ECHOs of Empowerment
We have been donating clothing to ECHO for a number of years now, but yesterday I finally had the opportunity to see the operation first hand (after several gracious invitations from the past director Pat Gauthier). It was a delightful to meet the staff (who are comprised completely of volunteers!) At the center, it seemed as if they had taken lessons from a hive of honey bees; there was such a vibration of cohesiveness and cooperation. Echo said their common goal was to help individuals by "empowering rather than enabling".
The thing that struck me the most was how tidy and organized the entire place was. Every box had a label, a clear date, and an itemization. Shelves were stacked to the ceiling with boxes of food, clothing, personal items etc. If a family came in looking for assistance, there would be no fumbling around to fill their need.
Fortunately, ECHO is supported by over 27 religious organizations as well as the United Way. They receive some of their food from stores such as Bloom and Giant. They have an incredible staff as well. I was lucky enough to meet a diverse group of workers, from computer experts to the "angel" volunteers. Their backgrounds ranged from Retired Admirals, Navy pilots, nurses, doctors, lawyers etc. and they number over 400!
Mrs. Gaultier retired after 17 years as director of ECHO, and there are two co-directors now, Meg and Marianne that took her place a year and a half ago.
While I was visiting, an "angel" was working on backpacks for children to help prepare them for the upcoming school year. They were preparing around 1000 backpacks filled with erasers, notebooks, pencils, & other school supplies. Echo's objective is to give the
impoverished children the opportunity to participate at the same level as their classmates.
Families receive pots, pans, dishes, bed linens, toiletries, and clothing. There are so many things I take for granted; it is difficult for me to understand that someone might not have the money to purchase basic necessities, such as toothpaste. Pat Gauliter told me that ECHO helps many people, in desperate situations that need assistance on such a very basic level. I think of all the hotel soaps, shampoos, & lotions that collect dust in our cupboards. Now I realize that those little forgotten items would mean the world to a person in need.
One of the biggest concerns is receiving enough coats and jackets for women, men and children. Hmmmm.....I wonder how many items like that are languishing in the back of closets that could provide some needy person with not only warmth but
maybe a bit of style and dash.
I have heard many people say that there items are "too good to donate to charity" and I have never understood exactly what they meant by that. I guess that one might be concerned that the poor or needy are really getting what is donated but I can assure you that at ECHO they really are.
The next time you are stuffing something in your cupboard or closet, take a moment to consider whether or not they are items that you really need. If not you should think about donating them to ECHO. While they accepted most things, it would be really GREAT if you washed or dry cleaned the items before you donated them. If someone is rather poor they may not have their own washer/dryer or the money for dry cleaning.
If you do have some coats, jackets, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc that you would like to pass on to ECHO you can drop them off at New To You and we will gladly pass them along to Pat and her crew to disperse amongst their many needy families.