Many families seek holiday help at ECHO

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Shelly Birkelo
Tuesday, November 5, 2013

JANESVILLE--ECHO is seeking volunteers and donations of toys and money to help people in need for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“Based on the number of people who have been coming in this year for services, we'll be serving more families,” said Jessica Schafer-Locher, ECHO client advocate and office manager.

“We have many families coming in to seek services for help at the holidays. It's a very stressful time of year not having funds to buy a turkey at Thanksgiving or toys for children (at Christmas),” Schafer-Locher said.

“If funds are not donated for these services we're not going to be able to meet the need. Christmas toys are not in the budget. Money is being used for housing and food assistance,” she said.

“We're doing this for the kids,” Schafer-Locher said, “and making sure they are able to have a merry Christmas.”


ECHO has been providing Thanksgiving baskets to low-income families for nearly 40 years.

This year, the local faith-sponsored charity expects to help at least 2,500 people, which is more people than ever before, Schafer-Locher said.

During Thanksgiving 2012, ECHO served 2,443 people, which was an increase of 498 people from 2011, she said.

In each family's basket is a turkey, vegetables, instant potatoes and gravy, stuffing, bread, milk, margarine, homemade cookies or bars, pumpkin pie and whipped topping plus other miscellaneous items.

Schafer-Locher outlined how the community can help ECHO meet this need:

Sponsor a basket. Each basket costs $30. Mail a check, made out to ECHO Thanksgiving, to ECHO, 65 S. High St., Janesville, WI 53548 or donate online at echojanesville.org.

Volunteer. People are needed at 8 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, to set up for distribution in Craig Center of the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds, 1301 Craig Ave., Janesville. Volunteers will begin packing groceries by 8:30 a.m. for the 9:30 a.m. distribution. Call ECHO Volunteer Coordinator Fran Brien at 608-754-5333 to help.

Decorate grocery bags. Brown paper sacks can be picked up at ECHO to be decorated and must be returned by Friday, Nov. 22.

Bake. People are needed to bake cookies and bars that should be cut into one dozen servings and sealed in a plastic bag. Sweet treats must be dropped off no later than noon Friday, Nov. 22, at ECHO or between 7 and 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, at Craig Center on the fairgrounds.


Most families already have begun Christmas shopping, but many local low-income families can't even afford to buy a tree, food for a special holiday meal or gifts for their children.

ECHO is continuing its tradition of helping others so they can have a merry Christmas.

Last year, ECHO supplied 690 Christmas meals and toys for 859 children. The Adopt-a-Family Christmas program attracted 385 donors, Schafer-Locher said.

“With your help, ECHO will be able to help as many or more families this holiday season,” she said.

Here's how:

Donate for gifts. New, unwrapped toys; money to buy toys; holiday gift wrap; and batteries of all sizes can be donated through Thursday, Dec. 19, at ECHO.

Volunteer: Many elves are needed to help during distribution Friday, Dec. 20. To help set up Santa's Toy Shop, call ECHO Volunteer Coordinator Fran Brien at 608-754-5333.

Adopt-A-Family. Families chosen to benefit from this program complete a wish list of needed items. The deadline for donors to sign up is Wednesday, Nov. 13. Items donor families buy must be returned to ECHO by Monday, Dec. 9. To help, call Schafer-Locher at 608-754-5333 or email jschafer@echojanesville.org.

Christmas Day dinner. This meal will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 25, and is open to everyone in the community at St. William Catholic Church, 1820 Ravine St., Janesville. Although servers are needed, others are needed to deliver meals to shut-ins and to pick up people and take them to the dinner. Donations to help cover the cost of the food, which ECHO will buy, also are welcomed.

ECHO Holiday Express. Take new, unwrapped toys to Mickey's Magical Christmas event from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1, at The Pontiac Convention Center, 2809 N. Pontiac Dr., Janesville. ECHO's distribution is Friday, Dec. 20.

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