A group of neighbors in need of assistance wait for their turn to meet with ECHO volunteers Connie Talley, in the black shirt, and Mary Montufar, in the blue shirt, at the nonprofit’s welcome center.

The Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO) in Brandon has established a reputation over its 35-year history as a place where people who find themselves in a life-altering financial crisis can turn to for resources to regain solid footing on their life’s journey.

The nonprofit operates a food bank and makes clothing available for those lacking the basics of daily living. ECHO also provides help with job searches and accessing appropriate government programs, as well as connecting with specialized services offered by other organizations that could benefit an individual or family trying to navigate out of a difficult financial situation.

“At ECHO, we create opportunities and advocate for our neighbors to provide for themselves,” said Eleanor Saunders, ECHO’s executive director.

Recently, the ability of ECHO to fulfill its commitment to the people who turn to it is being challenged by an increased demand for services.

According to Saunders, the rise in requests for assistance has been significant, with a 72 percent increase from 3,746 during the three-month total of July through September 2021 to the same time frame of this year, with 6,443 individuals served.

Saunders added that many of those requests for help come from people who are without shelter, citing a more than fourfold increase in the past year for those cases, from 60 in the nonprofit’s first quarter last year to 250 for the same period in 2022, a 316 percent increase.

As if the climbing number of people in financial distress wasn’t enough, Hurricane Ian has made the problem worse, according to Saunders, with its impact on people who were on the edge of stability before the storm. Many of them lost hourly wages from business closings while Ian tracked through the state or had food spoilage from a lack of electricity to power their refrigerator.

“This is proving to be another setback,” she said in a video available on the ECHO of Brandon YouTube channel and Facebook page. Saunders added that ECHO and the neighbors it helps are counting on community support to get through the current increase in demand for services.

“When supporting an organization that stands in the gap for the struggling, my hope is that local residents would allocate their philanthropic giving to the Small but Mighty nonprofit community right here in the Greater Brandon community.”

To learn more about ECHO or to make a donation, visit https://echofl.org/.

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Brad Stager
Avian-named publications have figured prominently in Brad Stager's career. Besides writing for the Osprey Observer, he started out writing sports articles for the Seahawk, a weekly newspaper serving the military community aboard Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan. That position followed a career documenting life in the Fleet, from the Straits of Magellan to the North Arabian Sea, as a Navy Photographer's Mate. Since settling in the Tampa Bay area, Brad has produced a variety of written, visual and aural content for clients ranging from corporate broadcasters to small businesses.