Police run to gun shots, firemen run to fire, and Chaplains run to comfort those who are affected by a crisis, including crime, fire and other tragedies.
A Chaplain is a representative of religion or belief attached to a non-religious institution such as a school, military branch or local law enforcement. Sacramento County has had the benefit of working with the Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Sacramento (LECS) for 37 years. The non-profit LECS provides support to victims of disaster, crime or tragedy; they are a rapid response team, dispatched by law enforcement, that provides 24/7 on-site support. Chaplains work with first responders and are trained to help people experiencing emotional trauma and provide counseling and comfort to everyone involved.
“There is no perfect formula to help someone experiencing painful emotions,” said Senior Chaplain Mindi Russell. “Emotions are a tangled ball of guilt, anger, sorrow, frustration, and it’s overwhelming for individuals. What makes a chaplain effective at helping a victim is compassion beyond empathy and their faith is what drives that.”
The organization consists of three full-time chaplain employees and more than 80 volunteer chaplains from various faiths. The volunteers sacrifice their time and resources to do the job and undergo constant training to become better at it.
“Our chaplains keep neutral on the subject of religion when working with victims but do in fact represent many different backgrounds and faiths,” said Senior Chaplain Frank Russell. “That gives us the ability to adapt to different cultures and faiths and be able to work with each individual or family starting from some common ground.”
The chaplains also work with the Sacramento County Coroner delivering death notifications to families and whether it is accidental, natural causes, homicide, or suicide; the chaplains approach each situation with a foundation of optimism and sincere care.
The organization focuses on trauma prevention as well as working with schools on DUI prevention with a program called Every 15 Minutes. Additionally, interested faith leaders can receive training used to help their congregations. Resources are available online to provide people with support and a 24-hour crisis line has been established for victims: 916-857-1801. The services provided are at no cost to victims and most funding comes from church, business and individual donations as well as government grants.
“Chaplains are flexible and adaptable” said Mindi Russell. “These volunteers sacrifice their family time, cars, and gas money to help complete strangers to make sure they become better and not bitter. We receive letters 15-20 years later from victims that thank us for when we were there for them, and that’s why we do it.”
The chaplains may be the last person you want to see at your door, but rarely do their services go unappreciated. Through the darkest moments, chaplains bring light to people who may not otherwise have it.