ECHO Success Story: Nadine

Last year, must! charities launched a half-million dollar collaboration with ECHO, El Camino Homeless Organization which is a transitional shelter. Every homeless person at ECHO has a unique situation. However, they all have something in common. The number one reason for becoming homeless is lack of affordable housing. ECHO is here to help.

Here to help people like Nadine.

Nadine was homeless for three years before arriving at ECHO. Being a domestic violence survivor, she had difficulty dealing with daily tasks and was anxious at night. She had been couch surfing with her children because she was not able to afford her own place to live.

Upon her entrance interview at ECHO, it was decided that she would focus on her mental health and recovery. With guidance from ECHO case managers, Nadine sought help from Transitions Mental Health Association and Community Counseling Center in SLO. She also completed an orientation with the Department of Rehabilitation for career counseling.

After a few months at ECHO, Nadine was approved for subsidized housing and found a small apartment in SLO. She is currently working on starting her own business.

When asked about her experience at ECHO she said, “Staff treated me with respect. They believed in me and cared. My case managers were always there to listen to and provide me with encouragement.”

This is just one example of a life positively affected by ECHO.

Youth Works: Success Story

Our must! charities Youth Board has invested time and funds into Youth Works, an organization that teachers leadership skills, and job skills to prepare youth for the working world.  At must! charities we are data-driven and LOVE seeing success like this!

September 1, 2017
Number of youth participating: 34 working

As of August 31, 2018
Number of youth who have participated this grant year: 83 worked, 32 of them new this year; an additional 199 individuals (76 new) participated in our programs other than working (4-H Science & new activities this year: Run Club, Coding Club, Homework Club, summer camp, swimming lessons ).

Jobs have included  farming, woodworking, payroll, cooking, planting/tending rose cuttings, pulling grades for group, staffing Templeton Wine Festival and Templeton Beer Festival, recycling, teaching cooking, teaching & delivering programming for Oak Park Coding Club, writing thank you notes.


Success Story: Tim and Catherine’s Story at CASA

Did you know there are over 490 kids in our county who are under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court and need a Court Appointed Special Advocate? CASA advocates make recommendations to the court, based on the best interest of the children. Let us share with you what that looks like for a child in our community.

CASA volunteer, Catherine, has been advocating for 11-year old Tim for over a year. Tim has a strong bond with his father, and his case plan was on track for reuniting with his father. Unfortunately, Tim’s father did not follow through with his court-ordered plan and soon Tim was placed with an elderly relative.

Tim thought this would be a permanent placement for him. But due to the relative’s age and health problems, she was not able to handle the demands of a child in her home. He was heartbroken. He was then moved to two successive foster homes, both of which were not good fits for him.

Throughout all of this time, Catherine maintained weekly visits with Tim and close contact with his caregivers. One day at the end of the school year, Catherine was talking to an employee at Tim’s school. The employee said that in the past she had operated a specialized foster home. Catherine asked if she might be interested in fostering again.

Soon after, arrangements were made for Tim to live under her care. It has been a great fit, and the foster mom is now pursuing adoption of Tim.  This is just one example of a life positively affected by a CASA volunteer advocate.

Success Story: The Smith Family

Last year, must! charities partnered with ECHO, El Camino Homeless Organization.  ECHO is a transitional shelter in Northern San Luis Obispo County that is helping families and individuals find permanent housing. ECHO is for people who are ready to make a change in their lives. People like The Smith Family.

As a newly blended family, Scott and Amy brought together two boys as step-brothers Christopher 7, and Matthew 10. Both boys know what it’s like to be homeless and hungry, to sleep in their car in a parking lot, and to wish for a home with air conditioning when it’s 100 degrees outside.

Through the help of the ECHO Case Management Team, they were connected to afterschool programs so Scott and Amy could focus on finding full time employment. After a short time at ECHO, Scott was able to secure a full-time job with a construction company and Amy found part-time work at a restaurant.

It was at this point, with financial guidance from the ECHO team, the family was able to start saving money and create a savings plan that would allow them to obtain sustainable and permanent housing once they moved out of ECHO. Paired with assistance from The Link, the family was able to find a program that would subsidize a portion of their housing for a temporary time period. This was the final step in securing the housing they needed.

After six months at ECHO, they are now in their own home with two full time jobs and Amy is enrolled in college courses. The brothers are doing well in school and they were excited to have their own room and even more excited for their new bunkbed!

This family gives us a picture of second chances and is just one example of lives positively affected by ECHO.


Why Must: Thacher Winery

Boys and Girls Club Success Story: Tommy

The Boys & Girls Club provides educational support, dropout prevention, and guidance. They are a safe place to learn and grow – all while having fun.  As must! charities inaugural project, we have maintained a presence with their club for the last six years and continue to be inspired by their successes.

There are children in our community that without the Boys and Girls Club, would have no place to go after school. Kids like Tommy, who first entered the club at aged 5.  Tommy was aggressive and also would cry inconsolably at what seemed to be pent up anger and stress.

Despite this, the staff saw a kind-hearted child who complimented peers and was gentle with the younger members. Together with his mother and Tommy, the club worked to find solutions to his outbursts and address his rejection of club rules.

Over time, Tommy began to recognize when he was getting angry and now comes into the club’s office before an outburst. The club’s cooperation with his family and Tommy’s willingness to address his unhealthy instincts has created daily progress and milestones.

He has stronger connections with same-aged peers, follows the rules more consistently and feels better about his place at the club.

Tommy is a prime examples of what the Boys and Girls Club strives to do. Support, engage, improve and impact children’s lives.

ECHO Success Story: John and Megan

ECHO, El Camino Homeless Organization is a transitional shelter in Northern San Luis Obispo County that is helping families and individuals find permanent housing. In 2017, must! charities partnered with ECHO in an ambitious $500,000 project. As a three-month program, ECHO is for people who are ready to make a change in their lives. People like John and his daughter Megan.

John moved into ECHO with his daughter after a long period of homelessness, arriving with only the clothes they had on their backs. He was discouraged and exhausted, after months of not being able to pay bills or maintain steady employment.

Working with an ECHO case manager, John identified his goals as finding a steady job and home. He wanted Megan to feel safe and secure. ECHO connected John with job resources and communication skills training. Within a few weeks he was hired as a mechanic at a local auto shop. With financial management coaching, just two months later, he saved enough money to buy a vehicle. A month later, he found housing through a connection at his place of employment.

Today John has a stable job he enjoys and Megan is attending school with all of the supplies she needs to learn. Both are enjoying their new home.

Upon moving out John said, “I was able to meet these goals by taking the tools and support provided by ECHO staff and that gave me the confidence to do what I needed to do. Staff treated me like family and whenever I went to my case managers with a problem they provided support and helpful resources. They truly want everyone to succeed and I felt very supported.”

This is just one example of lives positively affected by ECHO.


General Store: Why must! charities

While stopping in for a visit on Must! Monday, we had a chat with the ladies at the General Store.  We are so grateful for partners like them, who give from the heart.

CASA Success Story: Mark and Adam

Two years ago a CASA volunteer, Mark* was assigned to a youth named Adam* age 16. Adam was experiencing self-harm, depression, had suicidal ideation, suffered a near drug overdose, and had run away. Adam had been detained from his parent’s custody due to the parent’s own mental health concerns going untreated. At that time, he said he felt his parent was too mentally unstable to take care of him.

Unfortunately, he was never able to reunify with his parent. Adam remained in the permanent plan of long term foster care called Permanent Planned Living Arrangement (PPLA).

Fast forward to today. Adam has now reached majority, and is transitioning into a young adult and participating in the Assembly Bill 12 Program which offers him mentorship and support.

When Mark was first assigned to Adam, his social worker, described Adam as dressing in a somewhat “emo” style (colorful hair, piercings, etc.) When Mark met Adam he noted his flat affect (would not look people in the eye, but look down), seemed extremely sad, wore long sleeve shirts that covered up scars on his arms from cutting and did not care much about school. His case appeared to be challenging. However, Mark was never put off by Adam. In fact, he immediately reached out to Adam and was able to advocate for Adam’s best interests while being flexible with how Adam preferred to mainly communicate through text messaging.

Mark advocated for Adam in his school setting and to improve his grades. He recommended mental health services for Adam. Mark’s caring and commitment to Adam were instrumental in helping Adam “reach for the stars”!

During this past year Adam has matured in various ways. He no longer seems sad, carries himself with a smile, and appreciates all that is done for him by his social worker, his foster parents and Mark, his CASA volunteer. Most importantly, he has grown into a young adult with a good future. In high school, he participated in sports; where his coach taught him good sportsmanship. As an athlete, he was accountable for his academics. He learned to make meaningful connections with his peers and team-mates. He has also learned to advocate for himself.

Once he asked the Juvenile Dependency Court judge if he could seek employment, which the Court supported as long as he was able to maintain school academics and schoolwork while working part-time at a restaurant. Adam worked hard to develop coping skills and continued to maintain on psychotropic medication. Throughout the time Mark advocated for Adam, he sometimes felt that his relationship with him seemed distant. Adam would often text Mark instead of speaking to him in person, and Mark feared that once Adam turned 18 he would not want Mark to continue on as a CASA Mentor.

However, this past month while at a court hearing, Adam told the judge he definitely wanted Mark to continue to be his advocate. Adam thanked his social worker, his foster parents, and Mark for being supportive. Mark was over joyed and pleasantly surprised to hear that Adam wanted him to continue on as a CASA Mentor. Mark now helps Adam as his CASA Mentor as Adam transitions into being a responsible and productive young adult.

(*names changed to ensure confidentiality)

Must! Charities Annual Report Hot off the Press

Must! Charities is rooted in four areas: Collaboration, Accountability, Comprehensive Change and Sustainability.  The 2017 Annual Report highlights how those areas drive the results-oriented approach to project collaboration.  Review the organization’s financials, project impacts, and how the life of a project works.  The entire report is available for download HERE.