Barbie Butz e1577383874121
Barbie Butz is an independent columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email her at barbiewb@hotmail.com

We know we have a homeless problem in our area, but it’s good to know that an organization exists to deal with the issue. El Camino Homeless Organization, or ECHO, as we know it, is just that organization.

I receive the monthly newsletter so I can keep up to date. When I read the following excerpt from the letter, I felt it was worth repeating. It read, “The program at ECHO is designed to help people address the factors that caused them to become homeless and find permanent jobs and housing and provide life skills training to prevent a return of homelessness in their lives. For this reason and more, our clients are truly champions of dedication and resolve, to overcome the obstacles in their lives to find permanent housing.”

The services of ECHO in 2020 provided shelter to 203 individuals (including 40 children); transitioned 50 individuals and families into permanent housing; facilitated 30 employments; provided 40,200 meals to the hungry; and reached 811 people through outreach services with COVID safety bags. The organization makes a powerful impact in the lives of those facing homelessness and their families 365 days a year.

Becky Gray, Executive Director, must! Charities expressed her organization’s feelings about ECHO this way: “must! Charities invests in nonprofits who are the most effective at dealing with our greatest community needs. ECHO has been a shining example of success in helping those facing hunger and homelessness in our own backyard. must! Charities is proud to support such an organization.”


Visit the ECHO website for more information at echoshelter.org or call (805)462-FOOD (3663).

I’m continuing with soup recipes even though we may have some weather in the 70s for a few days. The days may be a bit warmer, but the evenings are still cooler when a warm cup of soup takes the chill off. 

Black Bean Soup


1 cup dry black beans

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons cooking oil

4 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

¾ pound fully cooked Polish sausage, chopped

3 tablespoons dry sherry (optional)

Cornbread for serving


Rinse beans. In a large saucepan, combine beans and 6 cups of water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. (Or, skip boiling the water and soak beans overnight in a covered pan.) Drain and rinse beans. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, cook onion, celery, and garlic in hot oil till tender. Add beans, chicken broth, coriander, salt, and red pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 1 to 1½ hours until beans are tender.  

If desired, mash beans slightly with a potato masher. Stir in sausage and, if desired, dry sherry. Cook 2 to 3 minutes till heated through. If desired, garnish with sour cream, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, or snipped parsley. Serve with cornbread. Makes 4 main-dish servings.

This next recipe, from Carol Michaud, appears in our Assistance League of SLO County Cookbook; Recipes From the Heart of the Central Coast.

Spiced Lentil-Barley Soup

½ pound Italian sausage

1 medium-size onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup pearl barley

8 cups chicken broth

½ cup minced parsley

2 boneless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)

1 cup lentils

1 (15 ounces) can garbanzo beans

1 (12 ounces) jar mild salsa

1 pound fresh spinach, washed well


Remove sausage casings and crumble meat in a 5 to 6-quart pan over medium-high heat; stir often until browned. Remove meat from pan; set aside. Add onion, garlic, and barley to drippings. Cook, stirring often until onion is limp and barely toasted. Add broth, parsley, chicken breast, and lentils. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer about 30 minutes until the breast is white in thickest part (cut to test). Remove breast; let cool. Shred meat and return to pan. Drain garbanzo beans; add to soup with salsa and sausage. Heat to simmering. Chop spinach; stir into soup and allow a few minutes to wilt and cook. Serves 6