Stories from the Shelter

Rest in Peace

On May 29, 2024 our cherished Executive Director, Lori Heron, passed peacefully in her sleep. Though it was a fitting departure, her absence leaves an irreplaceable void. We kindly request prayers for Jeff, Abby, Harper, Lawton, Benji, Sandy, and all those she loved and who loved her. Her presence will be missed forever. We are privileged to share these words from Lori’s husband, Jeff, which were spoken at her memorial.

“I would like to thank everybody for the incredible support that we have received since Lori‘s passing. The outpouring of support is indicative of Lori’s standing with family, friends, and those in our community.

Coincidentally the memorial is 15 years ago to the day that Lori and I met on June 5, 2009 at Roberts, which is now Gordy’s. We hit it off and after all these years we had an awesome relationship, great times, and an outstanding marriage. We were different, and in our case, it’s true that opposites attract. She said that I was book smart – although I don’t know about that – and she was street smart, which was surely the case.

Lori was a Godsend to me in helping to raise my daughter, Laura, who was 10 years old when we met. With Lori’s tremendous support – and I should also say patience – Laura has turned out to be the fine young woman and new mother that she is today, and like Lori she is now giving back to the community helping challenged youths for Calvert County Parks and Recreation. Lori’s daughter, Abby, is a true testament to Lori’s skills as a mother – a most successful, professional woman, having served our nation in the US Navy and now as a civilian in Army Special Operations Command, and more importantly as an outstanding mother taking after Lori, who raised Abby as a single mother from the day she was born.

Lori loved animals and children, and her grandkids Harper, Lawton, and Benji brought her the ultimate joy in life – Lori just loved and adored them.

As I mentioned, she was great with animals and communicated with her “grand dogs” as she called them, Chief, Daisy, Mikey, and Kevin. I saw all four of those dogs love her back like nobody else. She could tell me what those dogs were thinking.

Lori liked Jimmy Buffett- she was a Parrot Head. She also liked a huge variety of music from Elvis and Conway Twitty to Kid Rock, Abba to ZZ Topp to Zac Brown, and Bon Jovi to Beyoncé. And she loved to dance to Van Morrison songs.

As most you know, we loved to travel. My job took me to great places all over the world, but because I enjoyed being with her so much I would rush home, never getting to see and experience the places. On my first trip to Australia, I got there on a Monday had meetings in four different cites over Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, then headed home on Friday. She always said that she was too busy with work to go. But with the help of Sue Spindler and my neighbor Connie, we convinced her to finally take these opportunities.

So about four years ago she started joining me on trips and since then we’ve seen more places than most people see in a lifetime. New Orleans and Nashville many times, Montreal multiple times, and Quebec City. Annual trips to Clearwater Beach, Illinois, South Carolina, and Georgia. We also travelled to Munich, Freising, and Rothenburg in Germany; Barcelona, Spain; Rome, Genoa and Pisa in Italy; the Vatican, Marseille, France, Gibraltar. And her new favorite place on earth Australia, where we visited three times in the last year to Sydney and Newcastle in New South Wales; Brisbane, Mount Tamborine, and Gold Coast in Queensland, and we were looking forward to going back down under in February 2025 to Melbourne. She loved the Aussies and Aussies loved her – Lori was very outgoing and talkative and would talk to everybody, and as friendly as the Aussies are that meant that she was constantly in conversation making new friends everywhere. In every city we visited, we would walk 5 to 10 miles per day sightseeing. We did 8 miles in New Orleans one day when the heat index was 126° in August.

Her daughter Abby was a US Navy Petty Officer, and I was a career Navy civilian so as they say in the Navy, for Julie, Dave, Sue, Pat, Kirk, PJ, other staff, board, and volunteers, for Project ECHO, you have the watch, with the friends, families and community right behind you.

Joe “Marley” Brooks said it perfectly when he said “There are angels walking around and that’s what I call Miss Lori.”

So, a tremendously sad time, but I know for sure Lori wouldn’t want us to suffer. She’d want us to play “It’s 5 o’clock Somewhere”, have margaritas, and dance. And we will do that soon. Again, my sincerest and deepest gratitude for your love and support.”

-Jeff Heron

Gotta Give Back

Recently, I read an online article from Catholic Link regarding hunger and ideas to help within your community. The article spoke of how we see our fellow world citizens who are hungry and asked, “Honestly, how often do we think of the hungry? When we are hungry, usually, we only think of ourselves. When we are not hungry, we probably don’t think of hunger at all.”

People tend to disagree on political, socio-economic, and world situations, but we can all conclude that everyone has a right to food. Here at Project ECHO, we have a community of people who make sure there’s a meal for our homeless residents every single night. The various organizations have each signed up for one or more evenings a month to deliver a prepared meal.

Coopers United Methodist Church is one of these meal providers. Last month, I happened to be in the shelter just before suppertime. I entered the building and the first thing I noticed was the aroma. Then I became aware of the sound. There was a hum of several conversations mixed with laughter of children and adults. I stepped into the dining hall and saw all the residents at tables together, eagerly awaiting their dinner.

Our residents are from all walks of life and have vastly different backgrounds, but they were seated together like a family laughing, chatting, and sharing in one another’s lives. The joyful spirit in the house that night was practically tangible. I looked around to take it all in and capture the moments with mental snapshots because this is one of the things I love most about Project ECHO, the staff, volunteers, residents, and all those who support us.

As I followed my nose, I found a bustling, busy, smiling group bringing pans of food from the kitchen and arranging a huge buffet. They were talking with one another as well as the residents and staff. I was thrilled to be able to catch up with these culinary angels and talk about why they were here.

Coopers UMC from Owings is a small organization right now. “Small but Mighty” is how one member described them. For two decades, Cooper’s has provided meals for ECHO regularly without fail, and one, consistent group of individuals have carried the torch for the past ten years. Even during COVID when they could not provide meals, they managed to send money.

The giving does not stop here – this small but mighty group provides gift cards and presents at Christmas for our residents. They provide school supplies each year to local elementary and middle school. They assist with the Solomons Mission Center Food Pantry and clothing drive. During Lent, they collect canned goods for the Calvert Churches Community Pantry. They provide “Drive-by Bags” of meals quarterly for the Adams UMC Food Ministry. They provide “Tacos & Chili” meals for kids. And they help individuals and families as needs arise.

I asked why. I was interested for this article, but mostly, I really wanted to know how. In this busy world where we are often focused on today and ourselves, these people give far beyond many other larger organizations and in a multitude of ways. How did they find the time, money, and motivation? The answer I received was very simple. “Gotta give back.” They said most people are just one paycheck away from disaster. “We just like to bless people and see the joy on their faces.”

If you would like more information about Coopers UMC, are in need, or would like to help support their ministries, you can reach them at 410-741-1932. We’re grateful for Coopers UMC and all the churches, organizations, and families that feed us every day at Project ECHO. It is a blessing and an example to us all – we’ve all gotta give back!

Story 18 - Sunflowers

Sunflowers – in the language of flowers, sunflowers represent a long life and lasting happiness, good fortune and positive opportunities. They are considered a lucky charm for someone starting a new job or embarking on a new path.

They are also the symbol for the Tri-County Memory Walk coming up on May 18, 2024. This is an annual event at Serenity Farm for anyone who has lost a loved one to the disease of addiction. We come together in their honor and memory to create healing and hope, and we plant hope in the form of sunflowers.

This month’s story is about Melanie Ridgely, who attended this event. The story begins with a social media post written by Melanie, directed toward Project ECHO’s Executive Director, Lori Heron.

… “Where to start with this beautiful soul… You have been in my life for 8 years now, seen me at my lowest lows, and what felt like my highest highs – And everything in between. You became pretty much my first call every time my world was crashing down around me, and in the last 8 years that became a frequent occurrence. But you always opened your arms to me and my kids, again and again, and always believed in me! When most didn’t, you did.

Today after seeing you I pray that this new chapter will finally bring what I’ve been searching for all along. And I hope you know that when all my goals are achieved YOU are one of the few that I will credit my successes to. Because without you, I may have never made it to 27 and may have never got this beautiful chance I’m getting now. The world, the county, the people, and ECHO would not be the same without strong, amazing people like you in it.

I hope I can make you as proud as you have made me to have a friend like you…

❤❤❤❤#ForMe #ForYou ❤❤❤❤             

Here goes nothing!”

Melanie’s post reflected such joy and gratitude for making it to the age of 27. She was gathering sunflowers – embarking on a new, clear path to success. But addiction reared its malevolent head and Melanie did not live to see 28. As we gather together on May 18th, she will be among those remembered each year. Affordable housing, poverty, and low wages may be the leading contributors to homelessness, but there are others – addiction, substance abuse, and mental health disorders play a major role. Join us this year to help bring awareness to this issue and remember Melanie and the many others who have been taken from us.

Story 17 - Hope

Lisa Colmus is a local real estate agent affiliated with Re/Max One in Prince Frederick, MD. When her daughter, Summer, was in elementary school, her 3rd grade class collected items for donation to Project ECHO. After that, Summer continued to search for and find items for ECHO and it became something of a family tradition to support the shelter.

Last year, Lisa found herself wanting to do something different to help out for the holidays. She stopped by the shelter and met with Lori Heron, our Executive Director. After a tour, they identified a corner where Lori keeps warm clothing for those in need. They were in a stack and Lori mentioned her wish for a rack to display the clothing. As it turned out, Lisa had a rack in her garage!

While installing the rack, Lisa noticed the children’s playroom. While sufficient, years of playtime had taken a toll on the space. Inspiration struck. With a background as a teacher and principal, Lisa had ideas popping and offered to redo the room.

In a very short time, she’s had multiple donations of time and talent in the way of paint, furniture, toys and more. Folks have come to help paint and put furniture together, and even Summer was able to help ECHO once again by painting a rainbow – talk about a symbol for hope!

Lisa said that she had been unaware of our homeless population here in Calvert and that she’d learned a lot by spending time in the shelter and meeting some of the residents. Her generous act of kindness brought more than she expected. While working in the playroom one day, one of the residents stopped by to say how pretty everything was. They asked Lisa what she did and she mentioned that she was a Realtor. The resident asked for a business card.

Several weeks later, that same resident stopped by the playroom again. It was their last day at Project ECHO as they had qualified to move into a program that could help them with another step towards independence. The resident made a special point to share that happy news with Lisa and told her they HOPED that the next step would be to call her to find a home of their own.

Yes, hope is alive and well here at Project ECHO. Commonly, when a resident first arrives on ECHO’s doorstep, the hope is at an all-time low. It’s nice to know that some of those empty buckets get filled up here. And we couldn’t do it without our generous community of people like Lisa! If you have any interest, the playground out back needs new equipment. If you feel so moved, please reach out to Lori Heron for details on how to help.

Story 16 - February

Ms Lori , I wanted to extend my gratitude to you and everyone for my stay at Project ECHO. I will never forget my experience here – without this place, I do not know where I’d be. The memories will never fade.

I am honored to have been able to make this my temporary home. Even though I’m freakin’ about moving out, I realize that I can’t stay here forever. I have to seize the moment and spread my wings like the butterfly that I am.

Out of everything, the thing that means the most to me is that you created a place where I feel comfortable about being myself. I didn’t grow up in a home like that. Since I have been here, I “got my ME back!” I’ve been waiting so long for that!

Just know that you are appreciated. Thank you for being you, Ms Lori. You are definitely the angel in my nightmare. Keep your head up. Never lose hope and never forget what we are fighting for: our lives. And thank you for helping me to help myself.

Project ECHO is family now in my book and I will keep in touch. All love, all the time!

PS – I will miss this place!!

Story 15 - The Photo Edition

It’s the unwavering generosity and compassion of this community that make it possible for Project ECHO to provide much-needed support to our homeless men, women, and families. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and we believe these pictures tell the story all on their own.

To everyone who helped through the holidays, and to those who continue to help through the winter, we truly appreciate you!

Story 14 - Volunteers

It’s December and the focus of the whole world centers around someone who came and made the world a better place in a profound way. Whether you celebrate your faith or lean solely into the secular, there is no denying that people have positively affected the way the world behaves this time of the year. And right here in Southern Maryland, we have some folks who continue to do this today.

With that in mind, we thought we’d spotlight the volunteers who help at the Shelter and in the Thrift & Gift Shop. Project ECHO has lasted these thirty years due to the generosity of a community that cares and shows it with their time, talent, and treasure. Our volunteers share their time and talent, and we asked them why. We asked what motivates them to volunteer and why they choose to spend that time at Project ECHO. Here are a few of the responses:

“I enjoy giving back to the community.”

“I love the friends I have made.”

“I enjoy interacting with the customers and being useful.”

“I love where the profits go and I do enjoy shopping here as well!”

“It gives me a reason to get out of bed to do something for others that is meaningful.”

“The endorphins that come from giving! Great for the soul, great for the community, and it feels so good!”

“Helping my community to provide for the homeless.”

One volunteer, our own Julia Forte, shared on a deeper level:

What Motivates me? Compassion, consideration and a desire to help those that are in difficult situations. Volunteering is a way to learn more about community issues. Social connection is a powerful motivator.

I have been volunteering at Project Echo for over 15 years. I started volunteering with Coopers United Methodist Church by preparing meals for the shelter each month. There is an aura of compassion, mercy, and nurturing  – it is a place for healing. The aura comes from the staff and other volunteers at ECHO.  The Executive Director, Lori Heron leads with a strong hand and with heartfelt compassion. There’s no place I’d rather be volunteering. 

Jesus tells us that what we do for the least of His, we do unto Him. ‘When I was hungry you fed me; when I needed shelter you invited me in.’ That’s why I volunteer and do it at ECHO where there is heartfelt love in everything that is done there. A hand out as well as a hand up. 

There is room at the INN!!!!!  Thank you, Project ECHO. To God be the Glory!”

As for this volunteer, I found something here that was tangibly different. The residents who come through feel it and express it. As I’ve poured through thirty years of letters and talked with so many current and former residents, I’ve found a recurring theme – they feel like family at ECHO. This is not a quick fix but with hard work, lives are changed here.

The list of homeless in our area has more than tripled since the beginning of 2020 and more are coming. There are so many ways to help – time is a big one. We accomplish all that we do because of our incredible volunteers. If you want to be a part of this loving outreach, you can dedicate as few as 2 hours per month. It doesn’t sound like much but it goes a long way! We have needs within a multitude of jobs and there is one for you! A great goal for the New Year – grab a friend or three and you can multiply the joy by volunteering together! Stop by the Thrift Shop most Thursdays at 4 pm for a tour and to learn more.

Thank you to all who have donated money, items for the Shelter and Thrift Shop, and to our amazing volunteers: thank you for donating your time and talents. However you celebrate this month of miracles, be blessed!

Story 13 - Interview of a Resident

The first words out of James’ mouth: “People don’t know about the homeless in Calvert.” He then spoke of the recent camp closings in Prince Frederick. James witnessed the closings and took it personally, saying he felt shunned this last year by the community.

James has a background full of baggage that most would not be able to relate to. His tough early life with an abusive stepfather taught him not to be “too nice” because those are the people who get walked on. Even still, he is a kind person. He strived to be a “model resident” at ECHO by being welcoming to new residents and doing extra chores as needed.

He has spinal stenosis pain as a result of a car accident. After the accident, his insurance would not pay for rehab. James ended up not being able to work and ultimately ended up in a tent in the woods. Heroin was the only pain relief he had for some time.

But he turned a corner and has been clean for over a year now. He found a church home and enjoys participating in the activities there. As a young boy, he moved so many times he never had a church family and fully appreciates it now. Pride and a little wonder shone in his eyes when he said, “Pastor knows MY name.” He has a full-time job and though the back pain is still present, he works to strengthen his back by taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Becoming a resident at ECHO has had a deep impact on James. He said, “If you have a room here at ECHO, you have a family. This is a place you can rely on with great people.” He’s found good company there.

James also wanted to make a point about the 90-day program. He said, “Three months seems like a lot of time but it flows… you have to make the most of the time you are there.”

When asked about long-term goals, he immediately said he looks forward to having his own place where he can be on his own. He said that coming to Project ECHO is like learning to fly. You hope those wings are strong enough and you don’t know until you take that leap. James is definitely flying in the right direction and gives hope to us all.

Story 12 - Ready For Change

I have been blessed to have come into the shelter. Lori is an amazing person and she put her foot up my a** and put motivation in me, which I needed!

I am trying more than ever to put my life together. As we all know, its not easy. Now, I don’t know where my life is going or why things happen the way they do. I do not start questioning the man upstairs. The one thing I can control are my actions. I am ready to change my life. I want to be a better daughter, mother, and person.

Drugs have been a big part of my life and I have been struggling with this. Through my addiction, I have hurt my loved ones the most. I took a turn for the worse and was on my death bed. Worst experience of my life. To think that my kids have to grow up with no mother, and my mom lose a daughter is terrible.

Changes are coming my way and though I’m a little freaked out, it is only temporary. This will all make me a stronger and better person.

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

Dear Everyone,

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!”

~Kathy Tress

“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.”

~Kathy Chow

“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.”

~Joe Mills

“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.”

~Neil Tress

“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.”

~Mickey Shymansky

“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!”

~Bridget Rinker

“My memories are the times we spent sharing a meal with the residents. I hope to make many more!”

~Phyllis Dowell

“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!”

~Bonnie Maurer

“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!”

~Patti Denis

“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.”

~Danielle Johnson


“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.”

John Pappas


“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!”

~Faye Shields

“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.”

~Susan Shaw

“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.”

~Andrea Jorden

“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.”

~Luis Burgos

“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.”

~Debbie Harris

“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.”

~Julie Fuller

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.”

~Debbie D’Amico

“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:

  1. “Life ain’t fair: Eat it, swallow it, accept it.”
  2. “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”
  3. Give yourself credit, you don’t have to believe others’ opinions about you.”
  4. “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!”

Scroll to Top