Begun in the wake of Hurricane Hugo, East Cooper Community Outreach (ECCO) has been saving the lives and livelihoods of impoverished people East of the Cooper for 20 years. Although born from chaos, the organization has helped bring order and stability to innumerable lives. With a staff of 12 and the expanded efforts of more than 200 volunteers, ECCO offers many services—ranging from emergency assistance for food, clothing, household furnishings, and financial needs to medical, dental, and prescription drug programs to education and counseling—to help those in need get back on their feet.
“While most people consider Mount Pleasant to be an affluent and thriving Charleston bedroom community, there are thousands of our neighbors who barely get by,” says ECCO executive director Jack Little. “We want to be a real partner in empowering these communities and families to overcome barriers that prevent them from becoming self-sufficient.”
Through its network of partner organizations and cooperative agreements, the nonprofit has created a multitude of both practical and forward-thinking programs, such as the “Out of Poverty Initiative,” a five-point plan aimed at engaging the entire community in the eradication of poverty. The first step: education. It involves not only teaching the poor and under-educated to do better in the world (the “Getting Ahead Workshop” is designed to help develop problem-solving and financial-management skills), but perhaps just as important, educating leaders, service providers, and volunteers about what it’s really like to live in poverty and the challenges that separate the different economic classes in our communities.
“The most gratifying part of being an ECCO volunteer is that I get to see immediate results,” says Kelley Andrews. “We talk with people in need and hand them groceries and clothing right away. I have helped clients find apartments and watched as an ECCO employee called a company to set up an interview so a father could work the next day. There are so many programs at ECCO that we can assist many residents with all different needs. These people live within miles of my family, so I am directly helping my community, my neighbors.”
ECCO volunteers gave 12,000 hours—equaling $87,000—in basic services during 2008.
People helped in 2008: 9,481 received food; 336 received financial aid; 1,468 received dental care; 1,039 received treatment in the CARES clinic
Local Nonprofit Partners &
• St. Vincent de Paul Society
• MUSC CARES Clinic
• Catholic Charities
• Pro-bono Legal Services
• S.C. Vocational Rehabilitation
• Operation Home
• Trident One Stop Career System Workforce
• Charleston County Adult Education
• WorkKeys Career Readiness Program