Paso Robles News|Wednesday, July 24, 2019
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ECHO receives $130k donation from Must! Charities 

Mimi Rodriguez, ECHO Staff, Becky Gray, Executive Director, Must! Charities, Mark Peters, ECHO Staff, Wendy Lewis, President/CEO, ECHO, Sam Crouse, ECHO Staff, Heather Smith, Secretary of the Board, Must! Charities, Dayna Wilkinson, ECHO Staff, Sandra Sanchez, ECHO Staff.

–The El Camino Homeless Organization has been approved for a gift of $130,000 from Must! Charities. Must! Charities invests strategically with existing non-profits, funding organizations who are the most effective at dealing with the greatest community needs. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the organization gives more love to ECHO for a new kitchen and training facility with their generosity.

This gift will enable ECHO to create a new kitchen with a commercial range, sink and dishwasher, additional food pantry storage, updated flooring and a larger serving area improving the efficiency of meal preparation and service. These additions will allow ECHO to provide training in the food service industry for residents to secure jobs and earn income faster than they otherwise would; and conduct training classes on healthy cooking to promote healthy eating and wellness.

ECHO provides breakfast and lunch to 50 residents daily, and nightly meal service to those residents and guests from the community who are hungry. Over 50 volunteer teams provide the nightly dinner service from the ECHO kitchen, providing a cost savings to the organization of more than $100,000 annually.

“We are very pleased with the approval and thankful to Must! Charities for funding a very important project to ECHO,” says Wendy Lewis, President/CEO, “Our kitchen has been in need of updating for several years, and the opportunity to create something more efficient in addition to providing more services to those we serve is a tremendous step forward in our mission to empower people in San Luis Obispo County to make positive change by providing food, shelter and supportive services.”

ECHO operates a safe and secure overnight 50-bed shelter to meet the immediate needs of families and individuals who have become homeless. With a unique residency program, clients are provided case management services to assist them in securing a job and finding permanent and sustainable housing within three months of entering the shelter program. While enrolled in the program, clients are taught life skills for employment, budgeting, health care management, and social communication and interaction. The goal and the result of this practical support is the empowerment of residents to move in a positive direction while assisting them in acquiring the skills and services they need to become self-sustaining, including secure housing.

A force of 500 community volunteers provide ancillary support to run the shelter program and the meal program that serves as many as 80 dinners each night to shelter residents and the homeless population. ECHO also operates a shower program that provides hot showers three nights a week to anyone in need. ECHO supplies the homeless population all the necessary toiletries and offers access to clothing, shoes, blankets and sleeping bags.

“A kitchen remodel request was brought to Must! Charities in 2017. We knew the need for a kitchen renovation was there, however, we wanted to be sure that what we were investing in was more than a physical renovation. We didn’t want to just throw money at something – we wanted to see something bigger transpire,” said Becky Gray, Executive Director of must! charities. “A ton of energy, time, thoughtfulness, collaboration, and strategizing have gone into this project and we are thrilled with the positive potential outcomes, for not only ECHO, but for our entire community because of this well thought out, collaborative plan.”

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About the author: News Staff

News staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote and edited this story from local contributors and press releases. Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or follow his blog. He can be reached at scott@pasoroblesdailynews.com.