By Renee Hobbs

You can help the hungry in the area by getting involved in Emergency Care Help Organization’s (ECHO) fourth annual Empty Bowls in the Brandon/Riverview area. The event is Saturday, March 19 at Saint Andrews United Methodist Church located at 3315 Bryan Rd. in Brandon. Guests will be able to sample a lot of different soups donated by about 10 restaurants in the area. How does chicken lemon rice soup sound? Or maybe the seafood bisque or Ruben soups appeal to you. And you will also get to take home a bowl made by local elementary students from one of the six participating schools.

There is a 12 Noon seating as well as a 1:30 p.m. seating. The cost is $10 for adults, $5 for children 5 and older, children under 5 are free.

Laura Young, Community Development Manager for ECHO, got very excited and proud when she spoke about the bowls the children made.

“They are the cutest little bowls you have ever seen; they are hedgehogs,” she laughed.

“The idea is to remind you of the hunger many people in your own back yard have to face every day,” said ECHO Executive Director Eleanor Saunders.

Almost 62 percent of children in Hillsborough County qualify for a free or reduced priced meal, which is an increase of 12 percent from five years ago. Four hundred and eighty three children are homeless. On the average, six out of 10 children standing in the serving line are living below the poverty line. Saunders continued, “ECHO raises much needed funds through this event and others, to serve about 300 families each month.”

ECHO helps 14 zip codes in the area and basically covers the Eastern part of Hillsborough County. Young remarked, “We receive no government funds so we depend on donations of individuals and businesses. We are always in need of something.”

A few of those items include dried milk packets, canned meat, pasta and sauce, and jelly. Young said, “We get peanut butter but rarely jelly.”

Other critical items include toiletries, “especially deodorant and toothpaste,” said Young. There are several options to participate in the event. You can be a sponsor by donating anywhere from $250 to $5,000 dollars. To find out more, visit

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