The money will go to both the Atascadero and Paso Robles homeless shelters
ATASCADERO — The North County community came out in droves to support the El Camino Homeless Organization’s (ECHO) 12th Annual Long Walk Home. The awareness walk began at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23, and ended at the Atascadero ECHO campus at 11 a.m., which is when a barbecue lunch for participants started.
“We had about 300 community members come out through sponsors, volunteers, residents, just all sorts of different people coming out to participate. It was incredible. It was an amazing amazing event,” said ECHO’s Director of Operations Austin Solheim.
Through the fundraiser and awareness walk, ECHO raised over $50,000, which will be used at both ECHO Atascadero and ECHO Paso Robles campuses to help the organization continue with their work to get the North County’s unhoused population back into housing and give them access to programs that make it possible for those citizens.
“One of the reasons that we love this event is that it creates a sense of community. It brings people together from all walks of life, and we walk together to really just embody the spirit of what we’re doing here, and that’s providing stability and empowering each other, holding each other right through, taking all those steps together to get back into housing,” Solheim added. “The Long Walk Home is all about taking those steps together, just as those in our community facing homelessness take those steps to get back into housing.
“This year, we’ve seen tremendous and incredible success from our residents and from the community, and 131 men, women, and children have gotten back into housing to date this year from utilizing ECHO services.”
Many local businesses and ECHO’s sponsors showed up for the Long Walk Home, and Solheim said that close to 40 businesses from the community were represented at the event.
“I would echo what Wendy [Lewis, ECHO’s CEO/President] said earlier, which is we’re not able to do what we do without the help of the community. So as much as we could thank the community, we just can’t do it without them,” said ECHO Board Member Nick Edney.
This year’s sponsors were: Howard Products, Inc., SCI, BBSI, Kitchell Foundation, Browder Painting Company, Sensorio, Wyoming Bieze’s, Spectrum, Mechanic’s Bank, Paso Robles Chevrolet, Grocery Outlet, Gerber’s Auto Services, Don and Elaine Witmer, Astound, Corvus Wealth Management, Boone Graphics, Dimes Media, KSBY, J.Carroll Screen Printing & Embroidery, Kara Woodruff, Starbucks, Farm Supply, Andros Family, SESLOC Federal Credit Union, Idler’s Home, Andros Engineering, Two Knights Insurance, What’s Up North County, Solarponics, EECU, SLO County Board of Supervisors, PG&E, Weyrick Lumber, The Sign Place, Atascadero 76, and Community West Bank.
“We were also able to partner with some of our local organizations who come on-site to provide services for our residents, such as Camp Ocean Pines coming out and bringing some animals for the kids to play with,” Solheim said. “We had the Paso Robles Children’s Museum here as well, with their Imagination Playground. And volunteers that came out here together just to barbecue and provide that for us, too. So it was just a truly incredible event to have all of those different people from [different] walks of life coming together for ECHO to support those who need it most.”
The barbecue was provided by a group made up of members from Atascadero Bible Church, which is right across the street from the Atascadero ECHO campus. The group has been providing barbecue for everyone who walked earlier that day for years.
“We just wouldn’t be here without the community. ECHO is, it is truly a place where compassionate members of our community can come together to make a difference, whether it’s our compassionate and amazing staff, our volunteers that are 1,800 volunteers from the community that fill positions between Paso and Atascadero, and our amazing sponsors that come out. We’re just so grateful to this community that makes everything we do possible,” concluded Solheim.
To find out more about ECHO, donate, or volunteer, you can visit their website at echoshelter.org.
Feature Image: Wendy Lewis (center) poses with ECHO volunteers and a sponsors banner during the Long Walk Home fundraiser on Sept. 23. Photo by Rick Evans