Chiefs Jack and Ruth Eckerd
Chiefs Jack and Ruth Eckerd created Eckerd Connects E-Nini-Hassee in the spirit of service. The more I read about Chief Jack Eckerd, I witness his dedication to children, to his employees, and the community. Many of the staff he mentored still work at E-Nini-Hassee. Under their guidance, the Camp has overcome many times of change and continues to thrive even through this difficult time. His vision created a place for girls to heal, with elements that create a safe place for girls today:
Clinician led screening: There are 2 licensed clinicians that review each application and they follow the same strict guidelines. The process now includes the recommendations as advised by the CDC. The mission of the intake process has always been to make sure each girl and her family has the benefit of the right fit for their journey to recovery.
Outdoor Environment: The girls are outside most of the day where there are open spaces and therefore less surfaces to contaminate. All surfaces are constantly sterilized and hands are washed using proper technique. In addition, the campsites are minimalistic, they have open ventilation, and constant exposure to sunlight and UV light.
10 month or longer average length of stay: Many of the girls who are at camp now, started their journey many months ago. This time allows the family to heal and provides a sense of comfort that their daughter has a long term treatment plan.
Zero Social Media and Minimal Tech Campus: The girls do not have cell phones and direct line staff do not have smart phones. This is purposeful to keep the focus on healing and the natural environment. During this time, it protects the campers from the messages that may increase anxiety. While there are computers on campus, they are only used for educational activities, testing, and career/school planning.
Physical Distancing: There are 3 groups of 8-10 girls with separate campsites on the 840 acre campus. The teacher/counselors live with the girls at each campsite. The two program directors also have homes on the property. The location is a remote area located about an hour from both Orlando and Tampa areas. The campers and staff have adjusted to eliminating hand holding during singing and now “bump elbows” to greet.
Positive Peer Culture: The teacher/counselors or Chiefs are leading the girls with daily gratitude and positive role modeling. This provides an added sense of comfort for each girl as she is away from her family. They have been providing a sense of calm and reassuring the girls that they are in a safe place. On social media, some of the staff have started sharing their daily gratitude at the hashtag #3inthemorning3atnight.
The spirits of Chiefs Jack and Ruth are felt everywhere at camp. Their photo is hanging in the main office inspiring all who pass through the doorway. Dedication to service, to children, staff, and community are still the way of Eckerd Connects E-Nini-Hassee.
Chief Jack Eckerd and Chief Jo Lynn Smith