Brandon resident Julie Bills volunteers at ECHO in the ECHO Clothing Closet one day a week.

When Brandon resident Julie Bills found herself unable to work because of an automobile accident, she sought ways to fill her days with activities that would bring purpose to her life.

She found that purpose as a volunteer at Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO), where she volunteers once a week in the ECHO Clothing Closet by helping neighbors find suitable clothing for their lifestyles.

“I love giving back to the community and serving neighbors in need,” she said. “I might not get a paycheck, but every time I see someone smile, especially during these challenging times, because I’ve helped them brings me such joy.”

Brandon Center Director Savanna Thompson is thankful for Bills and all of ECHO’s volunteers but said they’re always in need of able bodies to help fulfill the organization’s mission of assisting residents of Hillsborough County with emergency food, clothing and access to life-stabilizing programs and resources.

One critical need is bilingual volunteers. Approximately half of the neighbors ECHO serves are more comfortable speaking Spanish than English, but only 10 percent of ECHO’s volunteers can speak and understand Spanish.

“Having bilingual volunteers will help us serve our neighbors to the best of our ability,” said Thompson.

Volunteers work Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., and are asked to commit to at least one day a week working at either the Brandon (507 N. Parsons Dr.) or Riverview (7807 Capitano St.) location. New volunteers are asked to attend a brief New Volunteer Orientation, which are offered once a month at its Brandon office.

Assistance is needed in several departments, including its opportunity center, which provides job coaching, GED help, financial workshops and one-on-one tutoring, and its advocacy program to help neighbors connect to local resources. In its Riverview outreach center, volunteers are needed to fill greeter positions, helping neighbors needing assistance feel welcome as the organization’s first point of contact.

“If you have time, please consider volunteering at ECHO,” said Thompson. “Volunteers help our neighbors find stability in their lives and we can’t do this without them.”

For more information about ECHO or about volunteering at the organization, visit www.echofl.org and click on the label at the top of the page titled ‘Get Involved’ or contact Thompson at 685-0935, ext. 8002.

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