KALISPELL — Braveheart Chaplain Ministry which serves first responders as well as citizens experiencing a life-changing crisis has been a constant in the Flathead Valley for the last 11 years.
“It’s the kind of vocation or calling that you have to really pay close attention to how well you’re doing because it can really get to you,” Braveheart Chaplain Ministry Executive Director Drew Buckner told MTN News.
Chaplains work alongside first responders offering support to those going through life changing events including homicides, suicides, and fatal car accidents.
“It is 24/7, our chaplains take turns being on-call chaplains, so we take one week at a time when we’re at the top of list and dispatch will go through the list until they get a chaplain on scene,” said Buckner.
Buckner said the ministry consists of nine chaplains, including seven volunteers.
“A wonderful thing is that responders have a wide array of chaplains to kind of connect with in their own needs to help them process things,” added Buckner.
Buckner said the number of chaplains in service tripled in the last year due to a major increase in call volume as the Flathead Valley continues to grow.
“The sooner a chaplain gets there the better off people are, it helps them because it lets them focus on their job and lets us take care of the emotional trauma and the ordeal that people are going through,” said Buckner.
Kalispell Police Captain Brett Corbett said chaplains go out of their way to make sure all those involved in traumatic events have the support they need.
“And so having someone there that knows what they need and can walk them through the grief process is huge and they’re also there for the officers, for the fire fighters, for any of the first responders that need someone to talk to about those things because it’s traumatic for the first responders also,” said Corbett.
Buckner said the chaplains are putting together a weekly grief support group for the Flathead community which they hope to have up and running in the next month.
“It will be free, it’s open so you can come anytime you want, it will be led by a trained professional and it will just help people work through their grief, so you can be from all walks of life, all experiences that brought you to that point of grief,” added Buckner.
Buckner said the volunteer chaplain positions are entirely funded through community donations.
He said Braveheart will host a virtual gala on October 28, their major fundraisng event of the year.