History

A Proud History of Providing Second Chances

Founded in 1968, Eckerd is a pioneering youth services organization dedicated to helping kids succeed. Our founders, Jack and Ruth Eckerd, envisioned a program to create healthy and successful alternatives to help children turn their lives around. What started as Florida’s first private boys’ wilderness therapy program quickly expanded to include the state’s first outdoor therapeutic program for girls in the southeastern United States.

By 1982, the state of Florida asked Eckerd to operate the state’s first private juvenile justice program. Soon after, Eckerd added a transitional program for youth who successfully completed a residential juvenile justice program to its service offerings. Eckerd’s service array was further expanded with the addition of youth violence prevention and character education services in elementary and middle schools, in addition to several evidence-based, community behavioral health and child welfare services.

Today, Eckerd’s core service composition is no longer focused solely on residential programming. It is this depth and breadth of our work that sets us apart from most youth and family services providers across the country.


Our Founders – Jack and Ruth Eckerd

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Jack and Ruth Eckerd

Jack and Ruth Eckerd, founders of Eckerd, had tremendous vision, leadership and commitment to creating an organization that guides vulnerable youth to a better path in life. Their philosophy was that every child is valuable and a treasure in this world, and that each child deserves a chance to succeed.

Despite accomplishments in many different arenas, Jack and Ruth’s love of helping vulnerable and troubled children remained their passion throughout their lives. When questioned about why he was so passionate about youth development and child advocacy, Jack would almost always say that society would generate its biggest return on investment by helping troubled and vulnerable children turn their lives around — a “lifetime of returns” for each child and family that was helped.

Although Eckerd has grown and transformed since Jack Eckerd passed away in 2004 and Ruth shortly thereafter, one thing remains constant — our commitment to their vision that every child should have the opportunity to succeed. Of that legacy, Jack and Ruth would be most proud.


Other Eckerd Organizations

Several other entities and organizations bear the Eckerd name, including the Eckerd Family Foundation, Ruth Eckerd Hall and Eckerd College. Each represent Jack and Ruth Eckerd’s legacy, but none are so closely tied to providing direct care and services to vulnerable youth and their families as Eckerd.

Timeline:

1968

Jack and Ruth Eckerd opened Florida’s first outdoor therapeutic program for boys.

1968

Started the Jack and Ruth Eckerd Foundation (the precursor to our organization today).

1969

Opened the first outdoor therapeutic program for girls in the southeastern U.S.

1977

Expanded residential services to North Carolina at the request of North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt.

1978

Expanded services to New England.

1982

Opened Florida’s first private juvenile justice residential program.

1985

Launched juvenile justice aftercare services in Florida.

1985

Organizational name change to Eckerd Family Youth Alternatives, Inc.

1993

Launched school-based prevention services in Florida.

1998

Organizational name change to Eckerd Youth Alternatives, Inc.

2007

Expanded community-based juvenile justice services to Louisiana.

2008

Expanded community-based juvenile justice services to Texas.

2008

Became lead agency for community- based child welfare services in Florida’s Pinellas and Pasco counties.

2010

Began first family preservation and parenting education services in North Carolina.

2011

Expanded family preservation services to Iowa.

2011

Partnered with North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention on transitioning wilderness camping model to new short-term juvenile justice residential services for youth.

2011

Organizational rebranding to simply "Eckerd."

2012

By winning the community-based child welfare lead agency contract in Florida’s Hillsborough County, Eckerd became responsible for the safety, well-being and permanency of more than 5,000 of Tampa Bay’s most vulnerable children in Florida’s Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. With this expansion, Eckerd’s child welfare system became larger than 14 states and the District of Columbia.

2013

Expanded child welfare services to Oklahoma.

2013

Partnered with Florida Department of Juvenile Justice on transitioning community-based services to a new model called “Project Bridge.”

2014

Eckerd and CARING announce their affiliation, bringing two nonprofits together.