On the Space Coast, the foundation started by Jack and Ruth Eckerd back in 1968—Eckerd Connects—has a long and impactful legacy that seems to grow greater every year.

The organization’s signature Walk of Fame banquet, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2020, honors the philanthropic efforts of both individuals and couples who promote the betterment of our community, and highlights the transformational services and programs Eckerd Connects provides to some 1,800 people on the Space Coast each year.

Programs such as:

  • Hi-Five, designed to teach and empower elementary students about violence prevention and substance abuse.
  • Prevention Counseling, offered to students in grades 6-12, to curb the illicit use of drugs.
  • Brevard Family Support Services, which provides case management and financial assistance for families experiencing homelessness and who have a substance misuse history.

Recently, Eckerd Connects merged with Odle Management Group, LLC, out of Scottsdale, AZ, a recognized leader in the fields of education and training, outreach and enrollment and placement services for adults and youth. The merger will make Eckerd Connects one of the nation’s largest organizations in its field, helping to connect underserved youth and adults with employers across nearly 20 states.

“Helping youth and adults get an education and a job are the most powerful things society can do to move upstream in the fight against poverty, and ultimately prevent children from entering the child welfare and juvenile justice systems,” said David Dennis, CEO of Eckerd Connects.

“We don’t see this merger from just a business development standpoint; we want our combined talent pool to be a force for good to help and empower young people and all those that need our help.”

Lisa Odle, President and CEO of Odle Management Group said “Both organizations have deep passions, commitment and sense of responsibility to fulfill our missions and build strong relationships in an effort to put young people on a path to success.”

Under the terms of the merger, Odle will remain a separate organization and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Eckerd Connects. Together, Eckerd Connects and Odle will have an annual operating revenue of $329 million. The union will impact an estimated 45 million Americans who live in poverty, 21 million children estimated to live in unstable homes, and 6.5 million underserved youth, ages 16-24, currently not in school or unemployed.

The Business of Helping Others

Facilitated by Tennessee-based Oaklyn Consulting and Florida-based Capital Strategies Group, the merger included investment banking services, which will enhance Eckerd Connects’ resources for educating and training more than 40,000 clients each year.

Eckerd Connects has provided workforce development, family and child services and juvenile justice services to more than 250,000 children, young adults and families since it was founded in 1968.

For more than 15 years, Odle has managed the daily operations of Job Corps campuses in nine states including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia, providing a range of residential, academic and career preparation services to nearly 15,000 underserved young adults. In addition, Odle helps to match its Job Corps graduates with employers both locally and regionally, and manages one-stop career centers in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, and others.

Urgency due to Pandemic Job Losses

“Due to the surge in unemployment resulting from the pandemic, the services provided by Eckerd Connects and Odle are more vital than ever in helping to fight poverty and getting talented young people engaged in the workforce,” said Frank Williamson, CEO of Oaklyn Consulting.

“We were honored to have assisted with this transaction, which will broaden Eckerd Connects’ base of operations and financially strengthen the company’s ability to pursue its mission of serving the greater good.”

Oaklyn specializes in small and mid-sized mergers and acquisitions, with a specialty focus on the not-for-profit sector.

“Just like with any other company, M & A’s (Mergers and Acquisitions) allow economy of scale and the acquisition of skill bases that facilitate growth. The difference in the goal is missional, verses simply increasing profitability…or, perhaps it’s measuring profitability in a different way,” Williamson said.

Solutions for Sustainability

From left: Leigh McElroy, Prevention Services Manager; Stanley Brizz, MS, Director of Community Services for Eckerd Connects/Executive Director of Brevard Prevention Coalition & Talia Bryant, MS, LMHC, Family Service Manager, Brevard County Operations for Eckerd Connects. Photo by Jason Hook Photography.

“During good times and bad, poverty is an inescapable reality. You can’t change the economy, but we believe that you can change how you respond to it. That’s why Eckerd Connects is focused on helping youth and adults find fulfilling, lasting employment that makes use of their skills and aptitudes,” said Randall W. Luecke, CFO of Eckerd Connects. “We’re grateful to Oaklyn Consulting and Capital Strategies Group for their work in helping us unite with Odle, which does remarkable work, and we expect to be a great fit for our company.”

“All companies, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, need to continually strengthen financial and operating capabilities in order to accomplish their missions. I believe that is what we’ve accomplished with this merger,” said David Simon of Capital Strategies Group.

Stanley Brizz, Director of Community Services for Eckerd Connects on the Space Coast, and Chairperson of Brevard Prevention Coalition & Opioid Abuse Task Force said,

“We strive to make decisions based on what will do the most good for the populations we serve. The Odle merger helps us do that.  It gives Eckerd Connects, including our operations in Brevard County, access to an additional pool of wisdom and expertise in helping youth and adults in need get access to education and jobs.” •

Eric Wright
President of Publishing at | Website

Eric Wright is an innovative leader, dynamic speaker and published author. He turns complex principles into simple and practical life applications. For over 25 years, Eric has taught leadership and management seminars on four continents, served on various economic development and visioning councils, and authored hundreds of published articles and three books.

As President of Publishing at SpaceCoast Magazines, Eric oversees the production of business and lifestyle journals, along with numerous specialty publications. Through these journals, Eric offers entrepreneurs and business leaders a trusted voice connecting communities across Florida and the US.

Eric and his wife, Susan, live in Indialantic, Florida, and have three married sons and four grandchildren.