Mary Ann Clark, Vice President of the Brandon Area Newcomers Group, presented ECHO Executive Director Eleanor Saunders with a check for $1,500 at the group’s May meeting. Saunders used the opportunity to explain to the members the ways ECHO helps residents experiencing financial emergencies.

Members of the Brandon Area Newcomers Group have been welcoming residents to Hillsborough County since 1961 and last month they helped enrich the lives of those in need with donations to two local charities.

The group, which boasts more than 100 members of various ages, raised almost $3,000 at its annual fundraiser last fall and decided to split the funds between the Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO) and The Spring.

“We feel so fortunate to be able to help others in this way,” said Vice President Mary Ann Clark. “It is through the generosity of our members that we can do this.”

The money was raised through the group’s annual Make It, Bake It, Sew It, Grow It fundraiser where members auction off items they have created or bought to the public.

“You name it, we have probably got it at our auction,” said Valrico resident Helen Lepre, who has been a member of the group since 1998.

ECHO Executive Director Eleanor Saunders received a check for $1,500 for her organization at the group’s May meeting.

“This money will go a long way to help people learn to help themselves,” said Saunders, who explained that ECHO not only offers food and clothing to Brandon area residents who are struggling financially due to unforeseen emergencies, but also organizes five interconnected back to work programs.

The Spring of Tampa Bay, which also received $1,500, assists victims of domestic violence.

The Newcomers group is open to residents who have been in the area for any amount of time. Members meet monthly September through May as a large group, but the club also offers many small-group meetings including book clubs, bunko, bridge and dominoes groups, and even overnight trips out of state and more.

“The group is not just for newcomers,” said Clark. “I lived here for 10 years before I realized I could join.”

Dues for the group are $20 annually and meetings take place the third Wednesday of the month, September through May, at the Brandon Community Center, located at 502 E. Sadie St. Contact Clark at 653-3462. Anyone interested in joining should contact Lepre at 657-0883.

To learn more about ECHO, visit Call 247-7233 for more information about The Spring.

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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.