Letter: Paul Donohue Jr., ECHO

Editor: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a time to celebrate the many contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. Since 1975, ECHO, based in Leesburg, has provided employment opportunities to adults with disabilities.

On behalf of the more than 550 individuals and their families that ECHO has served over the years, I want to thank the community for the support you have provided.

Including people with disabilities into the work-life of our community is important for a number of reasons. For our participants, the dignity that earning a paycheck provides is immeasurable.  For their families, providing these opportunities and keeping their loved one safe and supported during the day enables them to keep their jobs and remain tax payers. For the businesses that employ ECHO workers, they appreciate how much our participants contribute to their work environment. The participants bring joy and happiness to the tasks at hand and truly love being included.

The following organizations provide employment to ECHO participants: Aramark at the Oath campus, The Closet of the Greater Herndon Area, CIS Secure Computing, Good Shepherd Thrift Stores, Inova Loudoun Hospital and Inova Cornwall, Janelia Research Campus at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, K2M, Loudoun County Government, Loudoun County Public Schools, PPI, REHAU Americas, Reston Limousine, and TTM Technologies.

ECHO’s success also depends on the generosity of organizations and businesses.  I’d like to thank the following for their impactful donations this past year: Claude Moore Foundation, Dulles Greenway, Rotary Club of Dulles International Airport, Blossom and Bloom Thrift Shop, GEICO, K2M, Rotary Club of Leesburg, Janelia Research Campus at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Fairhaven Homes, REHAU North Americas, Nino Vaghi Foundation, Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier, Allegra Printing, On The Banks magazine and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Purcellville.

There are many individuals, too many to list here, who have donated their time, treasure and talents to ECHO.  I’d like to specifically thank the members of our volunteer Board of Directors:  David Ludwig, Roy Weidner, Richard Jollon, Jean O’Meara, Bill Teringo, Laurraine Landolt, Philip Lee, Dave MacDonald, Betsy Sue Scott, and Tony Summers.

As our area of Virginia has grown, so too has the need. The disability community is the world’s most inclusive minority: people of every color, gender, religion, ethnicity or age are, or may become, a member of the disability community.

ECHO is committed to our participants and we must figure out creative ways to outrun some severe cuts to our operating revenue.  Medicaid recently changed the way they reimburse providers like ECHO and this year they decreased their funding to us by $140,000.

There are ways you can impact our mission now. Be part of our annual Tennis Classic fundraiser or Tour de ECHO cycling fundraiser. Explore how you can hire ECHO workers. Advertise on one of our buses. Consider being an ECHO Board Member or become an Annual Sponsor. If you’d like to learn more, I’d love to hear from you.

Paul Donohue Jr., Purcellville

Mr. Donohue is the CEO of ECHO. He can be reached at pauld@echoworks.com