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ECHO fundraiser shows off Loft Event Lounge

Karen Burgess, left, helps Valerie Anderson of Brandon find four tops and a pair of “hoochie jeans” for $30 at the annual ECHO Spring Trunk Show fundraiser last week at the Loft Event Lounge in Brandon. The event raises money for the group’s programs for needy Brandon area residents.

Eric Vician | Special to the Times

Karen Burgess, left, helps Valerie Anderson of Brandon find four tops and a pair of “hoochie jeans” for $30 at the annual ECHO Spring Trunk Show fundraiser last week at the Loft Event Lounge in Brandon. The event raises money for the group’s programs for needy Brandon area residents.

BRANDON — The new store filled with shoppers who came in search of deals.

Organizers put everything on sale, slashing prices to as low as $2 for ear rings and $20 for an evening gown. Wall-to-wall racks of designer clothes, shoes, purses and jewelry dotted the room.

It was a consignment store meets yard sale atmosphere when the Emergency Care Help Organization held its Spring Trunk Sale last week. The event not only helped ECHO raise more than $5,000, but it allowed yet another crowd to grow familiar with the Loft Event Lounge at Oak Park Plaza.

Arlene Frisk said the expansion of her Loft Hair and Nail Salon into an event center developed in a roundabout way. First, she simply sought to beautify an adjacent store front, but the property manager went a step further and asked if she wanted to take over the spot.

Ben Frisk, Frisk's son and a co-owner, took one look at the 2,200 square feet and immediately thought event lounge.

"It's something I've always thought about," Arlene Frisk said. "For years, I've been putting on parties and events for friends and family for free."

Since an October opening, business has been brisk, proving an income for when the hair and nail salon is closed. Frisk says the event lounge, which can accommodate 80 people, is booked through most of the year with events ranging from baby showers to junior diva parties to Sweet 16 celebrations to business gatherings.

She points to several keys: convenient location, a space that can convert to fit any kind of theme and reasonable pricing. A spread sheet on the event lounge's website ( allows interested parties to price out an event on their own and avoid haggling.

As for the trunk sale, ECHO executive director Stacey Efaw said she couldn't have been more pleased.

"People love it," said Efaw, who has helped organize this event three times. "With the economy the way it is, you can get a designer dress for $10. This is the ideal fundraiser because it is getting difficult to raise money. It's easy to ask people to clean out their closets."

Efaw said it took 20 volunteers nearly six months to plan this event. One of the volunteers was Karen Burgess, who spent months sorting the donated items into 30 bins of clothing and jewelry and then three weeks pricing them. She is among the 110 day-to-day volunteers who help feed and clothe more than 11,000 people a year at ECHO.

"I know what my life is supposed to be," said Burgess, who has been volunteering for ECHO for three years and says after surviving a pair of brain aneurisms this is her calling. "I love knowing we are feeding all these people." for more information.

Education center opens at FishHawk

The Learning Experience at FishHawk Ranch became the first Academy of Early Education of its kind in the area when it opened its doors April 15 in Lithia. The center has 10 children enrolled with room for as many as 170 more between the ages of 6 weeks and 8 years.

Founded by the Weissman family of Boca Raton, who started the Tutor Time franchise, Greg Polizzi and his wife, Shannon, own and operate the location at 16232 Bayberry Glen Drive.

As parents, Greg said the former military couple was drawn to the LEAP educational curriculum. It is a proprietary course, standing for Learning Experience Academic Program, that touts kindergarten reading readiness at a clip of more than 90 percent of children.

"Safety and well-being of the children are top priorities," Greg said. "Then, there is development and we think we do that best. What is good for one child is good for all and there are no extra charges."

Another center is coming soon in Brandon. It is slated to open at 403 E Bloomingdale Ave.

Visit for more information on the Learning Experience.

If you know of something that should be in Everybody's Business, email Eric Vician at

ECHO fundraiser shows off Loft Event Lounge 04/25/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 2:26pm]
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