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ECHO PLUS Inc. holds its 35th annual meeting

By Staff | Oct 30, 2008

Dan Youngblut, ECHO PLUS executive director, presented the Volunteer of the Year award to Mary and Jim Hart, Donna Probst and Pat Evans for their volunteerism at Thrifty’s in Estherville. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

A packed house Tuesday night at the Estherville Elks Lodge heard how supportive employers and volunteers have helped

ECHO PLUS stay viable, despite the stagnant economy.

ECHO PLUS Executive Director Dan Youngblut noted that PLUS was 35 years old and ECHO 34 years old at the ECHO PLUS annual board meeting.

Youngblut, highlighting that the ECHO PLUS mission, “empowering people with disabilities to make choices in their lives, work and dreams,” went to the heart of why ECHO PLUS is in business.

“Most people with disabilities have been told what to do all their lives,” Youngblut said. Instead, people with disabilities are now given a choice. “We need to help people at ECHO PLUS realize their dreams and possibilities,” Youngblut said.

Youngblut, right, congratulates John Walz for his 20 years of service to ECHO PLUS. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

By learning interdependence, people with disabilities learn to work and live in their community, said Youngblut. He addressed the criticism that people with disabilities have been helped too much.

“I don’t think we can do too much for them,” he said.

Youngblut lauded the work of volunteers at Thrifty’s in Estherville. The thrift store has helped fill a needed niche in the Estherville business community as well as provide a revenue stream for ECHO PLUS after the federal government slashed funding from programs for people with disabilities.

“Although this is our first venture into retail, it has been a huge success,” Youngblut said. Thrifty’s is attracting shoppers from 50 miles away and sales have helped ECHO PLUS get its budget into the black, he said.

A number of businesses and employees were recognized.

The Dickinson County Partners in Production award went to Dave Lohse of Fareway and Jeff Osborn of Hy-Vee. Both Lohse and Osborn have helped with the ECHO PLUS bottle redemption center.

Angie Rose of Iowa Lakes Community College was recognized with the Emmet County Partners in Production award. ECHO PLUS production workers in Estherville work with the college to process its bulk mailings such as college catalogs and the Spin Drift.

Curt Johnson, Bank Midwest executive vice president, was recognized with the Dickinson County Service Award. Johnson serves as chair of the Good Neighbor Fund Board which solicits donations for non-profit organizations, including ECHO PLUS.

Thrifty’s volunteers Pat Evans, Donna Probst and Jim and Mary Hart were recognized or their volunteer hours in the store with the Volunteers of the Year award.

Linda Anderson, coordinator of Emmet County Retired Senior Volunteer Program, received the Emmet County Service Award.

Staff longevity awards went to Deb Ingvall, five years; Tom Sullivan, Joey Griese and Shirley Youngblut, 10 years; Paula Krogman-Tietz, 15 years; and John Walz, 20 years.