ECHHO (Ecumenical Christian Helping Hands Organization) was organized in 1997 when it became clear to local church and community members that there were unmet needs among the elderly and disabled in Jefferson County. Volunteers were recruited to meet needs in the areas of transportation to medical appointments, running errands, shopping, household chores and yard work for those who were unable to do such tasks for themselves.
The following year ECHHO’s medical equipment loan program was begun at the request of Jefferson General Hospital. The Boeing Bluebills began partnering with ECHHO to do the more complex repairs on medical equipment, especially wheelchairs and electric hospital beds. In 2003 ECHHO was able hire a part-time medical equipment associate, joining two part-time staff associates who handle the matching of requests for assistance to ECHHO’s roster of volunteers.
Grants from Olympic Area Agency on Aging (O3A) and other sources allowed ECHHO to begin reimbursing volunteer drivers for their mileage and ferry costs as needed. O3A also funds a Title V intern, who assists in the office. In 2007 ECHHO’s offices moved to the former First Presbyterian Church manse at 1110 Jefferson Street in Port Townsend.
ECHHO’s work continues to to grow each year because of financial support from Jefferson Healthcare, O3A, UGN, local churches, care receivers, charitable foundations, civic groups, local businesses and many individual donors. We also receive major funding from the Washington State Dept. of Transportation, and smaller grants from Port Townsend Rotary, Jefferson Community Foundation’s “Give Jefferson” campaign, and Edensaw Community Cancer Foundation.