Woman reading book with dog

San Diego Echelon chapter forms, responds during pandemic

By Hillary Jackson –

The Salvation Army’s advisory organizations have joined in the challenge to meet needs during the COVID-19 pandemic—including those that have yet to officially meet in person as a whole. 

In San Diego, the fledgling chapter of Echelon, the Army’s young professionals group, had just elected its six-member board from its 30 some members who have attended before. While the group has gained momentum since last year’s holiday season, its first meeting with its board and new members had to be moved to Zoom in March, due to the pandemic. 

Despite the physical limitations, the San Diego Echelon chapter is engaging the board and creating a common purpose in the midst of the crisis. The new chapter has hit the ground running, helping others during COVID-19 by piggybacking off of actor John Krasinski’s Some Good News initiative, spreading feel-good content on behalf of The Salvation Army.

“Because we are a board of young professionals…we use our backgrounds and networks that way,” said Kally Behen, president of the San Diego Echelon chapter, who came to Echelon from her job at Deloitte. “With COVID-19 and social distancing, we’ve been brainstorming…trying to figure out things we can do from home.”

One member is working on reading books and stories for kids. Another has been donating his time at the foodbank. Another writes uplifting messages for seniors. Behen has made cards for gentlemen who are in addictions recovery and delivered a neighbor’s donation of meals ready to eat (MREs) to the foodbank. Another member who wasn’t comfortable coming into contact with others painted rocks with affirming messages that she left outside while on a walk.  

“We try to keep everyone positive,” Behen said. 

Echelon member Eyo Toee and her dog Jax volunteered with the Autism Tree Project Foundation to read the children’s book “Macca the Alpaca” as a part of the Echelon’s Some Good News efforts. 

“We are finding more creative and innovative ways to help the needs of our community and hope that this may inspire others to join in and impact those around them,” Toee told Caring

And that’s the goal—to stay in the public’s eye and bring attention to the breadth of the programs The Salvation Army has in San Diego. 

“Little did we know, with the launch of this online campaign and Zoom meetings, we ended up with more engagement than before and our Echelon began to thrive,” said Stacy Dertian, San Diego Director of Volunteers and Community Engagement. “It was like the online platforms, Zoom meeting and social media campaigns were exactly what we needed and a great way for the group to begin working together.  Now, the members are meeting via Zoom in small groups to help each other design their social media posts and are pairing up to do other projects together remotely.”



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