Here in Evergreen, want is well hidden behind a curtain of green hills, fine homes and first-rate public amenities.
Pull back the curtain, however, and you’ll find no few hardworking residents of every social and economic level brought to the edge of ruin by illness, by loss of income, by unforeseen and often unforeseeable misfortune. And right beside them you’ll see the men and women of Evergreen Christian Outreach (EChO) working tirelessly on behalf of neighbors backed into a corner by cruel circumstance.
“We often meet people on the worst day of their life, and we offer them help and hope,” says EChO’s executive director, Dale Flanders. “Sometimes we are their hope.”
Hope can look different to different people, so EChO offers many different kinds. Hope can’t long survive hunger, and EChO’s well-organized, well-stocked and well-patronized food pantry nourishes hundreds each week, in body and spirit. In addition, the pantry provides daily summer lunches to as many as 60 local children who might otherwise go without. When temperatures plunge, EChO administers the Evergreen Shelter Program, offering warm beds and hot meals to folks caught at winter’s mercy.
Sometimes hope needs a financial boost, like rent or mortgage assistance, help with utility bills, or money for car repairs. When the hope is for better health, EChO can help defray medical or dental expenses. For any who ask, a well-trained, professional team of client advocates are happy to assist with crisis intervention, life skills, navigating benefits, and to provide referrals for everything from behavioral health to problem solving. Later this summer, EChO will relaunch its Jobs Center, where hopeful applicants will find a host of promising prospects and the materials and skills that can put them back on the road to financial independence.
Hope may be as simple as wood, which is why a rough and ready cadre of volunteer “lumberjacks” maintains a bottomless stack of stove-ready logs. Hope can also aspire to the sublime, and earlier this summer, EChO was pleased to field a booth at Summerfest giving its more creative clients an opportunity to share their artistic gifts with the community.
Providing desperately needed support since 1987, EChO is in turn supported by a large and dedicated assembly of local churches and civic organizations, the proceeds of its popular resale store and, of course, the kindness of its Evergreen neighbors. Its essential works are performed by a remarkably capable staff of 25 full- and part-time employees, and the tireless hands of over 300 volunteers who donate a staggering 30,000 hours of their precious time each year. Altogether, they serve a clientele typically numbering about 800 households per month.
Despite being known for some of its humanitarian activities, EChO’s mission has sometimes been confusing, in part because its operations have long been spread across the map of Evergreen. Happily, its recent consolidation into permanent digs on Meadow Drive should help raise its public profile. EChO purchased the building in October of 2020, about the same time COVID was busy making public philanthropy all but impossible.
“COVID restrictions threatened to shut everything down,” Flanders explains. “The ReSale Store had to close for a couple of months but the Food Pantry never closed, volunteers delivered boxes of food, we still found a way to meet with our clients, and donations generously poured in.”
EChO’s expansive new location is the answer to many prayers, offering one-stop shopping for clients, direct control of operations for EChO, and welcome relief from the exorbitant rent the Resale Store was paying at its previous location. Even more than that, EChO’s forever home is a guarantee for the future.
“This building says we’re rooted in this community,” Flanders says. “We’re not going anywhere.”
Advocates are managing about 50 individual client meetings a week, many of them requiring intensive case management. “Our needs keep increasing but we work very hard to meet those needs,” says Flanders. “It’s not about how many clients we serve, it’s about how we value each one, and the impact we can have in their lives. It’s about going the extra mile for our clients and the community.”
And it’s about how this community can help Evergreen Christian Outreach continue to provide hope to good people who may have little else to hold onto.
Helping hands are always appreciated, and EChO has plenty of light and interesting tasks that need doing. Donations to the food pantry are key because nothing sustains hope like a solid meal. Particularly prized are high protein soups and stews, pasta sauce, canned tuna, coffee, kid-friendly breakfast and lunch items, and shelf-stable snacks. There are never enough toiletry items like shampoo, toothbrushes and safety razors to meet the need, nor ever a surplus of diapers and baby wipes. And with a new school year right around the corner, backpacks and school supplies for kindergarten through 12th grade will be in extra-high demand.
Donating gently used treasures to EChO’s Resale Store offers the bonus of browsing its ever-eclectic inventory of clothes, furnishings, housewares, arts and entertainment. Folks who like a soundtrack behind their support will be delighted to hear that tickets are now on sale for Boogie at the Ranch, an all-day event benefitting EChO and featuring live music that takes the stage on Aug. 20.
Be it dollars or donations, doing or dancing, every contribution to Evergreen Christian Outreach is a gift of hope, a good vibration that can’t necessarily be seen, but can certainly be felt all across the mountain area.
“Most people don’t grasp the full range of what we do,” Flanders says, “or how the community is impacted because we’re here. It’s not just about what people can do for us. What can we do for the community? How can we help you?”
Evergreen Christian Outreach is now located at 27888 Meadow Drive in Evergreen.
To learn more about Evergreen Christian Outreach, visit evergreenchristianoutreach.org.
To learn more about Boogie at the Ranch, visit boogieatthebarn.com.