Stories from the Shelter
Story 11 - Compilation of Short Stories
“My friends and family at ECHO, I wanted to thank all of you for the love and support you offered my family and me after the terrible loss of our child. Thank you for the cards, your thoughts and your prayers. Thes have helped more than I can say.”
“Your generosity to my family really encouraged me! It helped me and my father in our time of need. Thank you – I really can’t say enough!”
“Dear Lori, May I call you Lori? You don’t know me but I am the mother of one of your past residents. There are no words to thank you and your crew for what you did for my daughter. You were there when she needed direction and help – you saved her life and made her a stronger person. We keep you and your shelter in our prayers.”
“I am checking out today. The plan is to return to Florida. Thanks for being here. It meant a lot to me to have the brief moment of safety when I needed it. I’m a little scared, but I’ll be OK.”
“Some of you may have heard that things are going very well for me lately. I have a great job now as an office manager where I just received my first raise. I have a dear cat and together we rent a room in a large home in town. I really like the location. Wish you all well!”
“Every minute counts at the ECHO house. And it is up to me to make every minute count ‘cause it only take a second to make a bad choice and lose everything you worked so hard to get. I know now how special and precious the beds are here. I am truly thankful for every day I have here and I am thankful to have the chance to better myself with a roof over my head and food in my stomach. I want to prove to you and most of all to myself that I can and will swing out the doors of ECHO with more success and happiness than I first walked in with. Thanks.”
Story 10 - Greetings From the Farm
Thank you so much for all that you have done for me and my children. I am so very grateful, words just can’t express. You are all in my heart! You people never made me feel like I was any different than yourselves. You will never know what that meant to me. The boys received so much love from all of you. Just about everyone read to them, even the “tough guys.”
They are really going to miss Mr. Tom. Tom, thanks for being so kind to the boys. I will truly try to make the boys turn out to be good men. I think the road for them is going to be a lot easier from now on. That road started at this house [Project ECHO}, this driveway, and will follow them the rest of their lives.
Lori, thanks so much for all of your help. You sure made our stay there feel more like visiting a friend than being in a shelter.
The boys were very good on the trip here and are doing great. They like the new school here and have adjusted very well. Now they are in school all day and I miss them in the morning but they love school! My Dad is really enjoying the boys. (They hug too much for him but he is getting used to it!) He takes them to feed the cows and mules and ride on the tractor. He is teaching them farm stuff! And they started back to church and like it a lot.
God be with all of you! We love you!
Story 9 - What has Project ECHO meant to you
What has Project ECHO meant to you?
A compilation of memories from those who have been on the journey to help Project ECHO reach it’s 30th Anniversary in January, 2023.
“My favorite memories of ECHO were all the Fridays I spent volunteering at the shelter with Lori. I loved being able to call the residents by name and talking with them. Prior to my involvement with ECHO, I thought I would be able to identify a homeless person. Instead, I learned that they were just like any member of my family and they were loveable. I will always cherish my time at ECHO and the wonderful friends I have made with board members & Lori!”
“Project ECHO is an amazing resource. I love that people joined together to make it a reality. Volunteering at the Thrift Store (the best thrift store, ever!) not only provides great deals but great friendships!”
~ Jennifer Shymansky
“When we did (& when I first started doing) small groups, I would get very anxious about my role as a facilitator. But every single time I walked out of the shelter after small groups, I always felt like I left with way more than I came with.”
“I was meeting one day with the new Pastor at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Solomons. Our meeting was delayed because he was confronted by a homeless man in need of help. Being new to the county, Father was not aware of ECHO. I suggested we call Lori. Lori gave us the rundown on this individual and explained in detail what he needed. After the call, Father asked if she housed folks in her own home. I laughed and said “yes,” explaining that Lori considers all the homeless her family.”
“Opening Day of the new house. It was very gratifying to see that Bill Stanton’s hard work and steadfast vision for this house to be build finally realized. Great celebration, great day for the homeless, and a milestone for Calvert County. Thank you, Bill. RIP.”
“ECHO [the Project ECHO Thrift Store] has been a place for my wife to occasionally find “treasures” to purchase. Plus, my daughter and my wife both have had a great time working the register. Thanks for blessing my family with great mother/daughter quality time.”
“Lori, working with you on our race series has been the absolute BEST time & has made my first year of working in the county again so worthwhile & enjoyable. Your spirit is unmatched & if I can touch the lives of a fraction of the amount of people that you have, I will consider that a huge success!”
“My memories are the times we spent sharing a meal with the residents. I hope to make many more!”
“Project ECHO is synonymous with Calvert County & caring & compassion & taking care of others.”
“I walked into ECHO looking for a way to “give back” and asked if I could volunteer. I did that alternating Fridays for a while. I’m guessing that when Lori saw how I interacted with the residents, she though maybe I’d be a “good fit” and she offered me a job. I’ve been there over 6 years and I have been grateful to give back!”
“I’m new to Project ECHO this past year, but with several members of our church (HUMC) we have provided a meal once a month. It has been a rewarding experience meeting the residents and knowing what a caring group of people we are fortunate enough to serve. Thank you, Lori!”
“Project ECHO has been a wonderful partnering program to assist many in the community to get back on their feet. I’m looking forward to what is to come in the future and to continue to support.”
“During my time at ECHO it was a great opportunity to serve and minister to broken hearts and broken lives. To be able to make a difference in peoples’ lives, and to be a part of the ECHO family.”
“I have enjoyed many years serving meals to ECHO from Huntingtown UMC. Best memory: Summer of 2022 – brought 18 “teen” members there to weed the flower beds & replant new ones. Great day!”
“I have been extremely grateful for the existence of Project ECHO for the last 30 years – to know my community has a resource for people in a housing crisis. I was sitting at the Empty Bowl Supper with Sheriff Mike Evans and Senator Mike Miller. Senator Miller had a driver. It was evening and Senator Miller had imbibed some wine. He began discussing a marital issue with me. Mike Evans told him, “I wouldn’t discuss that with her,” several times. The upshot: Senator Miller agreed to the block grant for Project ECHO – and he followed through.”
“Having been on the ECHO Board for many years, I marvel at the number of folks who you really care about – the less fortunate & all homeless. It is so hard working to see those who benefit from ECHO’s good works & have come such a long way to make new lives.”
“As Don Brown once said, “homelessness is not a choice, but rather a journey that many find themselves in.” My best memory of Project ECHO is learning about those journeys and helping our homeless brothers and sisters to navigate those rough waters.”
“The continual reminder that there is a place for people to go who are homeless. We have people that cycle through our church that have been blessed by ECHO. We have had people volunteer from time to time who were blessed by the ability to do so. Thank you for your service to our community!”
“I remember Tom Morgan – who devoted his retirement from United Airlines to ECHO. He inspired me to get involved.”
~Fr. Peter Daly
“Setting up tables and chairs for Empty Bowl Supper. It was a great event. Food and time to interact with all the volunteers.”
“As a house sitter in the old building, I remember everyone sitting out on the porch in the evening. It was just like home to everyone. I remember how kind and patient, but firm, Lori was to all the clients. Recently, I had a family member who had 3 children enter Project ECHO. I watched the love and compassion she had for their family, especially the children, and how hard she worked to get them permanent housing. What a blessing Lori is to the Shelter and the community.”
“Project ECHO is all about kindness, sharing, and love. I have always believed in helping others. In fact, my Masonic Lodge, Victoria Lodge #71 donates dinners to Project ECHO every 3rd Friday of the month. We look forward to serving them.”
~Worshipful Master Sidney W Gross
“We make monthly meals for Project ECHO. One month we were too busy to bring the food and had to send our sons. They ran into a resident they went to school with. They were very moved by the experience and have a much better feel for what they should be thankful for.”
~Joe & Mary
“Project ECHO has already changed my life since walking in as a volunteer. Seeing the bond of everyone was uplifting. Now as I get to work alongside Lori, I look forward to learning as much as I can from her. She truly is an amazing person and getting to watch her help the residents and others who come in has made me a better person. I’m thankful for every day to learn & grow alongside the most hardworking, loyal, dedicated woman I know!”
“Project ECHO has been a friend for friends that needed a friend.”
“Meeting and Puppetry with children!”
“I was unaware of ECHO until I was asked to do a presentation on volunteer and outreach opportunities in Calvert County. My search for these opportunities led to a phone interview with Lori. After a moving conversation about the very personal and caring work being done at the shelter, I chose to become a volunteer myself. Being able to help in the shelter and interact with the residents has been a blessing I never expected.
The love and passion for this work by the countless volunteers at the shelter and the Thrift Store, the incredible staff and the Board members is tangible. I am grateful to see and hear about the history over the last 30 years and I look forward to seeing what ECHO’s future years of service will accomplish.”
Great fellowship with church members preparing meals for the shelter for many years. And seeing so many persons & families helped through the love & care from Lori and her volunteers. Thank you, Lori – Love you.”
“My intro to Project ECHO was meeting Ms Lori the first time. asking her what she did for a living was very compelling. The pure love, pride, and drive I felt form her was amazing. While I’m sure this county has many people involved I can’t imagine anyone topping her feelings when it comes to her people and the shelter.”
~Larnie & Holly Bradford
Story 8 – Short and Sweet
Just wanted you to know how much we appreciate you letting us stay here. Thank God He heard our prayers and sent us here.
Everything is moving in the right direction and most importantly, the kids are happy! And doing well in school!
We are so thankful for everything you do in this place. Very soon we will have our truck on the road to get jobs and housing. And we’ll have our own home again!
Story 7 – Remember the ABCD Plans
It is Halloween and that’s when I came to ECHO. I told you I played guitar and you borrowed one for me to use. When I got there, I didn’t even have a quarter. Now I have my own apartment and bought three XXXXXX of my own. When I got to ECHO, I was quiet and unsure. Now with the friends I have, we talk about everything.
I’ve been playing with a rock group and it feels so good to play in front of a crowd. You really helped me. I remember sitting in that chair scared to death on the intake. I don’t walk with a cane anymore. I don’t have to take any pills anymore, not even antidepressants!
Tell your new groups to remember the ABCD Plans. It works! I’m really glad you helped me. Sometimes, even though we weren’t actually speaking, it is like you were right there with me and things were just understood.
Last Christmas, you told us to make a wish. Mine was to see my Mom again. Now I see her two days a week! If you think positive and don’t sit around, good things can happen. Those 90 days go fast. Thank you again for all your help.
Story 6 – From the Heart of an ECHO House Resident
The following are quotes, which I recently heard from various sources:
- “Life ain’t fair: Eat it, swallow it, accept it.”
- “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”
- Give yourself credit, you don’t have to believe others’ opinions about you.”
- “People don’t care how much you know… until they know how much you care.”
Anybody in here (no show of hands, please!) ever have a WTF moment? (If you don’t know what the abbreviation means ask a friend who cusses and they should be able to enlighten you.) Well, I’ve had a few, especially lately. I mean, how did the high school honor roll student/college grad, the girl who was already working on Wall Street by the age of 18 wind up in a homeless shelter?
Everything I’d heard about shelters sounded terrifying. They were said to be rodent/pest infested, unsafe and filthy. And since there was no monitoring/security staff, women in particular entered them at their own risk. Needless to say, that ECHO House, with its outpouring of community involvement and support, has turned out to be an eye-opening experience for me.
I couldn’t understand in the beginning how such a large and diverse group of strangers could become ‘family,’ but I was about to find out.
From the very first day my family and I arrived (tearful, uncertain, suspicious, and anxious), Anna and Judy welcomed me into the fold with compassion and understanding. (Forgive me ladies, I know that my barrage of questions probably wore you down at times!) Since those first few weeks of adjusting, Anna has become the aunty that I always wanted-but-never-quite-had, as well as our little one’s newest grandma. She is more precious and dearer to me than some of my flesh and blood relatives.
Judy patiently (and tirelessly!) taught me the ropes – even as she endured the refreshing scent of bleach as I sanitized the second floor like the Health Department!
Jeff has become my ‘go-to’ guy when I need a great cup of Joe. I once told him that a good cup of coffee should just about put hair on your chest and you know what? Southern gentleman that he is, he aims to please every time!
Which brings me to Mark, who has been – seriously, folks! – a headache-free roomie for my hubby (even though it takes him WEEKS to watch one DVD). Keep smiling, Mark. Your smile is like a ray of sunshine and your positive outlook is like a breath of fresh air!
Doug, you scared the daylights out of me when I first saw you. I soon discovered that Doug, aka ‘Cupcake,’ is the undisputed biggest dude in the house, but he also has one of the biggest hearts, can pray like a preacher, and is so respectful that he still calls me “ma’am.”
Paul. Where do I even start? Once you get past the dry humor, biting sarcasm, and facial expressions: he’s priceless. To date, I haven’t met anyone who’s smarter and more knowledgeable when it comes to any trivia-related topic. The man should be on JEOPARDY!
Tom & Lil. Sorry, but I had to include you guys in here! The two of you are a Godsend, because when you showed up you brought our child a new BFF as well as a super store of terrific Halloween costumes! I can’t even begin to tell you how much you’ve blessed my family.
And last but certainly NOT least, there’s Lori, who chooses to wear so many hats it’s not even funny. She’s the boss, guidance counselor, house mother, disciplinarian, mentor… the list is endless. Most importantly, however, she’s one of the few people in most of our lives who still believes in us. In spite of our trials, shortcomings, and battles, she still cheers us on and inspires us to keep moving forward to a greater, better future. Lori actually cares enough about all of us to call us her “peeps.”
I truly believe that there is a time and a purpose for everything that happens, that there is no such thing as coincidence. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
This vapor, this fleeting, temporary gift we’ve all been given called ‘life’ is full of seasons, tears, disappointments, journeys, joys, and victories. To those we’ve bonded with, formed relationships with, laughed and cried with, shared meals (and chores!) with… thank you for redefining the word family to me forever. You’ve impacted my life, touched my heart, and I pray that in some way, somehow, even in the smallest measure, I have done the same for you. God bless you all!
Story 5 – Reflection
(Written by a young man during his stay at ECHO House)
Over the past month and a half, ECHO has been welcoming, exciting, inspiring, lonely, and conflicted at times. It has been an eye-opening experience but most importantly a true blessing that I’m so thankful for. This is a place filled with emotion, flooded with knowledge, and layered with understanding of situations caused by our own struggle with others empty in spirit.
Noticeably, most of my generation is blind to the fact that we [the homeless] exist in the world – they haven’t yet encountered this walk of life. For some of us, we have trouble escaping the prison overpowering our minds, which our past has subconsciously helped us create. Others have to deal with mental illness that they have no control over. Some of us have a hard time swallowing the fact that we are all in a spiritual war against ourselves, while also dealing with the evil that has disguised itself to destroy everything in our possession.
It’s quite difficult for any human to admit we are wrong but the thing we should ask ourselves is, “What did I do to dig this hole so deep?” For instance, we should be questioning our problems with addiction, our selfish and weak power of will, our temptations, and our constant battles for the truth inside things that aren’t very vivid to man’s eye.
Reflecting back, I’ve struggled to move in a positive direction when coming to a crossroad. I was enticed by the fast lifestyle. I followed the weak-minded, ghostlike crowd in search of attention when I should’ve been trying to figure out which was my lane and how to stay in it.
I’ve now realized how valuable our precious lives are and how easily they can be taken from us. So much time has been wasted in my existence and now reality has struck with a bang! At ECHO, I’ve learned about many of these hard life situations by witnessing others and their real-life challenges. Many of these are the situations my parents tried to keep me from having to go through.
Since arriving at ECHO, I’ve actually begun to feel life in the midst of grasping the means to become my own man. The knowledge and understanding I’ve received helped me put my priorities in order and set boundaries around my mental train of thought. I now know how to really focus on each step it takes to get to the next step.
I’ve taken a lot of moments in my life for granted by putting my hopes and trust in the wrong people, thinking they were reliable when it only left me angry at the world. It made my life seem corrupt – I was full of confusion and felt constantly suffocated because the outcome wasn’t in my favor.
I see now that nothing in life can be planned or successful when we put our fate into the hands of another, because not only does it give that other person the power to control our situation and determine our destiny, but we also get hurt emotionally. Then we start to blame that person instead of realizing we handed them the bat to smash us to pieces.
This has taught me that I will always be the source of my issues.
I can see why the world is so hateful now. Most people want handouts instead of a hand up. This environment has really helped me to get in touch with my soul and find myself. Though I’m still learning, this place has made me think about all the time I’ve spent angry, unhappy, and trapped inside of my own prison; waiting for someone to come get me out with the key that was in my pocket the entire time. The people of ECHO and the words of the Lord being spoken through them gave me the strength to reach into my pocket and grab that key I’d searched so long and hard for.
We all look for answers as to what life is but I can see now that it is about doing our best, making every moment unforgettable, accepting defeat when we’ve lost, and getting back up with a positive mindset and an ambition of fire to exceed the barriers that man puts on life.
Life is what we make it, so be humble!
Story 4 – A Poem written by a guest of ECHO House
“The ECHO House”
I was walking, and riding, and getting nowhere;
Beginning to wonder if anyone would care.
It was to The ECHO House my daughter Martina would have me go,
Her words brought me comfort, “Mom, I’m pretty sure they won’t tell you “No.”
I knocked on the door, my future uncertain as of yet;
She opened the door and with a warm greeting ‘twas met…
She asked what I needed, “Something to eat is my wish.”
To the kitchen she led me then said, “Clean your dish.”
She sat at my table and said, “My name is Lori.
“OK, my dear, what is your story?”
I told her my story as I continued to eat.
Next thing I knew she offered me a place to sleep.
There are so many more involved in this story,
But thought it most proper to start with Miss Lori.
Now take the front desk, most days is Miss Carol,
Every day different, wearing such lovely apparel.
Then there’s Sir Dave – quite stern yet laid-back,
If you follow the rules, he may cut you some slack.
Of course, now there’s Miss Judy, our most honorable dear Chaplain;
If you listen real close you will soon know in the world what is happening.
Last but not least there are those I was unable to mention;
They are just as important and deserve recognition.
So now it is time for me to go home.
No more these streets will I have to roam.
The ECHO House fed me well and treated me good;
And now it is time for me to return to My Hood.
Story 3 – Through this experience, I have finally found myself…
I had been living with my eldest daughter and her fiancé. I’d made a terrible mistake because now I realize that I was co-dependent – my eldest daughter and I were like oil and water and her fiancé and I did not get along. The situation was so stressful, I began to lose massive amounts of weight and was ready for a nervous breakdown.
Somehow, through all of this there was a Divine Intervention. I did not know where I was going or even where I was. I had no transportation. I felt lost, alone and that all hope was gone. I spent one night in a motel and while there I learned of a place called Project ECHO. I called and Miss Lori answered the phone and told me a bed would be open soon. I did not know what to expect and actually went to another house near Project ECHO. It was run-down but that is what I expected a shelter to look like. I was then told about the big white house at the back of the long driveway. When I walked through those doors I was amazed.
The home was beautiful. I was still afraid though, and did not know what to expect. I was sick, run down and frightened of the future. The loving kindness from Miss Lori gave me some inner strength that I thought I had lost.
I stayed for three months. I became healthy again and I learned to watch my signs and trust my instincts a little better. I have learned a lot about myself. The time there helped me to grow stronger and wiser. I thank the Lord for such kind, loving, honest people. I believe that there are angels that walk the earth helping lost souls. Project ECHO has been my rock and I will always remember Miss Lori, Mr. Henry and Mr. Dave as my Guardian Angels. I ask the Good Lord to bless them for their love, patience, compassion, and for truly caring. This has edified my faith in knowing there are good people in the world!
Story 2 – Choosing a different path
“I am 56 years old and for the first time in a very long time I am doing pretty good, which is great to me when I look back and see again how bad I screwed up my life, which you only get one of.
I arrived at Project ECHO after my released from prison. I didn’t want to return to where I grew up. I heard of this place when I was in the southern MD pre-release unit. I was released on a Friday, and I came to Ms. Lori’s doorstep and was told there were no beds open, and I would have to wait ‘till Monday.
I ended up back where I spent most of my time, it was raining and dark, and I didn’t know what to do. I stopped at a little bar I know and got some cigarettes, a pint of Jack Daniels and 2 beers. I went and sat in a tunnel, drunk the stuff, and tore up all my prison papers.
Then, walking toward my old stomping grounds, I see a street. On that street is a house I know, a place to go and be out of the rain and cold. But it is also a crack house, a shooting gallery, and lots of other things. If I go there, I know I’ll end up just like before, strung out on heroin, crack, and liquor. I’ll end up stealing again, not seeing my parole officer, a warrant would be issued for parole violation. I’d be living day by day, till I either died, got killed, or ended up back in prison.
I didn’t want that, so I kept walking past that street. I went to a bridge and slept. The next day, a friend picked me up and let me stay with them ‘till Monday and they brought me back to Project ECHO. Had I not gone back I don’t know where I’d be. I do know my life would not be as good as it is right now, and my future is actually looking pretty good.
I did my intake interview with Miss Lori, who seemed skeptical of me, but after talking and her laying out the do’s and do-nots, she allowed me in and gave me a bed. Again, I thank God and Lori. I thank the whole Project ECHO staff for just being there, I thank all the churches, civic groups, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, and everyone else that donates their time, help, support, and love to Project ECHO. Since I’ve been there, I’ve been blessed with meeting a lot of really decent people.
Through this program, I was able to save money for when I left. I learned how to start a bank account, pay bills, budget, pay insurance on a vehicle, work a steady job, and basically live a normal life, which I had never done. I spent 27 years of my life in prison. I’d stay out for a while and end up back in prison for violating parole. I wouldn’t let go of drugs and alcohol, I wouldn’t change people, places, and things. Now I have, and I thank God every day for this new life and for Project ECHO.
For me, I will continue to always strive to do better for myself, which is Project ECHO’s goal. I will always be grateful for being allowed to enter the program, and I will always try to help another person in a bad way, as Project ECHO helped me.”
Story 1 – Excerpt from a letter written by a former resident
“In August 2007, my children and I moved into Project ECHO. We had 3 months that seemed to fly by so quickly.
To be perfectly honest, I was afraid to even go to Project ECHO because of the image that television portrays of homeless shelters. It’s a horrible image and I’m ashamed to admit it, but I believed it to be true. However, my perception has definitely changed. While at the shelter, I realized that the homeless are “NORMAL” people, who just like me, were down on their luck.
I’m glad I had a chance to broaden my way of thinking, however, that’s not the only thing I’m walking away from this experience with.
Project ECHO did more than just give my children and I a place to sleep and food to eat. It gave me time for self-reflection, to set goals and a chance to receive guidance along with priceless advice from the staff. The counseling I received from the staff alone means so much to me. It helped me through one of the toughest times in my life and I will be forever grateful for that support. Because of the staff (and some residents) I was able to pull myself together when all I wanted to do was give up.
My children and I have all come to think of you as extended family and will miss you all very much. You all will forever have a special place in our hearts.”
The letter came with this poem at the end:
“When we were at an absolute low,
With no one to turn to and nowhere to go,
We found people that helped us to keep moving forward and grow,
At a special little house they call Project ECHO”
Thank you for supporting us!”