If you ask local young adults what they’re interested in, you'll get a lot of different answers, but according to The Millennial Impact Report research, young adults ages 21 to 40 are interested in social issues that impact people and organizations where their friends are also involved. Tapping into that interest is what The Chattanooga Salvation Army had in mind in early 2018 when they reached out to Tripp Thurston, Senior Portfolio Manager with FirstBank, and Caroline Carlin, Dean of Academics with Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School. The Army had just learned about Echelon, a community of young adults that support The Army and its services through fellowship, networking, donations, fundraising and service projects. When they asked Thurston and Carlin to help launch a local chapter, both quickly signed on.
“Like most adults our age, we really weren’t familiar with The Salvation Army,” Thurston says, and adds that one of the benefits of being part of Echelon is working closely with The Army Officers, staff, Advisory Board and the people they serve. “We have a front row seat to the need and how we can make a meaningful impact in our community.”
Since launching the Chattanooga chapter in Sept. 2018, the group has made their mark on our community with Bacon and Boxers where they served bacon burgers and handed out new underwear to Chattanooga’s homeless men, Pancake Night dinners for kids in our East Lake community, and a hotdog and hamburger cookout for our homeless neighbors on McCallie.
“We’ve found our niche,” says Alissa Miller, Communications Coordinator with Chambliss Center for Children and Echelon board member. “And that is giving a couple hours every few months to serve people in poverty.”
This sentiment is echoed by Abby and Chris Callahan. The couple joined in April of this year and see serving through Echelon as an extension of their charitable giving to The Salvation Army.
“Chris and I were looking for a way to be more invested,” Abby says. She now serves as Co-Chair of Communications for Echelon. She goes on to say that they’ve enjoyed meeting the Officers and staff who serve our community every day, and are coming to know the faces and names of people in need. “We’re able to more easily see the needs of our community and the impact of our giving.”
Now the group is preparing for their biggest event, Run with Reason, a holiday event encompassing a run and a day of shopping to raise money to purchase Angel Tree gifts for children and seniors in poverty. Kyle Briner, with Henderson, Hutcherson and McCullough (HHM) CPAs and Echelon board member, launched the event last year and has plans to expand its impact this holiday season
“We’re inviting companies throughout the region to join us by creating their own team and raising support,” Briner says.
“Year one has been an exciting one for Echelon,” says Thurston, who also highlights big plans for 2020. “We’ve structured our chapter a little differently in that all of our members serve on the Echelon board in some capacity.” The purpose in this is to give as much input and experience to members as possible and lighten the load so that involvement is doable.
“We’re all busy with family and careers and need to make an impact as life allows.” The result is a vibrant membership with ideas and initiatives.
“The more the merrier when the result is serving people in need,” Thurston says.
Founded in 2010 in Dallas, Texas, Echelon now has 24 chapters across the US. The local chapter of Echelon is sponsored by FirstBank, HHM, Miller & Martin and Pinnacle Financial Partners. Find information on Chattanooga Echelon here.
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The Salvation Army, an evangelical part of the universal Christian church established in 1865, has been supporting those in need for 130 years in the U.S. Nearly 30 million Americans receive assistance from The Salvation Army each year through social services ranging from providing food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the homeless and opportunities for underprivileged children. 82 cents of every dollar spent is used to carry out those services in 5,000 communities nationwide. Find more information here.