Sold out event hits record numbers and raises $50,000

On Thursday, Apr. 29, the El Camino Homeless Shelter (ECHO) hosted their annual Empty Bowls fundraiser, and this year they were back in action.

Starting at 11:30 a.m., cars lined up in the Atascadero Bible Church parking lot off of Atascadero mall ready to greet all the volunteers and ECHO support staff to pick up their handcrafted one of a kind ceramic bowls and “to-go” soups that were beautifully presented in brown bags with the ECHO logo.

The bags included various soups from local restaurants including Niner Wine Estates, Dan’s Grub Shack, McPhee’s Grill, Pacific Harvest Catering, Wild Fields Brewhouse, Giovanni’s Fish Market, Street Side Ale House, Woodruff Family, Red Scooter Deli, Odyssey World Café, Caiwala Food Market, Longbranch Saloon, The Range, Novo, Hofbrau Morro Bay, Granite Ridge Christian Camp, Don Q, Brian’s Bread, Back Porch Bakery, Sugar + Spoon Carmel’s, Templeton Donuts Plus and Mr. Pickle’s Paso Robles.     

Getting through this together, Atascadero

Wendy Lewis, the Executive Director of ECHO, shared, “We are so excited about this year’s Empty Bowls, for one we were able to have it. Last year because of the pandemic we could not hold this much-beloved event and so just to have the community come out in a safe way come support ECHO and the people we are serving just come together it felt so good today some of those faces that have been helping our organization for now 20 years, this is our 20th anniversary, from the celebrity servers all the restaurants and bread places that came together to make all of this possible. One of the best parts of our community, it just really supports us and the people that were trying to help transform their lives; we sold out two weeks before the event; who could ask for that much support!”

Throughout the morning into the early afternoon, several “local celebrities” joined the serving line. The early shift included support from Atascadero Mayor Heather Moreno, County Supervisor Debbie Arnold, and Atascadero Police Chief Bob Masterson.

With the rainbow of blue balloons and volunteers all in blue aprons, the welcome wagon was a friendly sight to see.

Greeting community members at the entrance were two local Starbucks Baristas Natasha Schlitz, and Riley Benado, who both came to support the annual event.

“We are both volunteers [ECHO] and work at the local Starbucks and want to give back to our community… we are out here having fun and appreciate the opportunity to support,” Schlitz said.

Following the early shift, Atascadero News Columnist Barbie Butz, Don Idler, and Atascadero Fire Chief Casey Bryson joined the serving team.

Idler shared, “I know what an awesome effort this is, and I was asked to be here, and I would be glad to come here every year. We [Idler’s Home] have always supported it… we have done a lot with ECHO, and we serve there sometimes, and we just know what a good thing this is for our community. It is what we do.”

Multiple volunteers shared how wonderful it felt to be able to serve the community once again in a way that was not available over the last year due to the pandemic.

Chief Bryson said, “I have done this for a couple of years, obviously not last year, it always a great event, nice to see such a big section of the community come out and support ECHO because ECHO does amazing things for the town, so it is nice to show some support and give back a little bit to them because they do take care of the community and quite a few things…. nice to be out and see people come through and see people you know. It would be good to get the crew to come through the line next and bring the engine next year would be a good idea.”   

After the event, Lewis shared, “We are thrilled to announce that with a record number of caring sponsors and selling our tickets out, we exceeded our $40,000 goal raised over $50,00!” 

All funds raised remain within the North County and helps ECHO continue to operate three safe and secure overnight shelters in Atascadero and Paso Robles. ECHO Atascadero’s unique residency program provides case management services to assist them in securing a job and finding permanent and sustainable housing within three months of entering the shelter program. While enrolled in the program, clients are taught life skills for employment, budgeting, health care management, and social communication and interaction. The goal and the result of this practical support is the empowerment of residents to move in a positive direction while assisting them in acquiring the skills and services they need to become self-sustaining, including secure housing.

For more information or to sign up to volunteer, visit echoshelter.org.