On Friday, Dec. 14, the Every Citizen Has Opportunities (ECHO) group held its annual holiday party complete with a live band, Nine Foot Angel, and gifts for everyone. Karen Russell, marketing manager, said, "This is a wonderful community effort. The National Electronics Warranty provided gifts for each of our clients and much of the food for our party was donated by Safeway, Harris Teeter, Bloom and Giant. It's a big help."
Every Citizen Has Opportunities, 37 Sycolin Road, Leesburg, was established in 1975 and helps people with disabilities find employment and job training in the county. Those with disabilities can enter this vocational program when they turn 18 and about 120 people currently participate. Several businesses partner with ECHO and provide various jobs. Clients can work in the field they're interested in and find a job at their skill level. "It's fun and friendly and we're willing to try new things," said Brittany Blaine, ECHO site supervisor.
"I LIKE THE WORK environment and everyone is very nice. My friends work with me, too, and it's a good place to work," said Angela O'Dowd, ECHO participant. She has been active in program for six years.
Katie Turner said she also enjoys her job with the U.S. Geological Map and Survey in Reston. "I like the variety of things I do," she said. Her mother Doris Turner of Fairfax, said, "Katie loves her job. It's a great program. The supervisors are wonderful and it's a good environment. Katie is also fortunate because she works with two of her best friends."
Parents Debbi and Don Fultz are also pleased with the ECHO program. "Lauren loves her job and the sponsors are wonderful, too," said Debbi. Their daughter, Lauren, just began the program in November.
ECHO board members also think highly of the program. "My wife and I have served on the Every Citizen Has Opportunities board for the last eight years. This program does a lot of good work and provides many job opportunities so people have a chance to work in an area they're interested in," said Carroll Franklin, member of the board of directors.
Roy Weidner, treasurer of the board, said, "I have a son who has worked here during the last four years and that's how I got interested in this program. The changes in my son are amazing. He is more capable and follows directions better. I can't say enough good things about the place."
NATIONAL ELECTRONICS Warranty, 22894 Pacific Blvd., Sterling, provided gifts for each of the 120 clients this year. Executive vice president Cliff White said, "We had an employee who served on the Every Citizen Has Opportunities board and as a company we like to support charitable entities and organizations our employees are involved with. We've been a supporter of Every Citizen Has Opportunities since 2002."
William Haney has been the chief executive officer of ECHO since 1983. He said the organization tries to place people where they want to work at. "We have a quality program and provide training and skills so people can transition into a regular job. That's one of our goals. It's also a win-win for companies. When they realize how valuable our sources can be, they want us to stay and find us work," Haney said. "The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has approved Every Citizen Has Opportunities' contract through June 2008. We hope the incoming board will continue to value the Every Citizen Has Opportunities' services."