Landscaping Collaboration!

After two years of design and coordination, ECHO’s landscaping took root on Saturday, January 26, in Atascadero. Armed with shovels, picks, and wheelbarrows, more than 40 volunteers from Madrone Landscapes and Cal Poly planted 200+ trees, shrubs, and ground covers at ECHO, El Camino Homeless Organization. ECHO is a 50-bed homeless shelter serving north San Luis Obispo County. “We have accomplished some major renovations at the shelter over the last few years and this landscaping is a part of that effort,” said Jim Patterson, ECHO Board President. “We especially appreciate Rick Mathews at Madrone Landscapes and Cal Poly Professor Christy O’Hara for helping make this happen.”

A few years ago, Professor O’Hara was looking for a community project for her Cal Poly landscape architecture students and ECHO was a good fit. “The students spent many hours studying the micro-climate surrounding the shelter to make smart planting choices that included many native varieties,” said O’Hara. “The students also felt strongly about creating an area with lots of shade trees that would be a quiet and peaceful place for people who come to ECHO.” The landscape design also incorporated a fruit orchard and vegetable garden. “With this much land in the plan, and it’s a homeless shelter that also provides food, it just made sense to include a fruit orchard and gardening beds,” O’Hara explained.

After the ECHO board of directors approved the Cal Poly design plan, Madrone Landscapes offered to help with the project. “A design plan this large has an extensive irrigation system,” said Jim Patterson. “Madrone employees donated their time to dig all the trenches and install the system. Much of the irrigation material was donated or discounted by Farm Supply Company. It was a big job and we’re very thankful.” Madrone Landscapes, Bay Laurel Nursery, West Covina Wholesale Nursery, Native Sons Wholesale Nursery and Growing Grounds Farm donated more than half of the 200 plants needed to implement the plan. Rossi Transport donated the planting mix.

Thank You Community Health Centers

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We were thankful to be visited many times in 2014 by a mobile medical clinic provided by Community Health Centers. Carla Hurt, CHC’s physician’s assistant, treated those staying at the shelter, as well as anyone in the area who needed medical assistance.

Ms. Hurt has worked in the mobile van throughout the county for several years. The types of ailments vary from colds, dizziness, and fevers, to strep throat, poison oak and trauma.  Other services include immunizations for pneumonia, flu, Hepatitis A & B, and tetanus. The staff is also trained to offer crisis counseling and refer patients for long-term behavioral treatment. “I started as a physician’s assistant treating the homeless over 25 years ago in the Bronx. I know how basic healthcare makes a huge difference in the life a homeless person. I think having a place to come to for help and knowing someone cares provides them hope.” said Hurt.

Eloisa Medina is ECHO’s case manager who works with clients to become re-employed and housed. “Many of our clients have significant health issues that have to be treated and stabilized,” said Medina. “Health care is essential to all of us. It’s difficult to resolve homelessness when someone is ill. When we resolve medical issues, then we can work on getting them back to stability and into housing.” The case management staff at ECHO helps families and individuals learn to create an action plan, live with new behaviors, find a job and locate a permanent home.

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We love our meal servers!

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Actually, we have a deep appreciation for all of our volunteers! ECHO would NOT exist or be able to operate without our wonderful network of volunteers. However, we always need more help. If you can give a couple of hours a week or month, it really makes a difference! Go to “Volunteer” on the top menu bar to learn about volunteer opportunities. Above is a photo of Atascadero Kiwanis during their tri-tip and fixings event at ECHO.

Our meal volunteers are local faith-based, service, business or family groups who cook a meal off-site and bring it to ECHO to serve. We can warm food items or cook simple dishes (like pasta), but the dinner is primarily cooked at the volunteers’ kitchens. We have several groups who cook wonderful (and much appreciated) tri-tip dinners with all the fixings, but dinners are often much simpler affairs featuring a casserole, vegetables and salad. When you talk to our volunteer coordinator, Mimi Rodriguez, she’ll give you some tips on what to prepare and how. If you want to learn how to become a meal serving group, call and leave a message for Mimi at 462-3663 or email vcecho@gmail.com.

 

Holiday Joy

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Charlotte Byrne, ECHO board member and publicity/fundraising volunteer, takes a peek at the toys Santa left for children at ECHO.

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Susan Bernhard distributes one of the gifts. Susan Bernhard and board member Terri Sherwin spent many hours organizing the effort. Many of the gifts were much needed for cold weather including hats, scarfs and clothing for the children.

We could not have accomplished this without generous donations from the community: A live Christmas Tree with lights & decorations was donated by Tiger Cub Pac 226. A trip to Hearst Castle was planned by volunteer coordinator Mimi Rodriguez with funds provided by an anonymous donor. Tim Harness drove the Atascadero Bible Church van and 25 ECHO individuals and families were able to have a visit to the castle – a first for all.

Other activities included families attended a performance of the Nutcracker Ballet at the Performing Arts Center, families enjoyed an evening of ice skating at the local rink provided by SLO County Latino Outreach Council, San Luis Obispo Soroptimist treated all the families to a matinee movie during the children’s holiday break, and Cyndi Allen and her husband decorated cookies with children.

On Christmas Eve, gifts were distributed to each of the 40 people who spent the night at ECHO. Children opened new PJ’s and a warm outfit to wear Christmas day. Of course, during the night Santa left stockings (thank you Nancy Boydstrum) and toys on the bed of each child. On Christmas morning each child found a new outfit for school under the tree. Families received gift cards from an anonymous donor for their family’s needs. Many generous individual donors provided clothing & toys. The following organizations also made donations:

Atascadero Quota Club

St. William’s Catholic Church

Dr. Kurgis Office

Templeton Market & Deli

Almond Acres Charter School & Pleasant Valley School

Central Coast Pathology

Hearst Castle Employees (sock drive)

SLO Soroptimist-Makeup bags

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Christmas dinner was presented (as always by the good cooks at Congregation Ohr Tzafon) who say that their Christian Friends need the night off to be with family.  Many people who have a home, but come to ECHO for a hot meal at night were not forgotten. Each non-resident was given a Christmas bag filled with warm socks, hats & scarves knitted by ABC Women’s Group & Sally Mellows and cookies made by Cerro Alto 4-H Rabbit Group.