By Rebecca Ryan
This week, 22 years ago, Hurricane Hugo slammed into the Lowcountry.
In the days, weeks, and months following the hurricane, Christ out King Catholic Church launched ECCO, East Cooper Community Outreach, to help with the clean-up. In the years since, ECCO has become the go-to-place for every need in the community.
“I was in severe pain until I came here,” Kelly Litchfield said as he waited for his dentist.
He doesn’t have insurance for his dental work, so volunteer dentists at ECCO do the work for free.
“To me it was a matter of life and death,” he said. ”I couldn't take the pain anymore.”
In a room down the hall, students study for the GED tests. Next door, tutors and teachers train renters on how to save to buy homes and start businesses.
“What we want to do is lift people up on their feet so they can be self sustaining,” Executive Director, Jack Little, explained.
He says ECCO’s vision is to stamp out poverty in every community east of the Cooper River. Volunteers say dozens of families come through the ECCO food and clothing pantry each day. In a down economy, Little says more and more families decide between paying a mortgage and buying a meal.
“The demand has really increased in the last three years,” he said. “We're now seeing middle class moms coming in asking for food.”
ECCO is supported by donations. Friday they host their annual hurricane party marking the week Hugo hit Charleston and the subsequent launch of the center.
The party will be held at the Omar Shrine Temple on Friday, Sept. 23. PlaneJane will be performing at the event and Newton Farms Catering will be providing the food. There will be a silent auction featuring trips, art and evening excursions in Charleston. Tickets can be purchased for $65.
For more details: http://www.eccocharleston.org/