Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief (IBDR) volunteers ministered to families and first responders in the wake of a Feb. 15 shooting at a suburban manufacturing plant.
Gary Martin, 45, killed five people at Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora and wounded five officers before he was killed in a shootout with police. Three days later, the plant was opened to family members who lost loved ones in the mass shooting. Responding to a call from the Red Cross, IBDR sent a team of volunteer chaplains and childcare workers to help at family resource center set up to care for survivors.
Over three days, 10 IBDR volunteers from northern and southern Illinois served in Aurora. Part of the team went to Aurora to care for children while their parents filled out paperwork and talked to officials. But they didn’t see a single child during their three days at the resource center. Instead, grieving families and weary officers were drawn to the area where they had set up toys and rocking chairs.
“I just needed to get away for a few minutes,” Jan Kragness heard from agents responding to the shooting. “Is it OK?”
The volunteers offered them a chair, a listening ear, and in many cases, the resources they brought for kids. Even though they didn’t work with children in Aurora, the books they brought to help kids deal with grief were taken by law enforcement agents who wanted them for their own families.
Over and over again, the volunteers heard they were a “calming influence,” said Kragness, a Disaster Relief chaplain from Williamson Association. Their childcare room “seemed like a safe place to be.”
This month, Disaster Relief will offer “Assisting Individuals in Crisis,” a course designed to help chaplains and pastors provide effective spiritual and psychological care to survivors in times of loss, disaster, emergency, and trauma. The March 14-15 course is $50 per participant.
Three regional Disaster Relief training sessions are scheduled for 2019, plus two additional March sessions in Chicagoland. Go to IBSA.org/DR for more information and to register.
Photo: Disaster Relief childcare volunteers travel with resources for kids, including toys like the stuffed bear designed to offer comfort amid crisis.