New operations manager at ECCHO embraces mission

Posted 11/29/23



ECCHO is a non-profit organization born in Port Townsend in 1997 with a mission to support independent living.

ECCHO serves community members free of charge, with a focus …

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New operations manager at ECCHO embraces mission




ECCHO is a non-profit organization born in Port Townsend in 1997 with a mission to support independent living.

ECCHO serves community members free of charge, with a focus on the disability community, elders, and low-income residents, with loans of durable medical equipment and transportation to medical appointments and other essential services.

Access to ECCHO services is not means-tested. Any resident within ECCHO’s Jefferson County-based service area can talk to ECCHO about becoming a client by calling the ECCHO office in Port Townsend.

“Helping is our Middle Name” declares ECCHO’s website, The group’s full name is Ecumenical Christian Helping Hands Organization. ECCHO’s partners in the non-profit community include Olympic Area Agency on Aging (O3A), Olycap, United Good Neighbors of Jefferson County, Jefferson Healthcare and First Presbyterian Church of Port Townsend. ECCHO also receives support through federal and state resources, however, according to board member Nancy Budd-Garvan, private donations are the group’s most important source of funding.

ECCHO’s home is in uptown Port Townsend, located in the former residence of clergy who at one time served the First Presbyterian Church. The building is accessible from the street by a ramp with access through a side door, into a bright, yellow room that was once a family kitchen.

On this post-holiday morning, Paul Tumey, ECCHO’s newly appointed operations manager, fielded a stream of phone calls. In the large, bright adjacent room, Tumey assisted a client in selecting a rolling walker. There was a collection of devices available for loan, including mobility aids such as wheelchairs (motorized and non-motorized), walkers, lift chairs, knee scooters and canes, as well as bathing and hygiene aids. Hospital beds, available on short notice, as clients typically need them, are stored elsewhere in the “Bed Barn.” (Clients must provide a means of transporting the beds.)

Asked how clients typically come to ECCHO, Tumey explained, “People see their doctors and are given a list of things they need.” He noted that buying medical equipment can be very expensive, whereas ECCHO loans equipment.

“Clinics, the hospital, and physicians tell people about ECCHO,” he said. The equipment is used, in good condition. In some cases, local residents who have recovered and are no longer using the aids donate them to ECCHO, rather than adding usable items to the landfill. “Most of this equipment has years of life in it,” Tumey said.

Part of Tumey’s focus in his new role will be to increase awareness of ECCHO services. According to Tumey, “ECCHO seems to be well-known for [loans of] medical equipment, but people might not know that we offer free transportation for essential appointments.”

Essential trips, he explained, are those that support medical care, including physician and therapy appointments, but pharmacy and grocery-shopping trips, among others, are also considered essential.

ECCHO Board Member Nancy Budd-Garvan emphasized the need for transportation in areas of the county with limited public transportation: “Dial-a-Ride operates only three-quarters of a mile off fixed bus routes,” she said. This leaves some residents with few alternatives. Budd-Garvan clarified that clients can be picked up by volunteer drivers in areas of East Jefferson County, including Quilcene and Brinnon. Clients can be taken to appointments as far away as Seattle and Tacoma.

Budd-Garvan, herself a volunteer driver, emphasized the rewards of volunteering, as well as the ease of working these trips into one’s weekly routines. Tumey explained that a staff member coordinates and publishes requests for transportation daily so that volunteers have options about what routes they drive. He explained that at present ECCHO is asking clients to call two weeks ahead of an anticipated appointment to schedule a ride.

Tumey said, ”The pandemic has really affected ECCHO. Before the pandemic, we had more than 50 volunteers; now we have less than half of that number.” Still, Tumey said, from what he has observed in his short time with the non-profit, volunteers are some of ECCHO’s most enthusiastic supporters. Some dedicated individuals have served many years. That dedication will not go unrecognized. ECCHO is planning an event for volunteers early next year, continuing an annual tradition.