By Kate Quesada

As the dust settled after Hurricane Irma left the Brandon area last month, Melissa Haskins, President of the Valrico/Fish Hawk Chamber of Commerce noticed a need and the community was quick to help her fill it.
Haskins, along with other members of the chamber, put together a food drive for Brandon’s Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO) at Plaza Bella in Valrico that collected five pallets of food and supplies and more than $500 in cash and gift cards within 24 hours for those in need in the community.

“As a board member of ECHO, it came to my attention that they had more people coming to them for food and supplies than ever before in the wake of the hurricane,” said Haskins, who also operates an Edwards Jones Financial office in the area. “It was apparent that these people really needed help from our community so I felt that I needed to do something about it.”

Within hours, members of the Valrico/FishHawk and SouthShore Chambers advertised the needs to the community and set up a donation spot outside The Green Boutique off Bloomingdale Ave.

“So many people jumped on board,” said Haskins. “In what felt like a split second we had more than we could have expected to help ECHO and the victims of the flooding at the Alafia River.”

ECHO has been helping those in need in the Brandon area for 30 years, providing immediate relief in the forms of food, clothing and household items to residents who have experienced a recent emergency.

“Words cannot express how thankful I am to live in our community,” said Haskins. “Many thanks to those who volunteered their time and donated items. Special thanks to John with NE Where Transport for donating the box truck and Scott and Rose with YoYo Juice for the donation of the food truck to keep the perishables cold. Also thank you to Tiffany with Marco’s Pizza in FishHawk for donating the pizzas to feed our crew of volunteers throughout the day and to Roz and Mark Creager with Green Boutique and Plaza Bella for their generous donations of supplies and allowing us to set up collection in parking lot.”

For information on the Valrico-FishHawk Chamber, call 685-0935 or visit ECHO can be reached at 685-0935.

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Kate Quesada
Assignment Editor Kate Quesada started working at the Osprey Observer in 2004 after graduating from the University of South Florida with a masters degree in Mass Communications. Since then, she has held various positions at the paper and has been working as the assignment editor since January 2020. She lives in Lithia with her husband Mike and sons Dylan and Max and stays active in the community on school PTA boards and volunteering with local organizations.