Echelon connecting with a new generation

by Robert Mitchell

Emerging auxiliary Echelon chapters for young professionals are developing the next generation of Salvation Army volunteers and donors.

The Salvation Army’s first Echelon Leaders Symposium in 2021 was an “enlightening experience” that brought together young professionals from across the country.

Sebastian Galvez said he was developing the Echelon chapter in Morristown, N.J., and the symposium at National Headquarters “connected me to already thriving chapters that helped set me up for success.”

The Salvation Army held another symposium Oct. 19-21 last year at NHQ that drew representatives from several new chapters.

Leading up to the recent meeting, Galvez wrote on Facebook about that first Echelon symposium: “My favorite outcome of the event were the friends that I walked away with who I’ve stayed connected with almost two years later.”

What is Echelon?

An auxiliary for young people started in Dallas, Texas, Echelon has been called the millennial counterpoint to advisory boards. Young, up-and-coming professionals seek “to mobilize the next generation for The Salvation Army by providing opportunities for young adults to engage with the organization through fellowship and networking, donations and fundraising, and service and volunteering,” according to the group’s website at

Major Keith Maynor, in a short video produced by the USA Eastern Territory, called it “the emerging professional arm of The Salvation Army.”

We realized that The Salvation Army needed young volunteers,” Maynor said in the video. “We needed young professionals to learn about The Salvation Army’s work and, with hands on, help us accomplish our programs and activities throughout communities across the United States.”

The video shows the activities of three Echelon chapters in USA East, including Syracuse, N.Y.; Morristown, N.J.; and Pittsburgh, Pa.

Andrew Sabbaghzadeh, director of development for The Salvation Army in Syracuse, said an aging donor base made it necessary to engage “the next generation.” The chapter organized a family dance with attendees as young as 5 and 6.

Major Charles Roberts of The Salvation Army in Syracuse said, “We put the fun in fundraising, and we like to raise friends at the same time, so the fellowship of Echelon is the momentum that keeps everybody going and working and being cause-driven. It’s a beautiful way to help people enter into the world of giving.”

In Morristown, N.J., the chapter organized a golf tournament. Steven Acosta, an account manager for Insight Global who took part, said he was helped by The Salvation Army growing up in Union City, N.J.

“It was a chance for me to give back, come full circle, and meet a lot of people who have the same kind of ideals and values and are passionate about giving back to the community,” Acosta said. “This all stems from just caring about the people in our communities and being a light to those around us. I think Echelon is a perfect avenue to do that.”

Ava Semachko said the Echelon chapter at the Pittsburgh Temple helps feed the homeless, plants and harvests fresh produce, and also provides winter outerwear through Project Bundle-Up.

“We’re really focused on creating volunteer opportunities where you can bring your family,” Semachko said.

Major Vicki Berry, a retired officer, is acting as the Eastern Territorial liaison to Echelon. The goal is to be able to realize at least one Echelon Chapter in each division across the Eastern Territory.

“It’s important that we look at the future today,” Berry said. “These young professionals want to help The Salvation Army, and we need to hands-on teach them about our programs and services to the community. Each community is different and so each Echelon chapter will be different,­ but they will have the same energy to volunteer and help in whatever way they can. This kind of networking is extremely valuable today and tomorrow. Let’s plan for tomorrow today.”