Supporters of the Braveheart Chaplain Ministry are worried that Flathead County could lose its chaplain services if they do not raise $10,000 in the next few months.
Braveheart Chaplain Drew Buckner has worked with the Kalispell Fire Department, Kalispell Police Department, Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, and the ALERT Air Ambulance for a decade. For the past seven years, the nonprofit Braveheart Chaplain Ministry has helped raise money for Buckner’s salary as well as other administrative costs and programs.
In recent months, the nonprofit has been running short on funds, and in some cases Buckner has not been able to take a full paycheck home.
“We can’t just ask Drew to do all of this for free,” said Braveheart Chaplain Ministry board chairman Russ Kinzer. “We’re just not getting the donations we need right now, and if we don’t raise some money soon, we might lose the program.” In Montana, most fire and police departments in large communities have full-time chaplains. Until a decade ago, most Flathead chaplains were part-time and only worked a few times a month.
In 2005, two firefighters approached local ministers about starting a more permanent program. Among the candidates they pitched was Buckner, who had moved to the Kalispell area in 2001. Buckner said he had never considered becoming a chaplain but he was drawn to the challenges of the job. He and a handful of other volunteers began working with the Kalispell Fire Department soon after.
Buckner helps first responders deal with trauma they may have experienced and can frequently be found at the scene of crashes and other incidents helping victims.
Buckner has said that while first responders tend to physical wounds, he tries to perform emotional triage, treating victims whose wounds are more than skin deep. While most people think a chaplain only provides religious services, Buckner said it goes much further than that.
Buckner said he wants to continue to provide chaplain services in the Kalispell area but that he has living expenses just like anyone else.
“I honestly believe the services we provide are really important to the community,” he said. “But it’s putting a financial stress on my family.”
Braveheart’s board of directors hopes to eventually raise enough money to not only continue employing Buckner but also build an endowment to keep the services stable for years to come and possibly even expand them.
To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/saving-braveheart.
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