Community Spotlight: ECHO – Emergency Care & Help Organization

ECHO has programs to help individuals and families

special to the DEMOCRAT • November 2, 2010

ECHO, which stands for Emergency Care and Help Organization, began in 1980 when a group of clergy and members of several downtown Tallahassee churches met to address increasing requests for food from needy individuals and families. ECHO began as a food pantry and a coat closet and now offers a full range of services that restore self-sufficiency and a feeling of self-worth. Programs include:

An Emergency Resources Program provides food, furniture, household goods, bus passes and other essential items. ECHO is a registered USDA food pantry.

The Family Services Program, also known as Bethany Family Services, provides short-term housing and long-term hope for families in crisis. The goal is to move families toward independence and permanent housing.

The Employment Assistance Program provides employment counseling and assistance in writing a resume, plus providing job leads, work clothes and the motivation and encouragement sometimes needed to move toward self-sufficiency.

ECHO is now collecting food donations for an annual program that provides a full Thanksgiving dinner to 250 needy families each year. If you would like to donate either a grocery-store gift card or items such as a frozen turkey (approximately 12 pounds), a box of stuffing mix or macaroni and cheese, a can of yams, cranberry sauce, or green beans, deliver your donation to ECHO main office at 702 W. Madison St. by Friday.

Coat donations can be dropped off at ECHO or the Burlington Coat Factory in the Tallahassee Mall. ECHO can be reached at 224-3246 or

Whole Child Leon is focused on ensuring that children from birth to age 6 in Leon County will be healthy. Visit or call 414-8344.

The Success of Whole Child Florida

Whole Child communities are designated as such by The Lawton Chiles Foundation based on a community-wide commitment to shared philosophies to serve young children and their families.The Lawton Chiles Foundation currently partners with 8 counties across Florida. Current Whole Child communities include Brevard, Manatee, Martin, Leon, Jefferson, Madison, Taylor and Gadsden. Wakulla and Volusia Counties have made the decision to become Whole Child Communities as well. A Whole Child Community uses web-based technology; a commitment from all segments of the community; and community leaders united as Action Teams to build and maintain a community where everyone works together to make sure children thrive.

The primary focus of Whole Child Florida is 0-5, but many WC communities are electing to broaden the spectrum and address children and youth of all ages and their families.

Whole Child uses web-based technology called the “Whole Child Connection” to:

  • Assist families in identifying the needs of their young children.
  • Connect families with appropriate service providers,
  • Encourage and enable service providers to build collaborative networks, and
  • Enable communities to identify gaps in service and assess their progress in ensuring that all children thrive.

Whole Child communities believe that all segments of the community need to work together to make sure children thrive. Each segment have unique opportunities for contribution.
  • Business
  • Civic Groups
  • Education
  • Providers
  • Government
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Families

Community leaders united as “Action Teams” to focus on programs, activities, and support services families need to nurture the “Six Dimensions of a Whole Child.”
  • Physical and Mental Health
  • Quality Early Education and Development
  • Social-Emotional Development
  • Spiritual Foundation and Strength
  • Safe and Nurturing Environment
  • Economic Stability

The Role of the Lawton Chiles Foundation

The Lawton Chiles Foundation provides seed money for Whole Child Florida, which offers designated Whole Child Communities the leadership and guidance to reach their goals for young children. This includes organizational meetings with an introduction to core beliefs and principles, a comprehensive downloadable on-line toolkit with key documents, and step-by step guides to becoming a Whole Child community. Whole Child Florida will provide linkages with technology partners, and to statewide organizations such as the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet, Children’s Services Councils, the Florida Association of Early Learning Coalitions and the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions. Finally, each Whole Child Community, once designated, will become part of a full service web community with individual websites, database and communication functionalities to foster discussion between and among the greater statewide community.

One in Five are Uninsured

Uninsured Children in FloridaAccording to George Sheldon, Secretary for Florida’s Department of Children and Families, one in five American children has no health insurance. In Florida, this number is reflected in the 763,000 children statewide who are currently uninsured. One program making a difference for families, as regards the anxiety and fret parents feel when no health coverage exists for their kids, is a program called Florida KidCare. The program, a combined effort by the state and federal government, has about 1.9 million children enrolled in one of its four programs.

For more information on Florida KidCare, click here.

Whole Child: The Six Dimensions of a child’s well being

The 6 Dimensions

The Whole Child philosophy is grounded in the notion that communities must address and nurture all 6 dimensions of a child’s well being in order to raise a healthy child.

A growing body of research shows that the first 5 years of life are crucial to brain development, to acquiring social skills necessary to grow into good citizens, and to developing emotional strength and physical and mental health. Embracing the idea that we must nurture the Whole Child is key to giving our children the best start in life.

Whole Child Hardee Highlands Polk is forming 6 “Action Teams” made up of leaders in the community, some with extensive knowledge on the subject, some bringing the gift of a new perspective. All have a passion for children. Some Teams focus on research and identifying gaps, while others focuson developing tools and activities to assist parents and caregivers.

  • Social-Emotional Development
    The focal point of this action team is providing family-friendly information on assessing and facilitating social and emotional development.
  • Spiritual Foundation and Strength
    This action team provides resources for nurturing the development of a child’s spirit including qualities to teach and nurture, reading aloud, places to experience and adventuring in music, movement, drama and the visual arts.
  • Economic Stability
    This action team will help hard-working families become financially stable and take the next steps to long-term independence.
  • Physical & Mental Health
    This action team focuses on issues such as pediatric dental needs, infant mortality, mental health, health data collection, health insurance and navigation of the health delivery system.
  • Quality Education
    The goal of this action team is to improve children’s development through quality early education.
  • Safe & Nurturing Environments
    “From the crib to the playground” is a good description of the wide scope of this action team’s focus on creating a safe and nurturing environment within the home and neighborhood for children and families in our community.

Whole Child makes a difference in Florida

Since 2000, The Lawton Chiles Foundation has been working to unite entire communities around the goal of providing for children. The Whole Child Project in three pilot counties has laid the foundation for the creation of “Whole Child Florida” – building a stronger foundation for our children across our state by continuing our focus at the community level.

Governor Chiles understood that successful nurturing and development of all children required a dramatically new approach. An approach that:

  • Starts early – before conception
  • Provides continuous support to parents
  • Is grounded in the family
  • Is holistic, considering the physical, economic, social, cultural and spiritual environment in which the child lives
  • Creates a “no wrong door” culture whereby service providers are committed to building collaborative service delivery networks instead of competitive, single strategy agencies and institutions
  • Builds a partnership across all sectors of our society whose activities impinge on the lives of children
  • Provides state and local government funding to ensure fairness, equity and consistent outcomes

Building on Governor Chiles’ legacy, The Lawton Chiles Foundation partnered with Manatee County and Electronic Training Solutions (ETS) to create the vision for the Whole Child Project. The Whole Child Project has had positive results and outcomes in three pilot counties including Manatee, Martin and Leon. Whole Child Florida will take this vision, philosophy and strategic framework across Florida to engage our statewide community around common goals related to children.

The Lawton Chiles Foundation Initiatives

The inaugural Lawton Chiles Leadership Corps was a rousing success thanks to the outstanding efforts of all involved.  The more than 260 student participants added an unbelievable energy to the two day conference.

The conference was capped off Sunday afternoon as Former President Bill Clinton addressed the students

for more than 30 minutes, charging them with fixing Florida’s problems through action.

You can change the future, but you can’t do it just
by talking about it. Leadership today is deciding how
to solve these problems and then going out and doing
what you can to do it.”

Former President Bill Clinton

We’d like the thank all who were involved, in any way, as we could not have done this without you!


Worst to First is a statewide advocacy campaign to make children’s issues the top priority for Florida’s leaders.

Worst to First is focused on uniting children’s groups and individual advocates together in a statewide community

to increase our influence on children’s issues.


Whole Child Florida is not another program, but a philosophy that uses strategic planning,

web-based technology, performance measurement and broad-based community engagement to

build communities where everyone works together to make sure children thrive.