Chaplaincy Initiative receives AMEM Volunteer of the Year Award
WALKER — The Cass County Sheriff’s Office Chaplaincy Initiative was recently chosen to receive the Association of Minnesota Emergency Managers (AMEM) Volunteer of the Year Award.
The following narrative was submitted by Kerry Swenson when nominating the Chaplaincy Initiative for this award:
“I know that in most cases the volunteer is a specific person, but I have to do something different. I would really like to nominate the Cass County Chaplaincy Group. The Cass County Chaplaincy was started in 2006. Since that time, the Chaplains have assisted in an average of 22 call outs per year. The group responded to 23 call outs in 2011. The Chaplains have responded to a wide range of incidents, including death notifications, train crash, drownings, missing persons, suicides and homicides.
“The Chaplains’ presence has been a comfort to victims and families during numerous crisis situations. The law enforcement officers have also realized the value of having a chaplain present during any crisis situation. The chaplains not only provide comfort for the victims and families, they also allow officers, firefighters, EMS staff and Emergency Management staff to focus on what they need to do at the scene without neglecting the loved ones.
“The Chaplains are available to offer assistance to staff in any crisis situation and can be contacted directly through sheriff’s office dispatch. The Chaplains will assist all staff, even with personal issues they may be struggling with. They are totally volunteer and put in many hours for meetings, trainings and ride-alongs. They respond in a timely manner whenever they are called, day or night, not knowing if they will be needed for an hour or several. Because of the size of our county, we try to have the closet chaplain respond; however, they may still have to travel up to an hour or more to reach those in need, and they do so at their own expense. They often respond with limited knowledge of the situation or what they are walking into. The Chaplains also take time to follow up with the victim or family sometimes up to a year after the incident.
“The Chaplains have become a valuable asset to the sheriff’s office and Emergency Management and the residents or visitors to our county in times of crisis. Once a deputy has a chaplain respond with them, they realize the value, comfort and assistance they can provide and they don’t hesitate to have them respond to any future incidents or to tell people how lucky we are to have them as a resource in our county. We are very thankful for the very active Chaplains we have.”
Chaplains Mark Widman and Tristan Borland attended the AMEM Conference at Breezy Point on Sept. 18 to accept the award on behalf of the Chaplaincy Initiative.