The event was held at the The Grain Exchange alleyway on Michigan Street, and included dinner, drinks, and live jazz. All proceeds from the evening went to support The Salvation Army’s Milwaukee County homeless initiatives.
Jessica Bell, a member of Echelon and event attendee, said she felt the event was “excellent,” and “a unique way for people to come together for a cause.”
Former NEWaukee founder Ian Abston, who is on the board of Echelon, was part of the team asked by the Salvation Army to host a fundraising gala as a way to engage young professionals.
“The collective group is bored with galas and we challenged ourselves to do something unique, fun, and intriguing to the millennial generation,” explained Abston. “So the idea for ‘Dinner in the Alley’ was born.”
The evening was celebratory and colorful, with both red and twinkle lights strung overhead. Attendees wore red clothing in honor of Salvation Army. All 75 guests sat at one long table that stretched the length of the narrow alleyway, which lent itself to the warm, friendly atmosphere. The meal was catered by Bartolotta’s and live music was provided by Scott Hlavenka of Milwaukee Hot Club.
Several special events marked the evening, including the appreciation of Majors Dan and Dorene Jennings, who founded the first Echelon group in the state, and have continued to be influential in The Salvation Army as supervisors of the Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Division. The Jennings are transferring to Missouri’s Midland Division, and the event was partly a celebration of their hard work.
Throughout the event, Katie Geis, a Milwaukee-based independent artist, painted the festive scene and the artwork was then auctioned off at the end of the night as part of the fundraiser. Geis offered her time and talent to the event because “I really believe in using the gifts God has given me to give back to those in need.”
Echelon collected $3,500 in donations from the first event, and will be hosting Dinner in the Alley again on July 22 and August 12.