Tuesday, September 25, 2018
News Roundup

Hooper: After 30 years, Brandon's ECHO looks to extend its community connections Hooper:

BRANDON

They arrive in need, searching for a single lifeline and hoping to hold on to what is left of the figurative end of the rope.

Even though they may be facing eviction, in need of clothes or searching for work, their requests start simply: food, simple sustenance for a few days, maybe a week.

And if the Emergency Care Help Organization simply offered just that, its work would deserve magnanimous praise.

However, ECHO does so much more. It looks to pull up on that rope. It tells those deserving residents to hold on and then pulls them into its vessel of care that features an array of services, all aimed at taking the person from hopelessness to self-sufficiency."

"Our folks are people who are desperate," ECHO executive director Eleanor Saunders said. "These people are in crisis. It's not just they need a little bit of food. These people are hurting. I'm just so glad that we get to be people who help them."

ECHO has stood as Brandon's representative organization for those in need since 1987. It's the place schools, social workers and neighbors refer to when someone is struggling with basic needs. With multiple programs and a burgeoning resource guide, it manages to steer people to a path of success.

"This is where they actually start the journey," said ECHO development director Michele Pruitt. "This is where they can actually get to a place where they're not in crisis.

"More often than not, when you come here, you actually leave with the things you need for that crisis, but you also leave here with hope and direction. Your mind is able to be settled so you can begin to think straight and figure out the next path."

As it prepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary with ECHO After Hours, a special event on Sept. 7, the nonprofit is charting its next steps while celebrating how its staff, volunteers and donors have helped lift people out of despair.

Those who arrive at the ECHO headquarters at 507 N Parsons Ave. will find a building sporting a fresh paint job, new signage, decorative mural and bold new logo. The green and white emblem features a fork fused to look like a tree, leaves growing from its branches.

"The immediate need is food, that's symbolized by the fork," Saunders said. "We reach that immediate need, but then we offer growth by providing opportunities for people to provide for themselves. Out of that immediate food we hope comes growth, not just a band-aid so you're not hungry for a week.

"We want to get you in a position where you hunger no more."

Despite its persistent presence in the community, ECHO officials are striving to raise awareness and expand its network of supporters. Saunders and Pruitt are convinced that each time it shares the varied efforts of the nonprofit, it can win over new converts. Chances are they'll be preaching to the choir for many of those who come to ECHO After Dark.

But they need to make the choir bigger. So along with saluting longtime board member Vince Ferraro, providing network opportunities and feting guests with food and drinks, ECHO After Dark will include fast-paced tours of its building, showcasing the different programs and sharing the stories of volunteers who lift up others and receive a personal boost at the same time.

As for its future, ECHO wants to continue serving more people. It's helped with more than 200,000 during its existence, but wants to expand both its services and the legions of needy it helps.

"One of our goals for the future is to grow beyond our borders, because we're spilling over right now in the physical building that we're in, but also in what we're capable of doing," Pruitt said. "We want to expand beyond the 15 zip codes we serve. We're able, we just need to get more partnerships."

Saunders said the organization is particularly interested in creating a second location in the SouthShore area, where it's already helping a number of needy folks.

"There's more people to reach, more people to help," Saunders said.

To extend the mission, Saunders said people need to realize their dollars aren't going to the sweet, little, local nonprofit. ECHO offers job training, GED tutoring, counseling and its own social entrepreneur effort in ECHO Handmade, a craft enterprise.

Plus, it will stage one of the area's top job fairs on Sept. 14.

In the end, it longs to elevate more lives. Clearly, they need more lifelines and more rope to pull people on to its vessel of hope. After 30 years, it really needs a bigger vessel.

That's all I'm saying.

 
Comments
Tampa Bay Whole Foods can now deliver through Amazon Prime Now

Tampa Bay Whole Foods can now deliver through Amazon Prime Now

Tampa Bay Whole Foods Market shoppers can finally get organic goodies delivered to their homes in a few hours as members of Amazon Prime. Amazon announced today that Whole Foods has added Tampa, nine other metro areas and parts of Seattle and New Yor...
Updated: 8 hours ago
New forward Danick Martel hoping to stick with Lightning

New forward Danick Martel hoping to stick with Lightning

TAMPA — Danick Martel didn't have much of an opportunity to ease his way into his time with the Lightning.On Sunday, 10,164 Lightning fans flocked to Amalie Arena to watch Martel's debut practice, also known as Fan Fest.As if there was not alre...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays journal: Jake Faria struggles in loss to Yankees

Rays journal: Jake Faria struggles in loss to Yankees

ST. PETERSBURG — After being formally eliminated Monday from the postseason chase, the Rays on Tuesday turned their focus to addressing some issues for next season.One is what to make of RHP Jake Faria, whose follow-up season to his impressive ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning journal: Kucherov leaves preseason game with lower-body injury

Lightning journal: Kucherov leaves preseason game with lower-body injury

F Nikita Kucherov played in the first period against the Panthers, but he did not return for the second.Midway through the second, the Lightning ruled him out for the rest of the game with a lower-body injury.Lightning coach Jon Cooper did not want t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Already playing well, Rays’ Tommy Pham promises more

Already playing well, Rays’ Tommy Pham promises more

ST. PETERSBURGTommy Pham has been doing some impressive things for the Rays since coming off the DL after coming over from the Cardinals in a July 31 trade.Like hitting .357 in 32 games, posting a 1.087 OPS and reaching base in a career-best 27 strai...
Updated: 2 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Tuesday, September 25

Tuesday’s scoreboardBoys swimmingShorecrest 181, Tampa Prep 133Girls swimmingShorecrest 159, Tampa Prep 135
Updated: 3 hours ago
Wesley Chapel High instructional assistant accused of abusing special needs student on bus

Wesley Chapel High instructional assistant accused of abusing special needs student on bus

A Wesley Chapel High School special education instructional assistant was arrested Monday on two counts of child abuse after a school bus video showed him pushing a restrained special needs student down by the back of the head multiple times, accordi...
Updated: 5 hours ago
FEMA rolling out new flood zone maps for Tampa Bay counties

FEMA rolling out new flood zone maps for Tampa Bay counties

Thousands of Tampa Bay-area property owners could soon find themselves with new flood zone designations on their homes and businesses.The Federal Emergency Management Agency has completed a years-long study to update flood zone maps in Hillsborough, ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Markeis McGlockton’s autopsy shows he turned away from shooter

Markeis McGlockton’s autopsy shows he turned away from shooter

The autopsy for Markeis McGlockton, who was killed in a shooting that set off a debate about Florida’s stand your ground law, shows the bullet entered his body at an angle and tore through his heart and both lungs.The Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner’...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Madeira Beach's dirty laundry gets aired during ethics hearing

Madeira Beach's dirty laundry gets aired during ethics hearing

By Sheila Mullane Estrada Times Correspondent CLEARWATER — For seven hours, attorneys questioned and sometimes shouted at witnesses testifying either for or against Madeira Beach Commissioner Nancy Oakley in an ethics hearing that will determ...
Updated: 5 hours ago