When parents struggle with drug addiction, this Central Florida charity steps in to help children

Project Noelle takes care of children affected by parents’ drug abuse

Often so much attention is focused on the people who are struggling with addiction and so little on the children who are affected when their parents get involved with drugs.

News 6 learned about a charity in Flagler and Volusia counties that exists specifically for that reason – to take care of the children affected by the addiction.

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Melissa Bowen is director of the nonprofit Project Noelle, which assists the children and their caretakers year-round.

She spent much of December collecting donated toys and transporting them to distribution points, including Gabby’s Pizza in Port Orange.

“And it’s definitely without the businesses community helping us, we would not be able to help all the children in the community,” Bowen said.

Bowen learned about Project Noelle on Facebook.

“It began in 2017 in Ohio, when the founder’s daughter passed away from an overdose,” Bowen said. “She left behind three sons, and the grandmother couldn’t find any resources for the sons. So she founded Project Noelle and what we do is focus on the children affected by addiction of the parent or caregiver. We provide emergency clothing and diapers for children who have been taken away and put into foster care.”

It’s a year-round effort.

“We do Christmas. We do Easter. We do back-to-school haircuts, school supplies and backpacks,” Bowen said.

As the head of Project Noelle for Flagler and Volusia counties, Bowen brought the nonprofit to Central Florida because she has seen how the children affected by addiction suffer.

“In my past, I went through addiction and I have many family members that have went through addiction,” Bowen said. “The impact on the children from the parents’ or caregivers’ addiction is so impactful and to be able to make a difference in that is something that set my heart up.”

Thanks to Bowen, Project Noelle is now in six counties across Florida, and she’s looking for volunteers to bring it to Seminole, Orange and Osceola.

Bowen, through Project Noelle, said she’s starting peer groups for affected children and for grandparents who have now ended up as caretakers because of the addiction.

You can find more information here.


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About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.