Let’s start at the beginning, why was ECHO founded?
Wendy: Back in 2001 a group of people from the community recognized a need of those facing homelessness. Before they were able to purchase the current facility of ECHO, El Camino Homeless Organization, they moved cots from church to church to give those in need a place to stay. They were able to buy the facility in 2014. Overtime we expanded to fifty beds with additional services, and have been serving the community with food, shelter, and supportive services ever since.
Do you have a favorite success story from ECHO?
Wendy: I’ll never forget the time that we welcomed a mom and her girls in for their first night at ECHO. The kids turned around to their mom and said, “Mom, we’re going to have a real bed tonight!” That is an ECHO success, a small one, but one that makes a huge difference. It’s one of the reasons why we do what we do.
While we are on the topic, what other things inspire you at ECHO?
Wendy: There’s nothing more inspiring than witnessing amazing transformations that take place in peoples lives when they have strong support and resources. I don’t have any words for the magic that happens when someone at ECHO is able to move on to a home of their own. Their joy is contagious.
I also love working with such a supportive community. Every day the ECHO team and I get to see acts of kindness from our community. I see people from our town eager to volunteer, others that bring gifts for the children we serve, some that support our nightly meal teams, and those that choose to financially support us. Little and big gifts of support all add up to us being able to provide a safe home for fifty men, women, and children each night as they work hard to get back on their feet and self-sufficiency.
How can people get involved to help support ECHO?
Wendy: We always need people to mingle, serve, and supervise the kids, and in the evenings help with registration/ check-in, as well as greeters with a smiling face serving tea and water. If you choose to volunteer, be prepared to walk away getting just as much out of volunteering as those that are in need are getting. It is a memorable experience.
You mentioned earlier that your facility has kids, how does ECHO support them?
Wendy: We have the, “Raising a Reader program.” At six 6’ o clock a volunteer pre-school teacher dedicates thirty minutes to story time with the kids. The kids always look forward to it. We also have a play yard that was donated by the Kiwanis Club, they raised the money and installed it. Thanks to the community’s support this year, we were also able to raise enough money to celebrate Halloween for the kids. Each child was gifted their dream costume. One of our little boys was Batman, and he loved his costume so much that he proudly wore it for the next couple of days.
To wrap up, what is your favorite thing about Atascadero?
Wendy: It is a fantastic place for my husband and me to raise our two boys. I love Atascadero’s small town charm and that when you shop, dine and out in public you see friends and people you know.
El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO)
6370 Atascadero Ave, Atascadero, CA 93422