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"Where were you?" was the refrain of the night at East Cooper Community Outreach’s 20th anniversary celebration as guests queried one another’s whereabouts during Charleston’s watershed disaster: Hurricane Hugo. Stories of destruction and survival related to the category four storm that struck the Lowcountry on September 21, 1989 were relayed throughout the party, which was hosted by an organization founded in the storm’s wake to assist residents with food, clothing, shelter, and emergency care. Over the past 20 years, ECCO has grown from a flash point emergency supplies distribution center (the former Jabber's grocery on Coleman Boulevard) to a nonprofit staffed by 14 people who administer more than a dozen programs aimed at assisting East Cooper residents with self-sufficiency via a “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” code of consciousness.

Bright blue tape affixed to the glass doors of the Omar Shrine Temple in the shape of "X"s elicited chuckles from storm veterans who recognized the window fortification technique, and the functional “decor” hinted at the party dressing that awaited guests inside the cavernous room. Caution tape, styrofoam coolers, emergency cots, and storm-warning flags were artfully strewn around the room, while radar images of Hugo flashed across two giant screens. Hundreds—hundreds!—of casually attired party attendees enjoyed a buffet dinner courtesy of Cru Catering, danced to the Mighty Kicks, and bid on scores of auction items (silent lots covered a whopping 22 tables, while the 11-lot live auction culminated with a trip to Napa Valley).

Funds raised will help underwrite medical, dental, and prescription drug assistance in addition to education and counseling services. Learn more at eccocharleston.org.

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