The facility just celebrated its three-decades-long history in the Flagler community.
Thirty years ago, even as Flagler County was just beginning to see the kind of growth it's experienced over the last few decades, there were segments of its infrastructure that hadn't yet caught up.
Social services was one of those areas, according to John McNeely, the original founder of the Family Life Center, who moved to the county from the Orlando area with his wife in the mid-1980s.
"We got here and there were a lot of issues we saw, and not a lot of resources," McNeely said in a recent interview with the Palm Coast Observer.
At the time, McNeely, a social services counselor, opened up a crisis management practice called Horizons in Flagler Beach. But he couldn't help but notice there was not a lot of cooperation or collaboration with other community entities to support individuals and families considered at risk or endangered for any number of reasons. There was no real "safety net," as McNeely puts it.
"And it [the area] kept growing and getting bigger, and there were more issues," McNeely said.
So he began talking to faith-based organizations, and in 1987 eventually was able to coalesce them into what was at first called the Flagler Ecumenical Social Services Center.
While it had non-secular beginnings, the center drew more broad community support and grew to the point where McNeely, then executive director, asked for official recognition by the Flagler County Commission. It was granted. Soon after, the former Coastal Community Hospital granted the center space, free of charge, for what Flagler Ecumenical saw as one of their most pressing needs: a shelter for victims of domestic abuse.
The site was able to provide overnight refuge for up to six women and, if need be, any accompanying minors.
Three decades and two locations later (one in Palm Coast, the other in Bunnell), what is now referred to as the Family Life Center is still providing this service, as well as rape crisis measures; safety planning; food and clothing; counseling; employment assistance; and legal and other resources.
The non-profit agency recently held a gala in honor of its 30-year history. The occasion marked not only the success of the Family Life Center mission, but the community's support of it. The annual gala -- the organization's major fundraiser -- for example, usually nets about $10,000 each year.
And just as the population in Flagler County has grown over the last 30 years, so too has its purpose.
Trish Giaccone -- who joined the agency 10 years ago as an outreach advocate and became executive director seven years ago -- said the safe house shelters on average between 30 to 40 families a month, operating a 19-member staff (plus volunteers) and an approximately $1 million annual budget. Some of that funding comes from governmental agencies, but a good part of it is also derived from individual and organizational contributions.
"We are very often the first place victims can go to for help," Giaccone said. "Most of these victims come here before they even go to law enforcement."
There are other needs, of course, and another legacy of the Family Life Center is the 17 other social service and human resources organizations the original center has spawned to fill those needs across the Flagler area. For that, McNeely is gratified.
"It's truly woven this community together," said McNeely, who continues to live in Flagler Beach and is a professor of psychology and human services at Daytona State College.