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ECHO distribution brings Thanksgiving to 3,175 people

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Ted Sullivan
November 22, 2009
— Alecia Phonesavanh can’t afford Thanksgiving dinner for her family of six.

“I’ve got three kids, my husband and my disabled brother,” the Janesville woman said. “Being the only income, it gets really hard sometimes.”


Phonesavanh and 1,000 other low-income families turned to ECHO on Saturday for a free Thanksgiving meal. The meals were distributed at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds.


Dinners included turkey, stuffing, potatoes, pumpkin pie and other traditional dishes for Thanksgiving dinner.


ECHO spent about $25,000 for the food and is still accepting donations to cover the cost.


Hundreds of volunteers helped package and distribute the food to people in need.


Cindi Seichter, a teacher, and other members of the Janesville Education Association volunteered at the event. Seichter brought her children with her.


“I thought it was important for my kids and I to give back to the community,” she said. “It’s been overwhelming to see how many people came out to help.”


Karen Lisser, executive director of ECHO, said the need for meals this year is tremendous because of the area’s job loss and economic problems. About 3,175 people will eat the donated meals.


“The low-income people in this community don’t have all the resources to meet all their needs,” she said. “We want people to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal.”


Mike Farrey, the event coordinator, said many families wouldn’t have a Thanksgiving dinner without the program.


“They’re very grateful,” he said. “The people are always thanking everybody. It means a lot to them.”


Such was the case for Phonesavanh, who appreciated the Thanksgiving meal for her family.


“I don’t know what my family would do without ECHO right now,” she said. “It means a happy Thanksgiving, food on the table and family. That’s what it’s all about.”


Phonesavanh’s family will eat a late dinner on Thanksgiving after she finishes working a 16-hour day as an in-home nurse.


But, she said, at least they’ll have food on the table.


“It’s a big help,” Phonesavanh said.



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