BROOKFIELD, Ohio (WYTV) – A group of Brookfield graduates is helping other alumni in need.
This week’s Hometown Heroes come from the ECHO Charitable Foundation is a nonprofit group of Brookfield High School graduates.
The group’s president, Denny Eli, said it started 11 years ago as a small group of friends raising money for fellow alumni who fell on hard times. It grew from there.
“So we started that in 2009, raised a little bit of money, and we thought, ‘You know what? Why don’t we just continue to do this for as many Brookfield families, Brookfield alumni families as we can,” he said.
ECHO, which is also the name of Brookfield High Schoo’s yearbook, stands for “Every Class Helping Others.”
Every year, the group holds a benefit at The Yankee Lake Ballroom, with dinner, drinks, a Chinese Auction, raffles and live music.
Vice President Lisa Haun said the proceeds help support Brookfield alumni in a variety of ways, and help is not income-based.
“Primarily medical bills, but we’ve also helped to pay funeral expenses. We’ve made mortgage payments, car payments, real estate taxes. We’ve done all sorts of things like that to try to help an individual that has had some difficulties,” she said.
Jessica McDermott is a Brookfield graduate. When she and her family experienced a tragedy, the ECHO group was there to help.
“My mom passed away, and she didn’t have any life insurance or anything like that, and one of my neighbors… had told my uncle and my aunt that there was this program, and they helped us. They covered a significant amount, and we were able to have a funeral for my mom, and otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to do anything,” she said.
McDermott was so touched by the group’s kindness, it inspired her to join them.
“It really gives you a sense of community and makes you really want to help your neighbor,” she said.
“We’re just a little group, but when you see the big changes you can make by just doing little things and spreading kindness, it’s pretty awesome,” Haun said.
The group’s annual benefit started off as just a handful of people but now attracts a crowd of more than 650.
“The atmosphere gets better every year. I’ve had young people come up to me and say, ‘Hey, this is better than a class reunion,’ and I’ve had people actually older than I am, and they’re saying the same thing, so Brookfield is a great community,” Eli said.
For more information on the ECHO Foundation, visit the group’s Facebook page. The group says it’s always looking for new volunteers.
Brookfield alumni and their immediate family members can apply for help from ECHO through the Community Foundation of Western PA and Eastern OH. Applications and more information are available on ECHO’s Facebook page.