When the Milwaukee, Wis., Police Department needed volunteer emergency chaplains to partner with them, they turned to The Salvation Army to organize and lead the effort to bring comfort to traumatized people and help combat violence. The Milwaukee Police Chaplaincy Program has made a significant difference for people in crisis since 2015. Within the last year and a half, this ministry has expanded its reach with volunteer chaplains also serving as emotional and spiritual care (ESC) providers for emergency disaster services (EDS) responses.
Most recently, three chaplains were deployed to Florida in response to Hurricane Michael which struck in October. Two went to North Carolina after Hurricane Florence hit land the month before. Six chaplains went to Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in August 2017.
Two chaplains, Pastor Carol Knox and Marcine Spoke, were involved in both Hurricanes Michael and Florence. The two women couldn’t say enough about their experiences bringing comfort and aid to the hurricane survivors. Pastor Carol said she was grateful for the EDS training she received to help people in crisis.
Marcine, who’d also served in Texas after Hurricane Harvey, said, “We were able to instill and reinforce hope in survivors. We did what was needed to help people mentally, physically and spiritually, whether it was serving a meal, finding supplies or just hugging and praying with people. I cried with a man who couldn’t bring his dog with him into an emergency shelter, but I was able to find a foster home for it!”
The Milwaukee-based chaplains also utilized their ESC skills in EDS incidents closer to home, such as five volunteer chaplains who responded to flooding and an explosion in Madison, Wis., last summer, and six chaplains who participate with EDS in the Patriot National Guard Disaster Training exercise held each summer in Northern Wisconsin.
The Milwaukee Police Chaplaincy Program is the first of its kind in the territory. More than 60 chaplains, representing 16 different faiths and denominations, have been trained and certified to provide care to victims of violent crime, their families and communities. Not only are the volunteer chaplains proficient in spiritual and psychological first-aid, they also receive police academy training on law-enforcement operations.
Tom Thueks, the Milwaukee service extension director instrumental in starting the volunteer chaplaincy program, said, “It’s been a good fit, whether at the scene of a violent crime, police action, tornado or flood. No matter the trauma, we can provide comfort to those who are hurting.”