Treasure Coast shelter helps abused children

Posted at 7:15 PM, Mar 31, 2016

LaVaughn Tilton had a vision when she was in her 50s to help neglected and abused children.

"I realized there was a great need for someone to step in and see that these children were taken care of and housed safely," said Tilton.

It became a reality as she named the shelter Hibiscus Children's Center.

"I see children that come in that are so needy and so scared and so traumatized. And when they leave, they are happy they just smile.  That's what we strive for," Tilton said.

Now she's 91-years-old.

Over the years, people have jumped in to give her a hand. One of those people is Paul Sexton, who is president and CEO of Hibiscus.

"It started as a 24-hour emergency shelter for children: from infants all the way up to 12 years of age," said Sexton.

As the children's needs increased, so did the services.

"We expanded our operations to include a village, which is an eight-house village in Vero Beach and it treats children 13 to 17 years of age."

Some of the youngsters stay as little as a week or as long as a couple of years.

No matter how long they're here, Tilton wants to make sure they get a good dose of hope and love.

"We feel a responsibility to continue that legacy that she started 30 years ago. Because we have children today who still need us. We are really not in the business of sheltering kids. We are in the business of hope," said Sexton.

"I hope the community will continue to support it because the need is still far greater than anyone realizes," said Tilton.