We take pride in the work we do for families at Eckerd E-Nini-Hassee. Since 1969, we’ve helped nearly 10,000 girls and their families.
The folks at every level of Eckerd have simply gone far above and beyond the call of duty. With my daughter approaching the age of 17 and in the middle of a very complicated situation with her mother, I knew that if she did not get the help she needed, her story would have a tragic ending. Everyone at Eckerd worked as an orchestra to coordinate her admission into the program on a very short timeline. The life skills my daughter has already embraced and digested are exactly that — a game changer. Part of the Eckerd E-Nini-Hassee program is to reconstruct the foundation of these girls to give them a solid base on which to build their life and effective coping skills to deal with the complexities of growing up in today’s environment. Honestly, I have never been associated with a more caring and talented group of people than the folks at Eckerd E-Nini-Hassee. I live in a world where “making it happen” is the bottom line. And everyone at Eckerd really knows how to do that with great skill.
Your program literally saved my daughter’s life, and I will be eternally grateful to the entire staff and counselors there. My daughter has stayed completely out of trouble since completing your program, is working and is preparing to graduate high school on time! All things that didn’t seem even close to feasible before she went to E-Nini-Hassee and was given the tools to help her make the conscious decision to turn her life around. Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving my daughter a second chance at a productive life.
My daughter has come a long way since leaving E-Nini-Hassee. She has successfully completed two semesters at college and is the top sales person at local major retailer in the computer department! I am so grateful that she had this opportunity to turn her life around, and I truly believe it was because of E-Nini-Hassee! I would hate to think where she would be now if she didn’t attend — a very scary thought I must say. You are the best!
When I entered E-Nini-Hassee at age 14, I had low self esteem, problems with parents and peers, depression, suicidal thoughts and a history of sneaking out with the neighborhood boys. At the time, I didn’t believe my issues were as “bad” as some girls, but I definitely was headed down the wrong road fast. I remember walking into the main building and thinking my parents had found a new and legal way to “torture” me. There would be no access to television or telephones, no makeup or fashionable clothing, no boys for miles…I had never gotten along very well for any extended period of time with other girls and I far preferred the company of boys. I learned that I would be living with about 10 other girls and two adult female counselors, and we were going to be sharing our sleeping quarters as well as our deepest issues. I remember thinking that this was the very definition of hell. I did not appreciate E-Nini-Hassee then as I do now. It was a long hard road for someone as stubborn as I was. I spent a good majority of the time rolling my eyes or pursing my lips thinking everyone else was crazy and that I was, clearly, the only one who ‘had it together.’ The rest of the group would often glare at me because I was holding everyone up from other activities while I was being difficult. E-Nini-Hassee challenged me, mentally and physically, in ways I never could have imagined. I was completely unprepared for the physical challenges. But by the time I graduated, I found muscles and an inner strength that I never knew I had. Prior to going there, if someone would have told me that at the age of 14 I would be manually sawing down large pine trees, carrying them back to the campsite and cleaning them by hand, and fitting them all together to make a tent to live in, I would’ve said they should be committed. But I did it. I also successfully completed an incredible ropes course. Strength wasn’t the only test during my stay — so was endurance. As part of the Ehecetvs group, I went on a seven-day river trip on the Peace River, a 14-day river trip on the Withlacoochee, and a 21-day backpack trip through the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. Each trip gave ample opportunity for huge amounts of growth for each of our group’s members. I have countless memories from those experiences, from a renewed sense of camaraderie in our group to how much we all smelled by the time we got back. I remember early morning walks up to the dining hall for breakfast. On our way, we would pass the clearing in the woods. Many mornings in this spot there would be several deer grazing in the dewy grass, and I would hope that our meanderings wouldn’t scare them away so we could look at them a little longer. I remember Chief Yvonne singing to us at the center of all our tents. I had never heard someone simultaneously sing and play the guitar at the same time before… when she played for us, it was often the last thing we heard as we drifted off to sleep for the night. Her rendition of Time in a Bottle, among many other classics, was one of the most soothing things I had ever heard and it remains one of my fondest memories of camp. I would develop a unique relationship with each of my Chiefs during my stay. Chief Terri was the first to show me that it is okay, and even preferable, to learn to laugh at yourself. Her love and kindness is something that I have never forgotten, along with our long talks and her mile-wide smile. Chief Caroline, Chief Jennie, Chief Alicia, Chief Gale and Chief Jo showed me the importance of accepting constructive criticism the same as I would accept compliments. Today, I am still the same stubborn person I was when I went to camp. But today, I am older and wiser and I forever carry with me the lessons that I learned at E-Nini-Hassee. They have seen me through some incredibly difficult times.
I often find myself thinking that if everyone had gone to E-Nini-Hassee then things would go a lot more smoothly in everyday life, but that was not always my attitude. I came to E-Nini-Hassee with a bad attitude. I remember my initial visit to camp and thinking, “I am so NOT going here.” I walked the trails and saw girls covered in sap and skinning the bark off of trees. They were building tents to sleep in! I thought, “Oh no, not me, forget this!” They sang in dining hall while we were in the office and I thought, “This is a joke, right? They think I’m coming here to do manual labor and sing Kumbaya!?”….. As it turned out, those trees gave me a great sense of accomplishment that translated into confidence and self worth; those songs still bring comfort to me today.
E-Nini-Hassee gave me memories and tools that I will hold near, always. I made bonds with my chiefs and fellow campers that have lasted through years and miles. I spent 12 days with them backpacking the Florida Trail, 21 days canoeing with them on the Withlacoochee / Suwannee Rivers, twice. I spent hours upon hours sitting down discussing problems or standing in huddles with them that let each of us know that, good or bad, we were all in it together.
While I was at E-Nini-Hassee, my best friend died in a car accident. My chiefs and my fellow campers were so important in my grieving process. They helped me cope and make sense out of a situation that made no sense. I am so thankful I was at E-Nini-Hassee through that time because not only did it give me a safe and therapeutic place to grieve and heal, it probably saved my life. I would love to say that I wouldn’t have made the choice to get in the car with her the night she died, however, in reality, I probably would’ve been in the car with her. E-Nini-Hassee gave me the tools and helped build my self-esteem, enabling me to make better decisions in the future.
After I left E-Nini-Hassee, I went back into public school with a better understanding of who I was, what I wanted, and how to achieve the goals I meant to achieve. I was no longer struggling with time management or social awkwardness. I cannot say I did not struggle at all — I did. But the skills I took home from E-Nini-Hassee helped me identify, cope with, and ultimately overcome any struggles or problems I had with my studies or personal life. I still employ those problem solving skills on a daily basis. It also made me aware that there is nothing wrong with me and there is nothing I cannot overcome if I commit myself to finding a way.
I was 15 when I came to E-Nini-Hassee. The world was an angry and apathetic place for me at that time. While there, I was encouraged to express my feelings in healthy ways and to meet my needs with healthy behaviors. I learned about who I was and why I felt the way I did. Most importantly, I learned to communicate in an age-appropriate manner that was respectful and would be well-received. Communication was probably the skill I learned there that has proven most valuable to me. Learning how to speak to others in a way that is well-received has opened many doors for me. My outlook on the world and life in general has changed dramatically since then.
I am now 32. I have two children, I truly love being a mother. E-Nini-Hassee simply works! It teaches leadership, teamwork, confidence, integrity, respect, problem solving and responsibility. It gives you a sense of accomplishment. It builds self-esteem. It gives you a foundation to build a better tomorrow.
Loss is a hard thing to deal with. Everyone who was with me at E-Nini-Hassee had lost something. Some girls had lost their mothers to illness or their family members to drugs. Others had lost their homes, their innocence, and everyone there had lost their freedom. I personally had lost myself. When I arrived at E-Nini-Hassee, I had no intention of changing and, of all the things heavy on my mind, self-improvement was not one of them. I was lost but I refused to believe it. I was selfish, impatient and pretty much all the time disregarding towards others in lieu of my own needs, beliefs and wants. In my eyes, I was not a good person and never would be. I knew nothing of myself or the good spirit that lingered within. I thought of myself as a disaster, always going to be one. The attachments I made with the staff were a big part of my willing to change. In order to change you have to want it, and I had never wanted it before. Before my eyes change happened. Not wanting to disappoint, not wanting to cause harm, taking others in consideration first, these were all things that I thought of when it came to decision making and weighing pros and cons. E-Nini-Hassee works hard to build character, virtue and positive skills all while you’re having fun. I’ve kept in contact with a many girls from E-Nini-Hassee. Years later, they still rant and rave about their time there, they still pass memories back and forth fondly and they still give thanks to it in their adult life. E-Nini-Hassee is magical.
When I came to E-Nini-Hassee a few days before my 17th birthday, I believed that everything I was going through wasn’t my fault. I blamed a lot of other people for the mistakes I had made, and it was causing me to make a lot more destructive choices. While I was at E-Nini-Hassee, I had the opportunity to rethink all that I had done, and it helped me turn my life around. The program gave me the chance to quit my old lifestyle and start over, doing things that I actually wanted to be doing. I met people who changed my life and gave me motivation. They inspired me and pushed me to be a better person. Today, I’m happier with myself, and my choices, and my life. I’m so grateful I had this experience before I got in over my head. I love E-Nini-Hassee and what it did for me. I’ll never forget what I learned there. It will be part of me for the rest of my life.
I was in foster care for a total of 13 years and, like most of us who have lived through foster care, I experienced A LOT — moving from home to home, being placed on different behavioral medications, learning new rules and boundaries at every turn. Thirty two different foster homes and placements. As a teenager I experienced another failed adoption which led to a decline in my behavior and a run in with the DJJ system. It wasn’t until I came to E-Nini-Hassee, however, that my life began to turn around. When I first entered the program, I didn’t feel like I needed any help; I just thought if I kept my mouth closed I could go back home. That was not the case. I began to open up and feel wanted. I had moved so many times and had so many abandonment issues that I felt no one wanted me. But I felt wanted and needed at E-Nini-Hassee. I learned how to deal with many of the emotional issues that were leading to my outbursts of negative behavior – anger and abandonment. I also learned that I was a leader and that I can lead people in a negative way or a positive way. E-Nini-Hassee helped me to learn how to be positive and to teach others to do the same. The biggest thing that it gave me was a family. I never felt more love, care or support then I did in that program. When I turned 18, I had no one but E-Nini-Hassee was right there for me. They made my transition into adulthood the easiest thing for a youth with no parents. Life after E-Nini-Hassee has been great. I am working full time for a local nonprofit, and attend college full time in order to get a degree in social work.
It hasn’t been easy, but with all the tools that I learned at E-Nini-Hassee, I was able to pull through my hard times and come back out on top! Without E-Nini-Hassee’s help, I wouldn’t even have my high school diploma. Today, I’m starting school to get my Registered Nursing License. I don’t think I can ever thank the staff enough. E-Nini-Hassee is the best! I miss everyone there…as well as the peach cobbler!