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Summertime for Children at ECHO

Imagine being homeless.  Imagine being homeless with children.  Thankfully Northern San Luis Obispo has a tremendous resource in the El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO).  ECHO is a transitional shelter helping families and individuals find permanent housing while providing case management services to the homeless, helping them create an action plan, live with new behaviors, find a job, and locate a permanent home.

It is a place where people who are willing to help themselves can be lifted up.

And of course it has rules.  Between the hours of 7:30am and 4:30pm residents are asked to leave the premises.  But where do parents take their children during these hours?  Parents who need to work…

This summer, ECHO has several children staying at the shelter. Thanks to the support of our community, ECHO has been fortunate enough to send these kids to camps keeping them busy and engaged this summer.

  • Three children participated in the two-week long Applause Children’s Theater. This was an amazing experience where the children learned dance steps and movements. They worked together to participate in short dance/theater skits and monologues. One child really found her voice and entered a local talent show as a result of the confidence she built at theater camp.
  • Three young children participated in a camp at the Charles Paddock Zoo, experiencing the zoo educational program.
  • Three kids are participating in the Boys & Girls Club Summer Program. Two of which are there as participants and one is a Counselor-in-Training.

This is another example of our community coming together to help our neighbors – thank YOU for those of you that made summer programs possible for the children staying at ECHO this summer.


“If Not Us, Then Who?”: A Chat with Eric Jensen

Booker is synonymous with award-winning wines and grapes and is something of a Central Coast phenom. The owners also happen to be must! charities founding board members inheriting a tradition of philanthropy steeped in the hillsides of their vineyard.

The name Booker comes from the two orphan brothers, Claude and Dick Booker, who purchased the land in the late 1920’s. By the turn of the century the Booker brothers had acquired over 1,200 acres on Paso’s Westside. The Booker brothers were Paso’s favorite sons, dedicating their lives to being great farmers and humanitarians. Aside from lending their farming knowledge and manual labor to neighbors and those in need, they were the area’s biggest philanthropists, leaving 100% of their estate to charity when they passed.

It’s only fitting that Eric and Lisa Jensen, philanthropists themselves, acquired the property in 2000 with an intent of growing the best fruit for top local wineries that has since evolved into their own winemaking. And while all of this is impressive in its own right, it is the Jensen’s philanthropy that continues to inspire us and others in Northern SLO County.

What’s it like to sit down with Eric Jensen? Well, here it is…

The Central Coast is ripe with great causes, why does Booker continue to support must! charities?

If we all were focused on our giving and started in our own backyard to move the needle there, it would allow us to then reach out to other areas like developing nations, disease cures, etc. Instead, people are all across the board and the needle never moves. Local business must take care of our own towns first to make it vibrant and healthy, then move outward.

What motivates you to be philanthropic?

Not everyone believes they can accomplish anything in this lifetime, but God gave me that belief. For those that believe they can never amount to anything and were never told differently, that’s my motivation.

Did you grow up in a household of philanthropy or is this new to you?

My mom was always on the front lines of donating time to any cause. She didn’t have money, so she got her hands dirty at every opportunity.

Why is giving back to the community important for your business?

I receive so much from this community that I must put back into it to make sure it stays healthy and provides others the same opportunity it gave me.

How do you talk philanthropy to your kids?

I tell my kids weekly that you cannot just continue to take from your community, that the only way business success is sustainable is if everyone around you wins. There can’t be a great separation of rich and poor, the gap needs to close and we need to insure that everyone has the same opportunities that we have. The way you do this is by putting back into community programs to educate, enlighten and empower.

Where do you see Booker in 10 years?

In 10 years hopefully the boys will be running the business and I’ll be the brand ambassador and a must! board member!

What are your company’s greatest strengths?

Booker’s greatest strength is that everyone is treated equal from the bottom to the top. If you empower all your coworkers with the belief that no job is more important than another, everyone believes they’re important and relied upon to do their best. This has created a culture of teamwork and respect that helps us to function at the highest level.

Perhaps our favorite quote of Eric’s, deep in the must! archives still resonates today, “Being able to attack problems and see positive changes in our own backyard is a must for a healthy community. If not us…then who?”


CASA Advocate Story: Marie and Lizzy

One year ago, CASA volunteer Marie* was assigned to the case of 10 year old Lizzie* in the North County.  Due to the abuse and neglect Lizzie had experienced living with her parents, she was now living with her grandmother.  After being assigned to Lizzie’s case, Marie reviewed all of her records and became concerned that Lizzie had to repeat a grade in school and appeared to be falling behind, especially in math and reading comprehension.  Although her grandmother held her educational rights for Lizzie, she was under the impression Lizzie was doing well in school.  At Marie’s suggestion, the grandmother agreed to have the school test Lizzie which confirmed she was having difficulties.  Marie set up regular meetings with the teacher and school personnel and regularly contact them about Lizzie’s progress.  She also found out that Lizzie’s therapy appointments were scheduled during school hours, causing Lizzie to miss significant amounts of school.  She informed the judge of this situation and the judge ordered that Lizzie’s therapy appointments be scheduled after school hours.  Because of her caring and being proactive, Marie has been instrumental in helping Lizzie advance in her education.  Without Marie as her CASA advocate, Lizzie might still be struggling in school and falling further behind.

* names changed to ensure confidentiality.