Looking back: East Cooper Community Outreach remembers Hurricane Hugo and its origin

The Lowcountry is approaching the 30th  anniversary of Hurricane Hugo’s landfall in Charleston. East Cooper Community Outreach (ECCO), a four-star rated Charity Navigator nonprofit, is reflecting on its origins during the peak of hurricane season. September 21-22, 2019 is the 30th anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, one of the most devastating storms to hit the South Carolina coast. Hugo was a category four storm when it made landfall in 1989, causing severe damage.

ECCO was formed in the aftermath of the storm. Christ Our King Catholic Church’s newly-appointed Monsignor James Carter led staff members to tour the destruction. “We were astonished by the loss and the damage our neighbors suffered,” recalled Carter. “It opened our eyes to the situational and generational poverty in our community that needed to be addressed.”

The mission began with church members donating food and clothing. Not long after, Carter saw the necessity of inviting churches of all denominations to begin an ongoing organization to join in the effort of addressing the needs of the disenfranchised.

“The night is darkest before the dawn,” said Stephanie Kelley, executive director of ECCO. “We may have started off as a relief effort from the storm, but we’re here today for the everyday curveballs that life throws at us.” 

ECCO’s offerings have also evolved to ensure they are meeting their clients’ needs through newer program additions like the monthly Fresh and Free farmer’s market and the Asset Development Program (ADP), formerly known as the IDA Program.

“As we continue to improve our existing services, we ask that our community join our efforts to serve our low-income neighbors. The ECCO Life Ring Society is the lifeblood of ECCO’s annual fund and makes a direct impact in the lives of the neighbors we serve daily,” said Kelley. Membership is secured by a donation of $1,000 or more. 

ECCO has been celebrating their 30th anniversary since the launch of its 30-week campaign in May that will run through Giving Tuesday on December 3, 2019. Interested individuals and organizations can get involved through in-kind or financial donations, organizational partnerships and even direct-care volunteer opportunities.

“Our community may not know that we are always looking for experienced or retired healthcare and dental providers to assist in our clinics,” said Kelley. “Even one day a year makes a significant impact for those served at ECCO.”

ECCO is proud to be a positive, permanent outcome from the chaotic and destructive time in 1989, serving over 2,000 families each year. Interested individuals can learn more about how to get involved or donate by contacting [email protected]. To learn more about Life Ring Society membership, individuals can visit 30.eccocharleston.org

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