The inaugural Women of Influence North County program (WINC) will be honoring Wendy Lewis as its first WINC this April. The new annual award is a collaboration between the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce and Atascadero’s chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

This program highlights women in business who are making a difference in their industries and communities. WINC serves as a platform to celebrate their achievements, inspire future leaders, and foster meaningful connections within the business community. 

We sat down with Wendy, who serves as the CEO of the El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO) and asked her about what drives her to serve her community and how she wants to inspire other women.


Congratulations on winning Woman of Influence! What drives your passion for making a difference in the Atascadero community?

Wendy Lewis: One of the most rewarding aspects of my commitment to making our community a better place is the immense feeling of pride that accompanies witnessing someone’s joy when they successfully embark on their journey back into housing. 

As I receive the Women of Influence award, this deep connection to the joy of successful transitions serves as a powerful motivator to continue the work of creating positive change within our community. It underscores the importance of fostering a compassionate environment that celebrates each individual’s success, contributing to a stronger and more resilient community for all.

Can you share a significant accomplishment or project that you’ve led in Atascadero, which you believe has had a positive impact on the community?

Wendy: During my transformative tenure as the CEO of ECHO homeless organization in North San Luis Obispo County, spanning over six years, I have spearheaded significant accomplishments in expanding and enhancing our services. In the early days, we operated with a single overnight shelter of 40 beds. However, through strategic vision and dedicated efforts, we successfully enhanced our shelter in Atascadero and, subsequently, added one in Paso Robles. This expansion not only increased our capacity to 130 beds, but also broadened our geographical reach to better serve the community. 

What fills me with immense pride is the evolution of our visionary 90-day program, a proven model that boasts a remarkable 60 percent success rate in transitioning individuals and families from homelessness to permanent housing. 

How do you envision using your platform as Woman of Influence to inspire and empower other women in Atascadero?

Wendy: Receiving the award as an inspiring women leader is truly humbling, and I see it as an opportunity to amplify the incredible work of the amazing women at ECHO and other homeless services organizations. This recognition is not just about me but shines a spotlight on the dedicated individuals who are the driving force behind the positive impact we make. 

My primary goal is to use this platform to celebrate and elevate the voices of the remarkable women within our organization. These unsung heroes at ECHO and other homeless services organizations are the backbone of our efforts, tirelessly supporting individuals and families on their transformative journey from homelessness to permanent housing. 

I want to foster an environment where the accomplishments of these women are not only acknowledged but also serve as a source of inspiration for others aspiring to make a difference. Together, we can build a stronger, more compassionate community that empowers everyone, irrespective of their circumstances. 

What advice would you give to other women aspiring to make a difference and become leaders in the Atascadero community?

Wendy: My advice to other women aspiring to uplift their community is grounded in the power of openness and continuous learning. Embrace the courage to try new things, as stepping outside of your comfort zone often leads to personal growth and innovative solutions for community challenges. Never underestimate the impact of a curious and open mind. Always be ready to learn and explore, whether it’s acquiring new skills, understanding diverse perspectives, or staying informed about community needs. Education is a powerful tool for empowerment. 

Additionally, be open to giving of your time, talents, or what truly inspires you. Generosity, in whatever form it takes, can create a ripple effect of positive change. By contributing your unique strengths to the community, you not only uplift others but also cultivate a sense of purpose and fulfillment within yourself. Collaboration, openness, and a commitment to lifelong learning can be transformative forces in creating positive change.


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