Janesville29.5°

Need for donations echoes with nonprofit

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
May 26, 2012
— Clients of Everyone Cooperating to Help Others, commonly known as ECHO, might have noticed a few changes in recent weeks.

-- Gas card and bus token distribution ended about a week ago.


-- Motel voucher distribution has been suspended.


-- Staff hours have been cut.


Beginning June 1, the faith-based charity also plans to eliminate Friday morning office hours—a first since the organization started more than 40 years ago.


“We really don’t like to stop services until we absolutely have to,’’ said Karen Lisser executive director. “Right now we don’t have funds—cash flow.”


ECHO was supposed to receive a Community Development Block Grant reimbursement Friday for its rent assistance, which will cover payroll and other bills next week, she said.


“Other than that we have a few grant funds specified for certain things like rent assistance, and a loan available to us at Johnson Bank we’re about to tap into if donations don’t come in,’’ she said.


How long that $20,000 loan will last is hard to say.


“We don’t operate on pledges, so we really don’t know what people are going to be donating to us on any particular day,’’ Lisser said.


ECHO will not cut food services and things that go with the grocery program, such as personal supplies. It also will continue providing some rent assistance.


“But that’s about it,’’ Lisser said.


Lisser said it’s typical for ECHO to be low on funds at this time of year, “but we have never tapped into the loan until fall—usually October,’’ she said.


Lisser hopes two upcoming fundraisers—the annual Christmas in July and summer donation drive—will provide some much-needed cash, Lisser said.


Donations have kept pace with those made last year, but government grants have decreased and needs have grown, she said.


“It’s just a reminder that the needs are there every single month and all year round,” Lisser said.


Through April, ECHO has provided 283 families with $20 gas cards, marking a 65-percent increase in the number of families helped during the same time period last year, according to the group’s April 2012 service report.


The report also showed 113 families have been given bus tokens—usually 20 each. That is a 49 percent increase over the same months in 2011.


While motel vouchers provided 456 shelter nights through April—a 10-percent decrease from last year—the need increased again in May, Lisser said.


Lisser said it’s important to remember that ECHO’s service reports only reflect what the nonprofit organization is able to do.


“So the need is greater than what you see,’’ she said.



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