By Libby Hopkins

Currently one in eight families in Hillsborough County are food insecure, meaning that they have no access to nutritious food. Survival for them is a daily challenge. It has been reported that 58 percent of clients served by local food pantries report having to choose between paying for food and paying for utilities. Thirty-seven percent had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care. With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays coming up, many of the families may have to do without.

Stacey Efaw is the Executive Director of ECHO and she is excited about this year’s Gift of Hope Holiday Tent. The project is a partnership with ECHO, various churches, and companies from the Brandon area. “The goal of the project is to provide 800 families with the items for a nutritious Thanksgiving dinner and 1000 families with the items for a nutritious Christmas dinner along with toys for the children,” Efaw said, “We need the entire community’s support to help the needy families in our area to have a joyful holiday season.

Debbie Weisemann is the Minister of Outreach at Bell Shoals Baptist Church and is proud that her church is doing its part to help with the project and raise awareness about people in need. “The Gift of Hope Holiday Tent grew out of the compassion and the awareness of a great need in our community,” Weisemann said, “We have come together to reach out in love to our community by offering a holiday meal and toys at the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.”

Efaw has been getting lots of positive feedback from everyone involved with the project. She knows that this project will make a difference in the lives of many families during the holiday season. “Everyone so far has been very excited about the community coming together to help those in need,” Efaw said, “This truly is an awesome collaboration of churches, organizations and individuals. If you would like more information on the project or if you would like to make a donation, you can visit them on the web at


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Libby Hopkins has been a part of the Brandon community for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of USF with a degree in journalism. She has been a freelance writer for The Osprey Observer Newspaper since 2008. She also the Executive Director of Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association. She is a dog mom to her rescue dog, Marshall. She loves being a part of the Brandon Community and she loves sharing positive news about our community.