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Cook County Seeking Volunteers for Emergency Services Chaplain Program

The Cook County Sheriff’s office is seek­ing volunteers to serve on its Emergency Services Chaplain Program. Chaplains may be members of the clergy, but the program is open to others. Chaplains provide emotional and spiritual support when requested to first responders, their families, and the general public when those people have life-changing significant crisis experiences.

“We are often dealing with people on the worst day of their lives,” said Deputy Mike Running, the sheriff’s liaison to the program. “We are looking for people who really want to volunteer for emergency services,” he said.

Law enforcement and other emergency per­sonnel deal with some pretty tough situations, from highway accidents to home fires and sudden injury or death. Whether local people, seasonal residents, or tourists, the EMS staff are busy when these situations happen.

The chaplain serves as the liaison between first responders and the injured party along with their family or friends, allowing the first responders to do what needs to be done. When people face a tragedy, they are likely to be confused and have lots of questions. The chaplain’s role is to help them understand the protocols that will be followed by officials for their particular case and to provide any aid and comfort they might require.

Hillary Freeman, the first EMS chaplain for Cook County, says, “It’s important that we remember that we have two ears and one mouth. We help people process the incident and talk it out.” She added, “It’s not about being pastoral,” she adds. “It’s about being present.”

The Chaplain Program was started by Sher­iff Pat Eliason in 2015.

Chaplains do a monthly “ride along” with sheriff’s deputies for a three to four-hour tour. This gives deputies and chaplains a chance to get to know each other. The chaplains pro­vide a listening ear if deputies need to pro­cess recent events.

At an incident, chaplains provide that lis­tening ear to friends and family. The chap­lain’s go-bag includes a book of resources for survivors that provides information on pro­cesses and resources that are likely to follow.

In the event of a community-wide disas­ter, think of the fire of April 12, 2021, that destroyed three businesses in downtown Grand Marais, chaplains are on hand to sup­port emergency responders. On that particu­lar day, which had very high winds making firefighting efforts difficult, the chaplains provided sandwiches and presence to support the firefighters through a long day and into the night.

To be a volunteer chaplain, people under­go an application process that includes a background check and fingerprinting. Before joining the program, volunteers attend a 2 ½ day training session put on by the Minnesota Emergency Chaplains Association. Training expenses are paid by the Sheriff’s office.

The training makes people aware of the protocols and understanding a bit of law enforcement culture.

Right now, there are four chaplains work­ing with the sheriff’s office. Chaplains can expect to give 5-10 hours of time to the pro­gram each month. That includes a monthly meeting led by Deputy Running to share up­dates and review how things are going.

Deputy Running says that chaplains need to be able to stomach some pretty tough sit­uations. “They need to be empathetic, super personal, and have the ability to lead a con­versation,” he said.

“We’re kinda like the Marines,” Freeman said. “We’re looking for a few good people,”

If you, or someone you know, are interested in serving the Cook County community as an EMS Chaplain you are encouraged to reach out to Deputy Running to get your questions answered. He can be reached by email at mike.running@co.cook.mn.us  or by phone by calling the non-emergency phone at the Law Enforcement Center, at 218-387-3030.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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