Tampa Tribune: ECHO now offering new client services

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By YVETTE C. HAMMETT | The Tampa Tribune
Published: September 12, 2012
BRANDON –Navigating the various assistance programs available to the unemployed and underemployed isn’t always easy, especially for those who don’t have a computer.

The Emergency Care Help Organization recently opened a client services center that should help, said ECHO Executive Director Stacey Efaw.

Volunteers and interns from Hillsborough Community College’s Human Services program are staffing the new center, helping people to sign up for food stamps, apply for Medicare or Medicaid or search out other community programs that can help in job searches and with financial aid.

“Sometimes, it’s the little things that hang people up,” Efaw said.

One woman, for example, came in saying her food stamps had been discontinued. But, when she looked online, she discovered she just needed to send a letter from her employer to keep the service coming.

The Allegany Franciscan Ministries helped move the plan along with a $10,000 gift to ECHO, and the nonprofit organization won a free office makeover from Refurbished Office Furniture.

“We took a room we weren’t using much and converted it into the client center, Efaw said. The makeover paid for everything but a new phone system, including the computers, she said.

“In the past few years, we found the two biggest reasons people were having problems was applying for food stamps and looking for work,” Efaw said. “We are trying to help with those issues.”

ECHO plans to begin offering some classes next year, partnering with the Work Force Alliance, in an effort to help more people in their job searches, Efaw said.

The grand opening for the new center will take place at 3 p.m. Sept. 28 at ECHO’s main headquarters, located at 507 N. Parsons Ave., just north of State Road 60.

No appointment is necessary to visit the client center. Call (813) 627-4763 for more information.