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Eric Glasser, WTSP
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Brandon, FL — After seven months of repairs and remodeling the Walmart store in Brandon was back in business Friday, and while workers and customers were relieved to see the location reopen its doors, some local charities may be among the most excited.
“I’m excited,” said customer Evelyn Roman, especially glad, because the store is walking distance from her Brandon home. (more…)
Saunders began volunteering at ECHO in 2006 and was the center director from 2007 to 2010.
In order to focus her efforts on developing more programs, she resigned from her position as missions coordinator at Bay Life Church, where her husband, Mark, is pastor. (more…)
For the past 13 years, ECHO has been a very big part of my life. I have truly been blessed to have worked in such a wonderful community that cares so much about helping others. I was surrounded each day by staff and volunteers that carried out the mission of ECHO through their kind words and actions. I have personally seen thousands of lives changed because of this amazing organization.
It has been a blessing to see ECHO transform over the years from a small food pantry to a multi-service social service agency. It warmed my heart each time we added a program, as I knew more people would be helped on a deeper level. I was comforted in the fact that each time ECHO had a need, we were able to find someone in the community that would help us so we could continue to help others.
It is with mixed emotions that I leave my position at ECHO to move to St. Petersburg. I am so very excited about my upcoming marriage and move across the bay. On the other hand, I am very sad to leave the family, friends, clients, and community I have come to know and love serving ECHO as it’s Executive Director. It has not been an easy decision to make.
I am very hopeful and optimistic about the future of ECHO. It is on the right road to grow and expand. I hope that a new larger facility will be donated or made available soon. I know once ECHO has more space, more needed services will be added and more people will be helped. I want to thank ECHO and the Greater Brandon Community for a magnificent 13 years!
BY Linda Chion Kenney
Published: April 1, 2015
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The Emergency Care Help Organization in Brandon fulfills its mission with charity thrift sales, food drives and collection hours, but also with aid from businesses and organizations throughout the Greater Brandon area.
The Fresh Market in Valrico, since its opening a year ago, “has been a wonderful community partner,” said Cathy Collins, spokesperson for the Emergency Care Help Organization, at 507 North Parsons Ave. in Brandon. “They came into Valrico and have been giving us produce, sandwiches and breads. They’re big on produce, and fresh juices.”
Also of a giving mind is Costco, which provides bread and overstock items, including mismarked items that cannot be sold. Publix locally provides breads and dessert items while Publix Super Markets Charities helps in sponsoring ECHO events.
In 2012, ECHO received a $40,000 grant from Walmart for a truck to pick up fresh produce and other donations and to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. The year before, Panera Bread donated 60 chairs to the community food bank and clothes closet.
Throughout the month, ECHO receives aid from Bay Life Church Seeds of Faith, which runs a community garden and raises fresh vegetables for giving. Coming soon, Collins added, are the fruits of an ECHO partnership with McLane Middle, where agricultural classes will be harvesting food for donation.
ECHO serves people in Brandon and beyond, serving East Hillsborough County, from Thonotasassa to Gibsonton, Collins said.
“We cover all of eastern Hillsborugh County, except for Plant City, and two Tampa ZIP codes.”
ECHO helps people who, because of emergency situations, need food, clothing and basic household goods. The nonprofit also provides social services aimed to help people find jobs, earn high school equivalency diplomas, eat well and tend to their financial matters.
In addition to corporate and small business support, ECHO receives aid from local clubs, groups and organizations as well as from the community at large, and particularly through a series of ongoing events.
Charity thrift sales are held every Saturday, from 8 a.m. to noon, except for a weekend that shares a holiday, such as Easter. Upcoming thrift sale dates are April 11, 18 and 25. The sale is inside ECHO, at 507 North Parsons Ave., and features excess clothing, shoes and household items that have not been circulated.
To view the offerings of ECHO, one-hour tours are given to address the nonprofit’s work in emergency food and clothing assistance and helping to meet basic social services, such as attaining a degree, a job, financial literacy and healthy eating and living habits.
For information, call (813) 685-0935, or visit online at www.echofl.org.
BY Linda Chion Kenney
Published: April 1, 2015
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BRANDON — The Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO) is gearing up for its largest food drive of the year, with volunteers at the ready to collect and sort tons of food collected by postal workers May 9.
That’s the date for the national “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive, founded 23 years ago by the National Association of Letter Carriers. Billed as the “largest one-day food drive in the nation,” the drive, since it began in 1993, reportedly has collected nearly 1.2 billions pounds of food.
Locally, ECHO is on the receiving end, with residents reminded to keep an eye out for specially marked bags that will be delivered to their mailboxes in advance of the May 9 drive.
“This is the largest food drive we have during the year, amounting to probably 40 percent of what we get in donated nonperishable food throughout the year,” said ECHO spokesperson Kathy Collins, in an interview March 21 at the Winthrop Arts Festival, where she promoted ECHO activities.
Although people typically donate “corn, green beans and soup,” Collins said, especially needed are “dried or canned milk, peanut butter and jelly and spaghetti sauce.”
“Think about what you want to eat for a week and give that,” Collins added. “And it’s important to look at the expiration dates. Please don’t give us expired food. If it’s not good for you; it’s not good for people in need.”
Looking ahead to the drive, Collins said it is important for individuals and groups, under the auspices of a school, club, employer or religious institution, to sign up for volunteer hours, as hundreds of volunteers throughout various shifts are needed to help man the collection and sorting tables.
Also needed are volunteers to help the postal workers — who in turn volunteer their time for drive activities — at the four post offices involved in the local effort, in Brandon, Riverview, Seffner and Valrico.
ECHO annually serves more than 14,000 people facing tough times because of emergency situations. Need must be documented and people are eligible for aid up to four times in a lifetime.
ECHO is at 507 North Parsons Ave. For information, call 813-685-0935. Visit online at www.echofl.org.
BY Linda Chion Kenney
Published: March 18, 2015 Click to original article
Surrounded by her peers from the GFWC Brandon Service League, Jean Ippolito still had no clue she was about to receive a coveted community service award for her many volunteer associations.
The occasion was the annual Community Affairs Dinner, hosted by the Community Roundtable of Brandon in February, at Center Place Fine Arts & Civic Association in Brandon. There, Dave Braun, a former honorary mayor of Brandon and last year’s recipient of the Roundtable’s Alice B. Tompkins Community Service Award, was about to announce his successor.
“He said our recipient is a member of the Brandon Service League and I looked to one of my friends and said, ‘Oh, good, it’s one of us,” Ippolito said, adding that she had been surprised to see so many of her fellow club members in attendance.
Ippolito had been the invited guest of club president Sandy Pullinger, who received the Alice B. Tompkins award in 2011, followed by Tammy Holmberg and Betty Jo Tompkins. The award was first given in 1975 to Patricia B. Odiorne, followed by Dick Stowers a year later and the award’s namesake, in 1976.
Only when Braun got deeper into his recitation of this year’s recipient’s background did Ippolito realize she was the intended honoree, which in turn was the reason for the club’s strong turnout.
“I was dumbfounded. I was God-smacked,” Ippolito said about the award, named posthumously for a former editor of the Brandon News. “There are many, many people who do so much more than I do, so I’m quite humbled by it.”
Ippolito’s modesty belies her breadth of volunteerism, which extends way beyond her long-term affiliation with the Brandon Service League, for which she serves as education chair and has worked with OASIS, a nonprofit that provides clothing, shoes and personal hygiene products for students and their families.
She previously chaired the league’s Very Special Arts Festival, founded by Alice Storms and held annually at the First Baptist Church of Brandon, which invites kindergartners with disabilities from the Greater Brandon area to engage in specially designed arts and crafts activities.
“It’s a very interesting life, I can tell you that,” said Ippolito, who retired from the School District of Hillsborough County after 33 years of service, including a stint as administrative secretary for Earl Lennard, then the assistant superintendent for technical and adult education, who at the Roundtable dinner gave the keynote address.
Ippolito’s recognition brings notice to some of the Greater Brandon area’s most noble undertakings.
Published: March 18, 2015 Click here for story.
BRANDON — Individuals, organizations and groups are invited on a tour of the Emergency Care Help Organization to see what it is and what it does for the community.
“People often give to food and clothing pantries but may wonder what happens to their donation or what happened in a person’s life to cause them to end up in need. ECHO is now offering tours designed to educate the community on the services ECHO offers and the community they serve in Eastern Hillsborough County,” said Laura Young, donor relations manager.
The hourlong Discover ECHO tours are free and make no donation appeals, said Young. They include a tour of the facilities as well as information on emergency services, educational programs and the career assistance program.
Depending on the time of day, tours may include a light breakfast or lunch.
Individuals should register online at www.echofl .org or by contacting Young at laura@echofl .org or (813) 685-0935, ext. 8008. Private tours for groups of 8 to 18 may be arranged by calling or emailing ECHO.
ECHO provides food and clothing to people in crisis situations in 15 ZIP-code areas, including newly added Thonotosassa.
ECHO also helps “clients with creating or updating their resume, applying for jobs, interview preparation and even transferable skills analysis, if appropriate,” said ECHO Executive Director Stacey Efaw. “We also offer a flexible GED prep program and some very popular classes such as Healthy Living, Mommy & Me, Basic Financial Literacy and Basic Computer Literacy.”
Individuals with immediate needs for services may visit ECHO between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. They should bring photo ID, proof of local residency and a Social Security card for each family member.
Send news of community interest to Barbara.Routen@gmail.com.
BRANDON, Fla – Responding to the great need in our community, several churches in the Greater Brandon area are partnering withECHO once again this holiday season in sponsoring “Gift of Hope ,” which is supplying everything that is needed to make a great Thanksgiving meal for some 500 families — complete with turkey and all the fixings!
The give-away began Friday, with volunteers from Brandon area Churches, civic groups and Mosaic (who donated a truck-load of Turkeys and Chickens for those in need
But there’s more giving on the way… in less than a month, they’ll crank up the give-away at the First Baptist Church in Brandon for Christmas. At that time, not only will the families receive the items needed to make a great Christmas meal, but also have the opportunity to shop for toys for each of their children!
Donations are always welcome! For more information, or to donate, click on the Gift of Hope page for locations and sponsors.