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Flower City Chaplains “Walk Alongside Officers in Their Wellness”

Patti Singer

Terry Youmans, right, hugs Flower City Chaplain Corps president Alisa DiMora during graduation June 9 at Church of Love Faith Center. Youmans and five others recently completed training and will partner with some Rochester-area police agencies to support officers and the
community. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter

Terry Youmans watched many times as police and other first responders tended to people in crisis and tragedy.

Some might take their actions for granted. After all, they were just doing their job.

“But who is protecting and serving them,” Youmans said. 

The 49-year-old Rochester resident, an ordained pastor at Church of Love Faith Center, saw an opportunity to assist those who took an oath to help others. 

Youmans was among six people who recently completed the Flower City Chaplain Corps program, a nine-week training that teaches laypeople and ordained ministers to care for the well-being of police officers and support community members in emotional need. 

“I believe this is a wonderful opportunity to serve our community in another capacity,” he said. “ … It’s good for us to collaborate with (first responders) to assist in protecting and serving the community,” he said. “We are a community. We should work with one another to bring harmony within our community.”

According to its website, Flower City Chaplain Corps “exists as a religious organization dedicated to providing religious rites/faith based counseling for the spiritual, emotional, and physical support in times of need or crisis to our police, military veterans and their families, first responders, businesses, churches and the community. “

The training, run in the spring and fall, is based on Christian principles and held at different churches. But the chaplains help anyone regardless of their faith, said Alisa DiMora, chief chaplain and president of the nonprofit, nongovermental organization.

“We don’t bring up (religion) unless they want to bring it up,” she said. Among the qualifications to apply to the program, a candidate “must be willing to provide care and counsel to people of diverse backgrounds (all religions, races, national origins, etc.)”

Chaplains do not have to be ordained clergy or on the path to ordination. They are volunteers trained in various ways to offer emotional support.

“We walk alongside the officers in their wellness,” DiMora said.

Flower City Chaplain Corps has 15 chaplains who are allied with Irondequoit and Webster police departments. Discussions are underway with Rochester and Gates police departments.

Rochester Police Department sent investigator James Woodward to the program, which he just completed.

“We do believe that there are some services that Flower City Chaplain Corps offers that RPD can benefit from, one in particular is a concentration on officer wellness,” interim Chief La’Ron Singletary wrote in an email. “Other law enforcement agencies have a working relationship with the Flower City Chaplain Corps and their relationship has proven to be beneficial.”

Irondequoit police have had an almost two-year relationship with the chaplain corps, during which the partners worked on polices and procedures to vet individuals who wanted to be chaplains and what their roles would be.

Chief Richard Tantalo, who attended the June 9 graduation ceremony at Church of Love, said three or four chaplains regularly ride with officers. “They’ve been great partners for us.”

He gave an example of how a chaplain helped families during a police encounter with some rambunctious teens. He also said chaplains provide solace when police are called to situations such as unattended deaths.

He said that as police focus on the facts, the chaplain can offer solace. “After we know it’s not a criminal issue, then we can treat it as we should in consoling the family.”

Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode told the graduates and congregants of a class he attended. “The passion in the room was overwhelming. … Law enforcement, we can’t do our job without the support of the community. Where do you find community? Come to any church. … That’s why I spend so much time reaching out to our churches … to help us partner and try to change what’s going on out there.”