JANESVILLE–Doug and LaNetta Black each began receiving a monthly Stockbox from ECHO two years ago.
Without the government food program for income-eligible people 60 and older, they hate to imagine what they’d do.
“We’d probably be down to one meal a day,” said Doug, 74.
“It’s added protein we can’t afford. We don’t get to the grocery store and buy what we want,” said LaNetta, 67.
The Janesville couple, both disabled with only Social Security as their incomes, are not alone.
They are two of 319 people who were eligible to receive Stockboxes–35 pounds of nonperishable food plus two pounds of Wisconsin cheese–in July. That’s 19 more people than the month before, while 559 more people received food this year compared to January through July one year ago, said Karen Lisser, executive director of Everyone Cooperating to Help Others.
ECHO is on pace to serve about 3,600 households–with one to eight family members in each household–this year, Lisser said.
Still, the local faith-sponsored nonprofit charity is “never able to meet all the demand,” which is “steady and increasing” with 200 new households each of the past seven months, she said.
To continue to address the need through its 30 programs, ECHO is in the middle of its 19th annual Christmas in July and Need Doesn’t Take a Summer Vacation fund drive.
“Our savings have been draining, and we’re down to only a month’s worth ($60,000) of funding,” Lisser said.
If the money doesn’t come in, ECHO will operate on a loan in September, and it will have to cut services, starting with transportation—gas cards and bus tokens–and then emergency lodging for those experiencing homelessness or in need of rent assistance. Food cuts are always last, she said.
Donations also are used to help pay for ECHO Resource Coordinator Marge Sell’s time to manage the Stockbox program and for buying groceries to fill monthly food orders for people such as the Blacks.
“Need is there all year long. It doesn’t die down in summer. It increases,” Lisser said.
When there is a funding drought, “we have to cut back,” she said.
That would be devastating for the Blacks, who have been married for 45 years. They receive food stamps and a monthly grocery food order from ECHO, in addition to monthly groceries through Second Harvest, and they get produce from their vegetable garden.
Their income is less than half the poverty level after cancer in 2005 left Doug permanently disabled and scoliosis in 2007 left LaNetta permanently disabled. Both live in constant pain.
“ECHO puts food on our table,” LaNetta said.
“It’s really a blessing,” Doug said.