Guest column: Volunteer chaplains bring calm to crisis

Sunday, April 19, 2015 at 2:31 pm

The new chaplains are front row, left to right: Theresia “Brook” Yri, Connie Densmore, John Anders, Victoria Erskine, Kim Thompson, Jane Anderson and Mike Griffee. In the back row from left to right are: Edgar Densmore, Thomas Walker, Matthew March and Louis Hopkins.

By Kevin Curfman
Lewis County Chaplaincy Services President

Across Lewis County, crisis strikes our communities every day. It may be a residential house fire, an elderly spouse experiencing a cardiac arrest or a tragic accident at a workplace.

Regardless of the event, it is traumatic for the individual, family members and friends that are involved. These types of calls also can have a heavy toll on the emergency responders who respond on a daily basis.

Responding alongside those emergency responders are dedicated chaplains from the Lewis County Chaplaincy Services (LCCS).


Kevin Curfman
Lewis County Chaplaincy Services President

These dedicated men and women are there to help to bring a calm to the scene and to assist all those involved during and immediately after the crisis.

They may explain to the family members the actions of the emergency responders and help to provide for their immediate needs. They are there to assist them through the event and will work to put together a support system of resources that will assist them with rebuilding their lives after a tragedy.

For the emergency responders, the chaplains are there to support them in their jobs and to be a “listening ear” when they need to talk about that especially bad call to which they recently responded. It is our goal that all emergency response agencies have a chaplain connected to their department that they can work with and consider to be their chaplain.

Emergency chaplaincy services began in Lewis County in 1989.

A program was started in the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and the Centralia Police Department at the same time a different one was started with the Chehalis Fire Department. In 1993, the two programs merged into the Lewis County Chaplaincy Services. It has since been available to serve all emergency agencies in the county including law enforcement, fire departments, the dispatch center and the coroner’s office.

Since the programs joined, I have had the privilege of serving as the director and president of the board of directors for the chaplaincy since that time. Over the years we have added more chaplains and expanded our services in various ways. Two years ago we were asked by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office to begin overseeing the volunteers who come into the jail to work with inmates and provide chaplain services to them. This has proven to be a great extension to the work of LCCS.

We have also had other exciting changes.

One is that we recently commissioned a total of 11 new chaplains to serve in Lewis County. Some of these chaplains will be working in emergency response and others in the jail ministry. This will give better and more efficient coverage for calls especially in the east end of the county. We are excited to have the new chaplains on-board and they are currently undergoing training to prepare them to respond.

With the recent growth, the board of directors saw the need to have someone to focus on the daily operation of LCCS. We are happy that Chaplain Betty Kitchen has accepted the position of executive director. I will continue to serve as president of the board of directors.

We also have expanded the board by adding two new positions. One is a board member to represent the jail ministry. The other is the position of community pastor which has been filled. This gives us six board members from the emergency agencies and the community that we serve.

I look forward to seeing the LCCS continue to grow and serve those responding to and in crisis situations across our community.


Kevin T. Curfman, President
Lewis County Chaplaincy Services

19 Responses to “Guest column: Volunteer chaplains bring calm to crisis”

  1. MG says:

    Happen to know a lot about the program I can say that no they do not get paid to do chaplaincy.. I have seen them in action and they do an excellent thing. I lived in an apartment building years ago and this girl that lived there with her husband woke up to discover he had committed suicide. She was devastated. And there was a chaplain there from the fire department to talk to her. Chaplains help grieving family members with any questions that they may have. Also at the scene of a fire they can also explain what’s going on. They do an excellent job for no money.

  2. Betty Kitchen says:

    I would also like to add that you commented about the separation between church and state – I would like to bring to your attention RCW (Revised Code of Washington) RCW 41.22 is a good place to start. The Chaplains job is care and comfort in a time of crisis.
    The chaplaincy requires that all chaplains be called to the position, this is not for everyone, as the role of a pastor, priest, or rabbi. The Chaplains of Lewis County are amazing men and women who truly serve from their hearts.
    I am so proud to serve with this amazing group of people. When I hurt they hurt, when I rejoice they rejoice. They are “Called”

  3. Betty Kitchen says:

    Interesting to see so much conversation about the Chaplaincy. I will address a couple of points.
    Finances: The chaplain program receives “ZERO” tax dollars, two churches in Lewis Co send regular donations, plus a couple of citizens also contribute, the TOTAL ANNUAL income is approximately $1,200.00-$1,400.00 yes annual. Everyone must pass a background check and this goes go back through life history.
    Currently there are no paid chaplains, this is a 24 hours on call position. A chaplain uses their gas, their car and willingly put themselves in situations of even danger. Everyone attends training on a regular basis and is required to have continued education. Every Chaplain will attend the Police/Chaplain Academy for 1 week.
    Training prohibits the discussion of the chaplains religions beliefs unless the individual asks. The chaplains always ask if the individual would like their, pastor, priest, rabbi, etc called. The chaplaincy will make every attempt to contact any religious leader or friend of the victims choice, Buddhist, Muslim, Jehovah Witness, Mormon, Baptist, Assembly of God and the list goes on. The chaplains are NOT defined by the church they attend, but the love and desire to serve.
    I hope this helps to clarify

  4. the truth says:

    The Lewis County Chaplains are not there to change ones life, or convert you to Christianity. They are there to help at a bad time in ones life. They will pray with you if want them to, talk to you if it helps, or just assist you in what you need to help you through a difficult time. I have had the opportunity to watch Kevin in action. He is a good guy, and cares for people. It is voluntary. It is their calling to help, not convert you. Ok, thats my two cents.

  5. GuiltyBystander says:

    Oh, Tommy, I don’t know where to begin with a reply. So I won’t.

  6. outlander says:

    Guiltybystander wins best comment of the day

  7. T Orr says:

    There’s no such thing as The Church of Science Change. It called The Church of Scientology.

    And why are so-called “christians” so intolerant towards people who don’t want to hear their corrupt and racist message?

  8. GuiltyBystander says:

    Tolerance is overrated, isn’t it, BleeBloo? I feel the same way about the Church of Climate Change.

  9. BleeBloo says:

    the last thing I need in the middle of a tragedy is someone polluting my brain with their religion. I hope they ask before they proselytize, not everyone wants to hear fairy tales.

  10. BobbyinLC says:

    Bill S: Skepticism about taxpayer money is never a bad thing. As taxpayers you should demand answers of your elected officials. But yest the LC Chaplaincy is a non-profit and works on donations. There are no paid positions.

    They provide support to folks going through difficult times and religious implications do not even have to be a part of it. They will pray with people if asked but do not ram religion down people’s throats. Great organization.

  11. Welfare Queen of 10 says:

    I heard the men in big bottom valley are called boys and the women are called men!

  12. Bill S says:

    Sorry for my skepticism Steve. Thanks for clarifying that the chaplain organization receives no taxpayer funding. I hear from a few people who have been unlucky enough to be inmates in the Lewis County Jail that it’s one of the worst and I am sure that it is great to have someone who has access to talk with.

  13. Steve says:

    Bill (to expand a little more) anyone may apply to be a chaplain, you must pass a background check and attend certain training to become a chaplain. The Lewis County Chaplaincy does not have its own budget.

  14. Steve says:

    Bill, the chaplaincy program is volunteer based and does not collect any money from the taxpayers. Most of these folks are retired and chose this path to serve god and their fellow man. Their are some churches that donate to the chaplaincy but again it is completely voluntary. The chaplains are not paid.

  15. Bill S says:

    I’m sure they are nice people and do good work. I just would like to know what this largest Christian based organization in Lewis County is costing the taxpayers.

    They have Chaplains in the military but they are mostly commissioned officers. If you were hardup for Cigarettes in Vietnam, they would give you free ones. Chesterfields – yuck. Some guys tried to get them to send them back to the world but it usually didn’t work.

  16. BobbyinLC says:

    If you have never worked with or have the opportunity to be with these folks: they are tremendous blessing to this county. They are there for families, as well as the emergency workers. While the name is Chaplaincy they do not base their action solely on religion. They will pray with families but do not force any religion, etc on any one.

    Each of these volunteers is a special person!

  17. Bill S says:

    So I hate to be a killjoy here but some of these positions seem to be paid and I’m sure they have a budget. They seem to be growing in size and perhaps in number of paid positions. Are these Christian ministers being funded by the Lewis County taxpayer? What about the separation of church and state? If so, do they publish their budget for the taxpayer to review?

    Just asking – I’m sure they do good work – but sometimes these organizations are pretty good at getting into the public tax dollar feeding trough.

  18. Bill S says:

    So what qualifications do they have? Are they all Christian ministers? Can anybody be a Chaplain – how are they picked – just volunteer? Any Buddhists or Muslims in the group? How about a guy like me who is a spiritual agnostic?

  19. sunshinegirl says:

    Bless these people who give so much.

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