Chamber Insider Blog

National Disability Employment Awareness Month: ECHO

Thank you to Paul Donohue, Jr., CEO of ECHO, for answering some of our questions! To learn more about the Chamber’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee, click here.

When was your organization founded, and what is its primary mission?

ECHO was founded in 1975 with the mission “To empower individuals with disabilities to achieve their optimal level of personal, social and economic success.”  To accomplish this mission we offer lifelong support for adults with disabilities through skill-building, job placement, day support and transportation.

How can the community support your organization?

There are many ways the community can support ECHO!

  • As a 501c3 we can accept tax-deductible donations
  • Business managers and owners are encouraged to explore ECHO’s services. Hiring ECHO provides jobs for people with disabilities. Additionally, many work places find that hiring people with disabilities brings an improvement in morale, increases the quality of work, and provides motivation to all employees. We’re always interested in meeting with businesses to explore potential opportunities.
  • Dog lovers can sign up for regular deliveries of our delicious dog biscuits, hand crafted by people with disabilities at our ECHO Barkery:
  • People with disabilities are also creating beautiful jewelry. This business is called Blue Elegance.  If you’re looking for a perfect gift for a birthday, anniversary or any occasion, visit our Etsy store:
  • Our fleet of buses are expensive to operate but we’re committed to it since transportation is a huge challenge for people with disabilities. Businesses can help our fleet by advertising on one of our buses.
  • AmazonSmile is a simple way for you to support ECHO every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at, you’ll find the same prices, selection and shopping experience as, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to ECHO. Just visit and select ECHO Leesburg as your charity.
  • If you’re looking to donate your used car, truck, motorcycle, boat or even a plane, we’ll gladly take them off your hands and you’ll be helping ECHO in the process. It is very easy:

What is the best part of your job and why?

Like any business, ECHO has its fair share of stressful challenges surrounding staffing, operational revenue, unexpected emergencies and regulatory burdens. The best part of my job is having the ability to get out of my office and interact with our participants as they engage in work and day support activities.  They are delighted to be earning a paycheck or enjoying activities with their friends and witnessing this makes all the hard work behind the scenes worth it.

What is it like operating your organization in Northern Virginia/Loudoun?

ECHO is homegrown and Loudoun based since 1975 so we have deep roots in Northern Virginia and the county.  That said, there are still many residents unfamiliar with ECHO and we’re constantly looking for ways to increase community awareness of ECHO and the benefit we provide the community.  There are scores of wonderful nonprofits in this area and it can be hard to get noticed.  Additionally, this is an expensive area to operate.  With dismal Medicaid reimbursement rates and high cost of labor, it is a relentless challenge to make ends meet.  We are fortunate to have the support of Loudoun County, Fairfax County and the community at large.

What does National Disability Employment Awareness Month mean to you?

It is a nice opportunity to bring awareness to the community of the many jobs that people with disabilities are doing and are capable of doing.  Through ECHO, people with disabilities are brewing and serving coffee at the SimplyBe coffee shop in Leesburg; cutting the grass at the Leesburg FAA facility and the Community Foundation of Loudoun and Norther Fauquier; sorting, tagging and hanging clothes at Good Shepherd Alliance thrift stores; providing mail services at Inova Lansdowne; working in labs and on the grounds at HHMI Janelia Research campus; scanning, indexing and kitting at Stryker Spine; packaging at CIS Secure Computing; providing back office services at Loudoun County Public Schools’ administrative building; performing assembly work for Rehau; and packaging and dishwashing at River Sea Chocolates.

What are some favorite things you like to do when you’re not working?

I recharge my batteries outside of work by spending time with my family, hiking, canoeing, fishing and reading history.

To learn more about ECHO and the work that they do, visit their website.