IDAHO FALLS – Like many people in eastern Idaho, Melissa Davis has always had a special place in her heart for first responders.
They captured the hearts of the nation in the days after September 11 and for years, the Idaho Falls mother of three has admired the efforts of the local men and women who serve their community every day.
In 2020, Pastor Tim Rupp and Christa Trinchera formed the Law Enforcement Chaplaincy of Idaho, a nonprofit that trains volunteers to assist law enforcement in responding to calls. They help provide individuals and families with resources during and after a traumatic event and some of the chaplains are specifically trained to help law enforcement recuperate from the tragic things they’ve witnessed.
Davis was intrigued with the idea of becoming a chaplain and saw it as a way to put her support of law enforcement into action.
“At that time, law enforcement around the country were really going through a difficult time,” Davis tells EastIdahoNews.com. “I really felt called that I wanted and needed to be part of that. I had no idea what I was doing or what I was getting into.”
She signed up for a 30-hour training course to become a chaplain and quickly became enmeshed in the duties of that role. She puts in a 12-hour shift three days a week and has since taken on the additional role as a chaplain dispatcher, where she assigns chaplains to go with law enforcement when needed.
The nonprofit recently expanded its program to include firefighters as well and Davis is cross-trained to work in both capacities. Effective Oct. 1, the program will change its name to Chaplaincy of Idaho.
Earlier this spring, Davis says there were numerous house fires in Bonneville County and chaplains were exceptionally busy assisting victims and firefighters as a result.
More recently, she recalls helping a displaced disabled man find a place to stay after his home caught fire.
“I connected him with the Red Cross and helped him walk through the first phases of trauma after the fire,” Davis remembers. “I was able to … get him some dinner and get him situated where he felt comfortable. He had a dog and so I helped find a place where his dog could be with him. It was a situation where you really feel like you made a difference.”
Despite the challenges of being a chaplain, which often requires working a night shift while her kids are asleep, Davis says she’s grateful for the experience and is happy to serve.
“These are really difficult situations you’re dealing with, particularly (when kids are involved). But the satisfying part is that we’re trained to come in and provide compassionate trauma care for the victims. Because of that training, I know that I can come in and make a difference for these people who otherwise wouldn’t have anybody to help them,” Davis explains.
And it’s not just the victims who are benefitting.
Kerry Hammon with the Idaho Falls Fire Department says the chaplains have become a huge asset to fire personnel. They’ve been integrated into a “Trust Team” for firefighters “who may need a shoulder to lean on following a particularly challenging call.”
“They’ve become an essential part of our team, and we can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done for our community,” Hammon says.
There are currently 30 chaplains who assist in various capacities, but the demand is now much greater. Trinchera, who is the program’s executive director, says they currently serve nine agencies in five counties. They’d like to provide chaplains in Madison and Fremont County.
“We’re growing,” Trinchera says. “On pretty much every structure fire, there is a community chaplain and a fire chaplain dispatched. They both have different roles on the scene but equally important. They’re a vital part of what we do and … as our call volume is increasing … we’re looking to increase the number of chaplains we have to respond.”
For anyone who’s interested in becoming a chaplain, an informational meeting will be held Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at 740 Park Avenue inside the Idaho Falls Police Department Training Annex. During the meeting, Trinchera will provide an in-depth look at the requirements, training and expectations for prospective chaplains.
Applications will be available for those who want to get involved.