Compassion in Action
Our mission is to help the elderly, low income and disabled persons of East Jefferson County to live independently in their own homes, regardless of faith, age, ability or income.
Jeanette and Bruce Travis couldn’t have imagined when they started ECHHO 20 years ago that in 2017, we would provide essential services for 1,298 individuals. The Travises saw a tremendous need in East Jefferson County to help elderly, disabled and low-income people meet their day-today needs, such as rides to medical appointments, running errands, housework assistance, companionship and minor home repairs during times of trial when they were unable to carry their burdens alone. Those needs still exist today, even more than when ECHHO began.
Our phones ring throughout the day, and when someone calls to say they’ve been told they need to go to radiation in Poulsbo every day for 2 weeks, our volunteer drivers get them there. One of our clients has been driven to appointments with his neurologist in Seattle, often several times a month. For 5 years we’ve provided his transportation.
"Thank you, ECHHO, for providing an amazing, much needed service! I don't know what we would have done without you."
Even seemingly small things can make a tremendous difference, like the woman whose husband had cardiac surgery in Silverdale. On the day she was prepared to bring him home, she learned that she had to go there 24 hours ahead of time to be instructed about his care! We took her there and brought her husband home when he was released. These “minor miracles” happen because of the support ECHHO receives from our community of compassionate volunteers and generous donors. We are constantly inspired by the gratitude we receive from those we serve.
Who are the People We Serve?
Almost everyone cycles into and out of disability during their lives, especially as we grow older. Many people use ECHHO just once, but some need a lot of help over a long period of time. We don’t always anticipate such times, and when they come we often feel ill-prepared. Illness and surgeries, accidents and age catch us by surprise, and these are the occasions of ECHHO’s amazing compassion! Jefferson County is 9th in the nation for percentage of seniors (34.7% of our households have residents aged 65 and older); the average age of our residents is 55.6. With retirees increasingly finding our area to be an ideal place to live, these numbers will continue to increase. Many of these are either solitaries or caregivers for spouses or partners. ECHHO makes a significant difference in quality of life in our community. Since we began in 1997, ECHHO has served over 8,000 people! Many of the folks who were volunteer drivers long ago are now clients, grateful now for receiving the compassion they once extended to others.
What Services Does ECHHO Provide?
In addition to providing transportation for routine medical, dental and other essential appointments, our volunteers also provide transportation for patients needing dialysis, radiation treatments and chemotherapy. We often take people to medical service providers in Sequim, Poulsbo, Silverdale and even Seattle! Additionally, we have 2 volunteers who pick up food at the food banks and deliver them to housebound clients.
ECHHO provides free loans of durable medical equipment, from hospital beds to canes, walkers, wheelchairs and bathroom aids. These items can be kept for as long as they are needed. Volunteers also help with shopping, trips to the pharmacy or to social service agencies.
We are also excited to announce that we are revamping our Home Services Program offering “help at home” and are seeking volunteers to assist our neighbors in this area of need (please see our Looking Forward section in this report for details).
ECHHO works in partnership with the Boeing Bluebills (retired Boeing engineers) who generously offer their expert help with safety related repairs and retrofits.
Percentages of services provided.
A Volunteer's Joy
Ron W. delivers food from the food bank to homebound ECHHO clients, and he recently sent us a letter expressing how he feels about his work. He absolutely delights in this task! His joy begins when he arrives at the food bank and greets the other volunteers there. He says this “is one of the highlights of my week.” When he delivers the food, “Everyone seems to be waiting for my arrival, as sometimes I am their only visitor for the week. I try to have plenty of time so I can talk and listen, repair something, etc.” He often meets visiting family members, and “We all tell stories.” He reports that he once even helped a young man learn to ride a bike! Ron especially enjoys romping with pets that owners sometimes cannot play with. “I chase them around the house and everyone is laughing and happy.” Ron signs his letter, “Thank you ECHHO for this wonderful opportunity.”
What Services Does ECHHO Provide?
What Do We Need?
We always need more volunteers! Because our volunteers are retirees, they “age out” and sometimes become care receivers. Also, many go south for the winters, so our volunteer numbers always go down at that time of the year. Some have worked for ECHHO almost from the beginning! Our work is growing; last year alone, requests for our services were up 8.2%. If you or anyone you know is interested in helping us, please call our office, (360) 379-3246 to learn about the benefits of volunteering for ECHHO.
We also need your financial support! Last year, contributions from the community enabled us to purchase 2 new printers and much-needed updates for our system software. We’ve purchased items of medical equipment when the need exceeded our stock, something we’ve never done before but which enabled us to provide for our clients. With the growth of our Home Services Program, it will be appropriate for us to find a way to offer a wage to the coordinator. Our staff pay remains extremely modest, and these dedicated people stay with ECHHO because of their devotion to our mission.
A man recently came into our office to borrow a wheelchair. His wife, he said, is dying of cancer, and they have young children. I asked if there was anything our volunteers could do to help him with his situation at home, and he replied that it would be good if someone could come and just sit with her so she wouldn’t be alone when he goes grocery shopping. It is for people like these that we are launching an expanded Home Services Program. With Kate Storey working (pro-bono) to coordinate this fine and much-needed work, we can now send volunteers into homes to help with tasks that people in difficult situations cannot do for themselves and for which they cannot afford to hire help. That might mean doing laundry, fixing a meal (and sharing it with the client), walking the dog, playing scrabble, reading aloud or watching a movie. There are elder-orphans living in most of our neighborhoods, and often we do not see them. ECHHO can make a tremendous difference in such situations, sometimes just from offering simple compassionate companionship.
A Client’s Letter of Thanks
I have had a couple of occasions to benefit from the services that ECHHO provides. My elderly mother-in-law was a resident of Port Townsend for several years while her health was in steady decline. Over time she moved from using a walker to needing a wheelchair and she needed a seat for her shower and other such bathroom equipment. A friend told us about ECHHO – and frankly I did not believe that I had heard correctly that all of this equipment was readily available at no charge and with no time limits or other constraints. Can’t be! How can they do this? But I contacted ECHHO and soon we had her outfitted with all of the equipment she needed. Over time we borrowed some additional equipment. In every case, your staff was helpful, friendly and gracious – and helped us come up with the perfect equipment for her needs. We happily made small donations to thank you for your help and we did donate what equipment she had that you might use when she passed – it was the least we could do.
More recently, my wife had knee surgery and was unable to do much walking. During the holidays her visiting daughter wanted the family to cruise the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights. In order to make this possible, I visited ECHHO to borrow a wheelchair for a few days. Easily done! Not a big need - but this made things so convenient when I obviously didn’t need to own a wheelchair but did need one for a few days. And again, the staff I dealt with was very friendly and helpful. I am SO appreciative of your services and of the staff who provide them. I just thought you should know.
Thanks so much,