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Our Founders

Our Founders' Mission was to Ensure Each Child Had the Opportunity to Succeed

Eckerd Connects' E-Nini-Hassee was founded in 1969 by philanthropists Jack and Ruth Eckerd who wanted to create better treatment alternatives for girls than the prevailing treatment methods of hospitalization or confinement in punitive juvenile institutions.

Born in 1913 in Wilmington, DE, Jack Eckerd is best known for revolutionizing the drugstore industry by introducing the concept of self-service to three failing Florida drugstores in 1952. He soon transformed those three floundering stores into Eckerd Drugs — one of the nation’s largest drugstore chains.

Ruth Eckerd was the youngest child of  Florida banker Richard Binnicker and a 1941 Gasparilla Queen. She married Jack just six weeks after their first date. It was the second marriage for both. Together, they brought five children into the marriage and produced another two in a blended “yours, mine and ours” family. The Eckerd’s happiness and love for their own children, combined with a selfless desire to share their good fortune with others, is what first sparked their interest in helping at-risk children and the eventual opening of Eckerd E-Nini-Hassee in 1969.

When questioned about why he devoted himself to helping children, Jack would say that he believed society would generate the biggest return on investment by helping troubled and at-risk children turn their lives around — a “lifetime of returns” for each child and family that was helped. Over the years, when asked what was most important to him, Jack would always say “the kids.” Despite his accomplishments in many different arenas, his love of helping at-risk and troubled children remained his passion.

The Eckerds were well-known for their community leadership and generosity throughout the greater Tampa Bay area, but E-Nini-Hassee always had a special place in their hearts. In fact, when given the opportunity to celebrate his 90th birthday anywhere in the world, Jack chose to celebrate it with the girls and staff at E-Nini-Hassee.

Although Jack Eckerd passed away in 2004 and Ruth in 2006, their tremendous legacy lives on. Today, helping each child have the opportunity to succeed is still what is most important at E-Nini-Hassee. Of that legacy, Jack and Ruth Eckerd would be most proud.

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