He wrote a book for his daughters and it became a national best seller.

Then, Richard Paul Evans formed a foundation with intentions of building a shelter for Salt Lake County's abused and neglected children.Now that idea has spread, too. Officials from Hawaii to Belgium are working with Evans to build a Christmas Box House in their communities.

Frozen ground was turned over in a ceremony Wednesday, officially kicking off construction of the Christmas Box House, 3700 S. West Temple, in Salt Lake County.

The center will be a one-stop assessment facility for children who have been taken from their homes by the state because of possible abuse and neglect. Now, children often must be shuttled between temporary placements and doctor, therapy and other appointments. Sometimes placements fail because children are placed without the important assessment.

The Christmas Box House will serve as a temporary home for the children, allowing them to get services under one roof and in an environment Evans and others have promised will be full of love.

At the Christmas Box House, children will be wards of a compassionate community, not just wards of the state, said Evans, whose foundation has raised $2 million for the 15,000-square-foot facility. Last week, the Utah Legislature pledged $400,000 to the project.

Salt Lake County Commissioner Mary Callaghan said the partnerships speak well of Utah and its residents.

The center is revolutionary and a "giant step forward" for Utah, said Pamela Atkinson, chairwoman of the monitoring panel overseeing the state's settlement of a lawsuit filed against the Division of Child and Family Services.

The facility will open this fall, said the author's father David Evans, who is the contractor. He promised to work night and day, if necessary, to get the building ready. Workers from local labor unions have also pledged to donate their time.

The Christmas Box House in Vernal may be done even sooner, said Judy Schiffman, director of development. There are also facilities being planned in Ogden, St. George, Provo, Moab and Price. Communities in Hawaii, Oregon, Nevada, Illinois and New York have also expressed interest, as has a city in Belgium, Schiffman said.

Evans' "The Christmas Box" was released locally in 1993 and nationally in 1995. It went on to become a best seller and the basis for a television movie and two more books, "The Timepiece" and "The Letter."