A mom and her son receive emergency donations from ECHO.

By Lily Belcher

The Emergency Care Health Organization (ECHO) is opening its doors for families in need more often this year, allowing families to pick up emergency food and clothing three times a year, as opposed to two times. ECHO has also abolished the four-visit limit for families that use its services.

“Our goal is really to get to the root of the hunger and really help somebody get into a place in their lives where they can provide for themselves. In order to do that, it is just advantageous for them and for us that we can see them more than twice a year,” said Executive Director Eleanor Saunders.

ECHO has been serving Brandon families in need since 1987 by distributing food and clothing donated by the community. Before the expansion, families could make emergency visits six months apart, but the new policy and addition of two full-time employees has allowed families to use ECHO’s services every four months if necessary.

“We’ve seen how effective it is to have people on staff that all they’re doing full-time is helping people get back to work or helping people navigate through the very complex system that is social services,” explained Saunders.

The expansion, however, would not be possible without the generous support of the community. While many families suffered from unemployment and financial struggles in 2020 due to quarantine during the coronavirus, ECHO received an abundance of donations and was able to pass out food and supplies as soon as it came in. ECHO was able to donate the surplus of food and clothing to other nonprofits, such as Manna on Wheels, Landmark Ministries and Seeds of Hope.

ECHO accepts clothing and food donations year-round and is currently in need of gently used children’s shoes and men’s clothing, specifically small and medium sizes. Members of the community can make monetary donations online to help ECHO if they do not have items to give.

To make monetary donations, visit echofl.kindful.com. For more information, contact the Brandon location at 685-0935 or the Riverview location at 540-9880 or visit echofl.org.

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