Work team serves ECHO for 24th year

By Maddie Christy

Every summer for 24 years, John Hanson has volunteered at ECHO. Adding up each two-week trip to the Global Farm in Florida, he’s totaled almost one full year of volunteering!

Mr. Hanson is the leader of a volunteer work team comprised of students from the Indiana area who are part of the Reformed Presbyterian denomination. The high school and college students come each year to serve alongside the staff members and interns at ECHO Florida.

“It’s about helping and blessing the workers here at ECHO who have dedicated their lives to this mission,” said Lauren Daniels. “We want to come and partner with the work that’s being done globally by serving the long-term staff here.”

Ellen Smith (left), eight-time return volunteer from Indiana, works alongside Andy Cotarelo (center), ECHO Farm Manager, to clear a research plot at the Global Farm in North Fort Myers, Florida.

Ellen Smith (left), eight-time return volunteer from Indiana, works alongside Andy Cotarelo (center), ECHO Farm Manager, to clear a research plot at the Global Farm in North Fort Myers, Florida.

ECHO’s farm manager, Andy Cotarelo has had the opportunity to work with the team for 12 years. Cotarelo expressed what a blessing it has been to have extra hands on deck for big projects and general farm work over the years. He and Mr. Hanson have also cultivated a friendship during the 12 years they’ve known each other. 

Lauren Daniels, a senior at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, has served at ECHO three times with this team. She jokes about how unglamorous the work is, but counts it a joy to serve missionaries who equip people around the world. 

“Getting out in the heat of Florida and doing hard physical labor on the farm has done wonders for my character,” Daniels said. “We are doing this work and nobody is going to know our names. That’s why it matters. That’s why it’s important that we do this.” 

Ellen Smith, a volunteer who has served at ECHO for eight years, acts as the mother of the group. While the students are working in the morning, she prepares lunch and does laundry before joining them on the farm. 

“This trip was invaluable for me when I was in high school,“ Smith said. “I want to play a role that provides that same opportunity for other students.” 

The Indiana Work Team, as ECHO staff refers to them, has certainly left their mark over the years. Returning members look around the farm and point out the rice paddy they revamped, fences they built, and fields they cleared that now bear fruit. Each year, the team works on a couple big projects. This year they’ve re-thatched the roof on the hut at the Anderson Appropriate Technology Center, tarped and replanted the bamboo field, and cleared out the research plot. When they’re not working on group projects, the students split off with ECHO interns to work alongside them in their areas of the farm.

“I can’t say enough about the influence of the interns on the lives of the high-schoolers,” Mr. Hanson said. “They are just a few years older and have been through exactly what those students are going through. The interns really encourage and inspire my students.”

Both parties have benefited greatly from this long-standing relationship. The high-school students are quick to recognize that this mission trip is about pouring into people who are used to doing all the serving. Along the way, they often learn about themselves and who they are in God’s kingdom. For ECHO staff and interns, the hard work and friendships that come with the group are a great encouragement. They are thankful for the willingness of Midwest students to spend part of their summer serving in an unconventional way. 

The Indiana Work Team is a testament to the Lord’s faithfulness to ECHO. Those who give of their time and resources help to sustain our work all throughout the world. Whether it’s a tradition of 24 years and counting, or a first-time volunteer, ECHO is greatly blessed by those who choose to come and partner with us in our mission to honor God by empowering the undernourished with sustainable hunger solutions.

In Love With Volunteering

Photo courtesy of Rachel and Jared Scoville

Photo courtesy of Rachel and Jared Scoville

What’s not to love about a honeymoon in Florida? Newlyweds have enjoyed lounging at the beach, touring Disney world...and now volunteering at ECHO! Just four days after their wedding on April 15th, Rachel and Jared Scoville dropped by ECHO for a day of volunteering and a tour.

When Jared went to school at Gordon College, he went on the school’s annual spring break trip to ECHO. He had the opportunity to become fully immersed in the experience of working there, including reinforcing the Global Classroom for hurricane protection, tending to the rabbits and working in the fields. Jared had so much fun, he started growing a Moringa tree in his dining room.

“I told everyone I knew about the Moringa tree just cause it was fun to talk about. Even to this day it's in our garden right now. I’ve gardened ever since.” Jared said.

When the Scoville started to plan their honeymoon, they thought Florida would be a good chance to go to the beach and visit ECHO.

Rachel had heard all about Jared’s fond memories from the farm, but didn’t quite know what to expect when she arrived. After taking a tour, she understood Jared’s excitement.

“It was truly an amazing experience. I was really blown away by ECHO and the impact they have around the world,” Rachel said.

Today, Rachel is working as a behavioral analyst in their town of Bristol, Connecticut. Jared is working toward his doctorate degree in physical therapy at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. In their free time the Scovilles tend to their 50x50 garden plot where their Moringa trees are growing.

If you are passionate about ECHO’s mission, sign up for a volunteer position on ECHO’s volunteer page.  

How ECHO is Changing MY Life

From Stranger to Volunteer Coordinator by Deb Johnson

Just 15 months ago, I was a stranger to this wonderful community known as ECHO.

In April of last year, there was an environmental fair about 50 miles north of Fort Myers in a town called North Port. An interesting display caught my attention and I made the decision right away to check out this place called ECHO.  I visited the very next week and just like most first timers I was blown away. The tropical beauty, passionate people and most of all, the extraordinary mission makes this place seem to be a bit of heaven on earth. I became a volunteer and the seed that ECHO planted in my world was beginning to grow. Read More.

As time went on, the Volunteer Coordinator position became available and to my delight I was given the chance to further my involvement and deepen my commitment to ECHO’s vision. It is a gift and an honor to be in a position to interact with so many interesting and wonderful people from our dedicated staff to long-time volunteers, amazing interns and excited new folks visiting the Global Farm for the first time.

From my particular vantage point working with you, our amazing volunteers, I see the impact first hand of God touching hearts through ECHO’s work . The effects are powerful and renewing – honestly life-changing. I’ve come to realize that by being a small part of the effort enabling small-scale farmers to grow food for their families, I get the chance to grow my own soul in spirit and love. Thank you for all that you do!