ECHO receives $5,000 donation from must! charities Youth Board

must! charities Youth Board presented a check for $5,000 to ECHO at the end of May. (Contributed photo)

ATASCADERO — The El Camino Homeless Organization received a gift of $5,000 from the must! charities Youth Board. must! charities invest strategically with existing non-profits, funding organizations who are the most effective at dealing with our greatest community needs. must! charities' Youth Board is a group of students from Templeton, Atascadero and Paso Robles high schools who are making a difference through collaboration and dedication to make changes to benefit the community as a whole. Students involved have volunteered to serve a minimum of a year term (September through May) and are locally known leaders on their campus.

The student board members volunteer their time serving and learning about community needs and the nonprofits who serve those needs. At the end of the school year after many months of conversations, volunteering, observing, meetings and touring they go through a selection process called “vetting.” Through this process, the students selected ECHO to be a recipient of a $5,000 donation.

"Looking back on the hours these teens put into this year's youth board, on top of their already hectic schedules is inspiring. Listening to them talk about the year, what the youth board does, why they got involved, and the process they went through to figure out who they were going to give to at the end of the nine months...  was priceless," stated Becky Gray, Executive Director of must! charities. "These youth are inspiring to be around and are quite curious as to the way the world works. They were eager to learn and fully grasped the concept of the power of collective giving with a strategic focus."

“We are very thankful to must! charities Youth Board for selecting ECHO,” said Wendy Lewis, President/CEO of ECHO. “It is wonderful to see our youth getting involved in the community and learning the power of giving back. Their donation will provide more services to those in need and will move us 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 provides 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. For more information, visit their website at www.echoshelter.org.

Since 2012, must! charities has committed over $1.7 million in North San Luis Obispo County. must! charities bring together individuals and businesses in the community who are dedicated to improving the quality of life of those most in need. must!’s community work adds to the vibrancy of the region by strengthening partnerships and programs through fundraising and advocacy. As a group of collective donors, they continuously empower nonprofits to make strategic, sustainable changes that create greater impacts. The youth board has been active since 2014. Applications for the 2019/20 youth board can be found at www.mustcharities.org.

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