By Kathy L. Collins

For one in six area residents who suffer from food insecurity in Eastern Hillsborough County, the holidays are often not very joyous. Food insecurity is defined as not knowing from where an individual’s next meal will come.

In an effort to help end some of this suffering, the Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO) of Brandon and several area churches come together each year to host the Brandon Gift of Hope.

With the help of the community, the goal for this year is to provide 500 families with a Thanksgiving meal complete with a chicken or turkey. During the winter holidays, the goal is to do the same for 800 families. As an extra added bit of help, families will also receive toys during the winter holidays.

Stacey Efaw, executive director of ECHO, said, “We believe that no one should have to decide whether to pay bills or buy food. During the holidays, families in need experience increased stress, and we want to help by providing them with food for their holiday meals and a little something for their children.”

Families and individuals in need can register for the Brandon Gift of Hope from Monday, November 3 through Saturday, November 9, and then again from Monday, December 1 through Saturday, December 6. Registration will take place at either ECHO located at 507 N. Parsons Ave. in Brandon Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and at First Baptist Church of Brandon’s Compassion House located at 206 N. Moon Ave. in Brandon Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m.-12 Noon.

Distribution of Thanksgiving meals will take place on Friday, November 21 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday, November 22 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.  Distribution for the winter holidays will take place from Thursday, December 18 and Friday, December 19 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Saturday, December 20 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Brandon, Building A located at 216 N. Parsons Ave. in Brandon.

Donations will be accepted at the Brandon Gift of Hope tent which is located on the grounds of First Baptist Church of Brandon or online at www.Brandongiftofhope.com beginning on Monday, November 4. For those interested in volunteering their time, visit www.brandongiftofhope.com (site will be live mid October) For more information, call ECHO at 685-0935.