The ripple effect is similar to our slogan, “Life is an ECHO—what you send out, you get back!” Ripples are generated in our lives everyday. All of those little things you do in every moment of your life can ripple out to create endless changes in the lives of others, and there is no need to become a politician, a famous author or a celebrity to have such a powerful effect.

One of your tiny actions this very day could ripple out and make a positive change in your own community, and beyond. Think of a pebble dropped into a pond, causing a ripple all the way to the shore.

Ripples can be positive and help many others, or they can be negative and hurt others. ECHO (Everyone Cooperating to Help Others) is able to do a lot through the ripple caused by many people making donations to us.

We have all felt the ripple negative effect of higher costs in our everyday lives. For some people, it affects vacations, for some how many extras they buy or what brands they buy. For others who have to work at least four hours just to fill up their gas tank to get to work, it affects their housing stability and families’ welfare.

ECHO will be celebrating our 50th anniversary in 2019. We have to figure out how to keep ECHO afloat to help the vulnerable in our community. The primary problem of the low-income population is not unemployment but wages keeping up with costs of living.

Having a job is just the beginning of a family’s progression out of poverty (or just surviving while in poverty). Housing is the single largest cost for families, not just rent but also utilities. Moving up the employment ladder is difficult, but even if families move up the employment ladder, they don’t always move up the housing ladder. The housing ladder has four rungs: homelessness, unstable rental, stable rental and home ownership.

The majority of ECHO clients are at the lowest rungs—most on the rung of unstable rental and a significant number in and out of homelessness. ECHO provides rent assistance and also lodging if people are experiencing homelessness. Our clients climb up to the third rung—stable rental. A few climb to the fourth rung—home ownership. Families struggling to move from unstable housing to stable housing often operate under the radar screen of public awareness.

Their moves in and out of housing make it difficult to retain employment and provide a stable, healthy environment for their children. Locally, the apartment vacancy rate is about 1 percent, which makes it difficult to find a place to live if one is homeless or needs to move for any reason. When a person’s housing stability is affected, it ripples out further and affects their ability to hold a job, their health, their children’s health and stability in school. This affects all of us. We live in this community together—side by side.

More people are streaming in for help. The future is not in our hands, but the present gives us many opportunities for positive ripples to be generated. Only sometimes are you given the slightest glimpse of the ripples from your effort.

You can make a difference every day in this community. It means a lot to many people living among us. ECHO needs your support: for our food, housing, lodging, transportation and many other services, plus for making the Christmas season brighter for ECHO to help those in need. ECHO appreciates your support.

Karen Lisser is executive director of ECHO in Janesville.

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