Dictionary.com defines a myth as a legendary story with or without a determinable basis, an unproven collective belief. Wikipedia defines an urban legend as a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true. Every day I hear many myths and urban legends involving ECHO from friends, relatives, co-workers, and people on the street. In this article I will address some of these myths and attempt to discern ECHOfact from ECHOfiction. Myth. ECHO is just a food pantry. False. Food is a very important service, but ECHO also provides emergency housing from homelessness, assistance with rent and security deposit, help with transportation to work, school supplies in the fall, presents at Christmas, and baskets for Easter. And ECHO staff assist and counsel clients along the path out of poverty.
Myth. Most ECHO resources go to Illinois. False. I am sure you have all heard the urban legend about the young woman who comes out of ECHO with a full cart of groceries and loads them into her boyfriend’s brand new SUV with Illinois license plates. The details change; sometimes the young woman is a mother carrying a child, sometimes the vehicle is a sportscar, sometimes it is five or six cars with Illinois plates. The fact is ECHO works very hard to make sure that all ECHO resources stay local. All ECHO clients are required to show a picture ID, proof of residency showing a Janesville address, and proof of income to qualify for an ECHO ID card and receive ECHO services. This information is checked periodically to monitor changes in client status. The purpose of this is to be good stewards of ECHO resources and donations and make sure they get to ECHO clients who need and deserve them.\
Myth. All ECHO clients are lazy and don’t want to work. False. Most ECHO clients have jobs and work very hard. Some of them have more than one part time job but just don’t make very much money. Many ECHO clients have complicating factors due to their poverty that make employment more difficult, such as health issues, unstable housing, unreliable transportation, and difficult family environments. ECHO staff work with clients in evaluating needs and link them with services to improve their job skills to obtain higher paying jobs and improve the quality of their lives.
Myth. ECHO executive director Karen Lisser secretly advises Badger basketball coach Bo Ryan on how to run his program and was Bo’s first choice to replace him after he retires next year. False. I am not sure where this rumor started, but I have not found any evidence to suggest that Bo relies on Karen’s extensive knowledge and management expertise and Karen denies there is any connection between her and Bo. But, if it is supposed to be a secret, and Karen denies it, maybe…..ok, just checking to see if you are still reading. Myth. ECHO competes with other social service agencies. False. ECHO works closely with other social service organizations to meet the needs of its clients and is a leader in addressing poverty issues in our community. ECHO staff act as a clearinghouse of social services by referring clients to organizations like House of Mercy, Health Net, the Job Center, and the Salvation Army.
The last myth I would like to address is that ECHO always has lots of money. This is absolutely positively false. Because of ECHO’s unwavering belief in its mission, we are always going to be tight on cash. We depend on your support to do ECHO’s good work and that has never been more true than right now. Our clients are not a myth. They are real people who need our help to put a roof over their heads, to put food on their tables, to give them hope for a better life.