By Kathy L. Collins
On Thursday, June 13, ECHO of Brandon celebrated the Grand Opening of its newly renovated Kitchen/Pantry with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Members of the area’s three Chambers of Commerce, Brandon, Seffner and Riverview, were on hand along with invited guests and the dedicated volunteers who help run ECHO.
Stacey Efaw, Executive Director for ECHO said, “We are so proud of the renovated Kitchen/Pantry. We have been looking forward to this day for a long time, and it would not have been possible without the dedication of our volunteers, the community and community partners such as Wal-mart and Bank of America.”
ECHO’s Kitchen/Pantry renovation was made possible thanks to grants from Wal-mart and Bank of America. Much of the work on the renovations was done by a core group of volunteers.
Since its inception in 1987, ECHO has provided food assistance to residents of the greater Brandon area who have suffered a recent emergency or hardship. Clients are provided with seven days worth of food for themselves and each person in their household.
The renovations allowed ECHO to set up the area in such a way that the clients may now shop for themselves. “We used to fill an order with food, but we did not always know if the food we were giving was something that the client wanted to eat. Now, with the assistance of trained volunteers, clients can choose from a list the items that they want,” explained Efaw.
The food list includes not only a variety of non-perishable items, but also fresh produce, lean proteins (meat or fish), bread, eggs and margarine. ECHO is able to provide fresh produce thanks to several area community gardens (Bay Life Church and Winthrop Garden) and Collins Produce. The fresh produce is kept in newly installed reach-in refrigerators.
ECHO serves over 16,000 area residents each year. In addition to emergency food, ECHO provides clothing, toiletries and household items. Area residents may also use computers in the Client Center to apply for Medicaid and Food Stamps, search for a job or look for housing. In addition, ECHO offers free GED classes, Healthy Living classes and basic and intermediate computer classes for adults.
For more information on ECHO of Brandon, please visit www.echofl.org or call 685-0935.