SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — First responders have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and some have even been infected with the virus. As they work long hours, sometimes having an outlet just to talk can be good for the soul.
“They are working tireless hours. Their families also need our support and encouragement,” said The Rock Church Pastor Chaplain, Mickey Stonier.
Pastor Stonier said there are 120 volunteer chaplains with the The Rock Church Chaplaincy service for the community and for first responders.
“It’s like having a pastor in a community, but they are not trained to preach at people. They are trained to love, support, and care for people,” he said.
Pastor Stonier is also the chaplain for the San Diego Fire and Rescue Department including dispatchers and lifeguards, Coronado Fire Department, Harbor Police, The San Diego Medical Examiner’s Office, and San Diego County Office of Emergency Services.
“We really want to serve and love people right where they are at and provide a sense of hope, encouragement and meet the needs,” said Stonier.
There have been daily connections via cellphone or video chat that is critical for first responders.
Often emergency workers are the people the community leans on for help. The call of duty or being personally impacted by the coronavirus can bring an emotional toll on first responders.
“When it flips around, when they become the victim, it’s very uncomfortable because they are not used to needing help, but they need our support. They need our love, encouragement,” said Stonier.
Pastor Stonier said he’s responded to many disasters, including 9/11. Although the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, the mission is the same and many of us will go through what he calls "Post Traumatic Growth."
“People are struggling with, Why is this happening? Where am I headed? And meaning and significance. They need someone who can be there along those journeys,” said Stonier.
He said we can all be there together in this journey because we are all in this together.
“If you happen to be a friend or family or live near someone, just a thank you note, put it in your window. Wave because they are doing so much to put their life on the line,” said Stonier.
If you would like to speak with a chaplain you can go to the Ready San Diego website and connect with a chaplain.