The Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO) in Brandon is well-known for the resources and aid it provides for residents in need. However, a new extension of ECHO is not as well-known. ECHO Handmade helps provide a path to stability as well as helps the environment.
ECHO Handmade allows locals who may have at first come to ECHO in need of help to begin working as artisans in ECHO’s Opportunity Center. Here one can walk in and find friendly faces working hard to make beautiful and unique pieces out of completely recycled materials.
Excess clothing donated to ECHO that would otherwise go to the salvage truck is now turned into creative and quality accessories, as well as provides a living wage to those who once may have been unemployed.
Social Enterprise Coordinator Taylor Mazza helps out in the ECHO Handmade workroom, where the artisans and volunteers in the community come together on Wednesdays to help create accessories, ranging from $10 to $30.
“Graduates of the GED program can come and work for us to acquire some professional references and work history so they can go into more permanent employment,” she said.
Artisan Frank Jones, who helped start ECHO Handmade in December 2016 by creating unique leather accessories, works alongside artisan Roslyn Johnson, who makes original bags out of recycled ties, suits, leather and even jewelry.
Johnson, who first came to ECHO Handmade in October 2017, makes the most out of her time at ECHO and is currently enrolled in a GED class and money management class, while Jones participates in ECHO’s Job-for-Job program.
“I enjoy coming to the classes, I love the people that I work around and they are just very beautiful,” said Johnson.
ECHO Handmade is not just a small side business, according to Mazza, but so much more.
“We continue to serve the community as far as making sure the people who were once hungry or once were not stable in that poverty mindset can come and have that bridge become more stable,” she said.
ECHO Handmade’s products can be found at the Green Boutique, located at 1032 Bloomingdale Ave., and Revolution Ice Cream, located at 220 W. Brandon Blvd. To view ECHO Handmade’s online store or to find more information on donating or volunteering, visit https://echofl.org. You can also shop at its Facebook, ECHO Handmade, or Instagram at @echohandmadestore.