes to continue what Bob Graham started by sharing love in the community.