By Kathy L Collins
Julian Craft has been characterized in many ways- A knight in shining armor, one of the nicest men you will ever meet and an unbelievably generous and civic minded resident. Throughout his life, Craft has received several awards for his community service in the greater Brandon area.
On Friday, December 7, at the 39th Annual Tampa/Hillsborough County Human Rights Council’s Human Rights Awards Celebration in Tampa, Craft was awarded the 2012 Human Rights Award. He received this distinction because he was instrumental in saving a local food and clothing pantry now known as ECHO. Craft was unable to attend the ceremony, and his son, Mark Craft, M.D. received the award for his father.
In 1987, the Brandon Ministerial Food Bank was to close. When Craft learned of this, he called on several fellow residents to donate money to keep the food bank open. After a visit to Tallahassee to see how a food and clothing pantry was run there, ECHO of Brandon (Emergency Care Help Organization) was founded.
In addition to making certain that the food bank remained open, Craft not only donated money personally, but he gave the organization space from which to operate. When they outgrew the space, he helped negotiate a deal with Hillsborough County for the current property at 507 N. Parsons Ave. When this happened, he not only gave ECHO a place to operate but the Brandon Outreach Clinic as well.
ECHO today is a thriving non-profit that assists over 11,000 area residents every year with food and clothing assistance.
The Tampa/Hillsborough Human Rights Council’s primary purpose is to advocate and promote through education, publicity, negotiations and other means, the legitimate and human rights of all residents of Hillsborough County.
It is fitting that Craft would receive such an honor because the struggle for human rights is waged by selfless and brave men and women. Efaw said, “Access to food and healthcare are rights that all should receive without obstacles.” ECHO is celebrating its 25th year. It has opened a Client Center and is now an Access Center for residents who need to apply for the Food Assistance Program and the Medicaid Program.
For more information, please visit www.thhrc.org. For information on ECHO, please visit www.EchoFL.org.