We all stumble, every one of us; that’s why it’s a comfort to go hand-inhand (author unknown). If we work together, helping our neighbors in need, it makes this community a comforting and better place. Because of community support, ECHO has helped people for over 45 years. We are keeping families safe in housing, or in lodging if they are homeless, and keeping food on their tables, as well as meeting many other essential needs.
The issues facing the working poor require community solutions. The economy is improving, slowly. A strong economy that is growing for everyone offers many benefits. Quality of people’s lives improves; political problems decline; there are more opportunities for social mobility. That social mobility, a ladder up for people, comes by providing an environment for businesses to grow. That growth also requires education and training to meet the changing needs of businesses who have jobs available and people who have the upgraded skills to fill those jobs. Education makes a difference in people getting higher-paying jobs.
I am thrilled to announce a new program that ECHO will launch in 2015 − the LaVerne and Ralph Sandgren Scholarship Fund! It is in memory of two people the community loved and who played significant roles in helping others – ECHO’s first director, LaVerne, and her husband Ralph, a Lutheran pastor. Their legacy will continue. The details are still being worked out with LaVerne and Ralph’s sons, but this scholarship fund will help ECHO clients, selected by ECHO staff, get advanced education at either Blackhawk Technical College or UW – Rock County. It will be geared to obtaining available jobs, in this community, that require upgraded skills and that will result in higher pay.
Consider an example of a woman we helped in 2014. She has a GED, but no advanced training or education to get a better-paying job. She has two children, and her earned income is 20% of County Median Income (CMI). She pays over 50% of her gross income on housing. They were homeless − we helped them with rent to get them into housing, as well as providing food and other services.
This family was one in over 3,527 different low-income households (HHs) we served in 2014, about 14,000 people, an increase of 7% over 2013. Their HH incomes are classified as: 79% extremely low income (0-30% CMI); 19% very low income (31-50% CMI); or 2% low income (51-80% CMI). Sources of income: 36% of HHs primary income was Disability or Social Security; 58% of HHs primary income was Earned Income; the remaining 6% of families had No Income, which was typically temporary while between jobs, or waiting for unemployment or disability determination. Family size: 47% have 1-2 people in the HH; 36% have 3-4 people; 17% have 5 or more people in the HH. Other characteristics: 11% had an elderly person as head of HH; 71% had a female head of HH; 63% had children; 67% pay more than 50% gross income for rent and utilities. Race: White 77%; Black/African American 17%; Other Races combined 6%. Ethnicity: Non-Hispanic 87%; Hispanic 13%.
Our monthly 2014 Service Reports are on our website. Our DOLLAR$ & $EN$E Report 2014 will be available later this month. That report combines ECHO’s year-end service, financial reports and in-kind donations, to depict the estimated monetary value of ECHO’s services. Consistently, the bottom line is − ECHO’s Direct Assistance to Administrative Cost Ratio is 98% Program Services vs. 2% Program Support.
Our numbers reflect what we were able to do, not what the actual need is. Each year, we project an estimate of donations that will come in and what services will be provided. If more comes in than projected, we will be able to meet more of the need. If the cash flow slows down, we have to cut services. ECHO had to cut off transportation and lodging assistance the last three months of 2014. We need funds to keep things going! We are starting the year with just a small carry-over from December donations. Free-will donations are our lifeblood, making it possible for the community to be actively involved in helping our Janesville neighbors in need.
I am honored and privileged to have been the Executive Director of ECHO the last 20 years, and I still have a lot more that I can accomplish here. I have the opportunity to be in a position to help people in this community see the difference that they can make not only in the lives of others, also in their own lives, by simply giving of themselves. What we can do together is limitless. The ECHO staff joins me in thanking all of you who give money, goods, time—giving of yourselves—to help ECHO’s mission. Have a great 2015!