Oftentimes when an ordinary person has an experience that involves police, firefighters, or other first responders, the situation is serious, if not grave. For many, it becomes one of the very worst days of their lives.
Now imagine being in that situation virtually every day. That's what first responders have to deal with, just by the nature of their jobs. And that's why George Beech was moved to do something to help those who so often help us.
In 2020, at the height of the unrest following George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police, Beech reached out to the chief of police in Rochester, Minnesota to see what he could do to support them and other first responders during that turbulent time. The chief told Beech, who was serving as a pastor at a local church at the time, that his department needed a chaplain service to help officers navigate the mental, emotional, and spiritual difficulties of the job.
Beech immediately got to work, researching the best chaplaincy organizations across the country. He developed a model for such a chaplaincy for Rochester police. The only issue was that Beech didn't have time to start and operate that chaplaincy while also working as a pastor.
"The chief told me, 'Then don't try to do both,'" Beech recalled, "so I stopped working full-time at the church to start up this nonprofit."
Beech founded Salt & Light Partners, a chaplaincy to support those police officers through the trauma they experience every day on the job. He recruited chaplains and a diverse board of directors with local leaders from the business, legal, public service, nonprofit, and faith communities.
What started as a chaplaincy service with a staff of one serving just Rochester police has grown tremendously in two years. Beech, who serves as executive director for Salt & Light Partners, now has 14 chaplains serving three public organizations and one in the private sector.
"We've built a business model that's scalable," Beech said, adding that Salt & Light Partners first expanded its service to the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office when the sheriff asked if the nonprofit could recreate what it does for Rochester police at the county level.
Salt & Light Partners provides the organizations and people it serves with support in real time.
"We're there for emotional and spiritual support counseling at the triage level," Beech said. "We take care of the basics because we're always available."
The model Beech has developed is predicated on response time. Chaplains are required to reside close enough to the organizations they are assigned to so as to be able to respond within 20 minutes during the day and within 30 minutes overnight.
"We're with them during the day, during the night, when they're at work, and whey they experience trauma, which they do on a nightly basis," Beech said. "They're experiencing trauma that civilians just don't understand, and they experience that every day.
"We're there for them immediately."
Although Salt & Light Partners is a faith-based organization, its services are secular. Its chaplains serve people of any and all religions and belief systems, and faith is not something they try to impart on the people they serve.
"Our faith is what unites us. It's our motivation for doing the work that we do," Beech said. "It's the reason that we do what we do, but it's not necessarily what we do.
"We're not pushing a religious agenda on anybody. We're there for every single person," he said, adding one of his favorite lighthearted quips: "We only serve people who are made in the image of God — that's everybody!"
Recently, Salt & Light Partners served a local Hindu family that was unable to find a Hindu counselor with immediate availability.
"We show up on somebody's worst day," Beech said. "Sometimes it's a police officer or firefighters, and sometimes it's a citizen who just got the worst news of their life. Regardless, we support them through that in the immediate and then the next day and then a week later and then as needed after that. If they need more in-depth counseling, we refer them to a licensed therapist."
Salt & Light Partners is continuing to expand. Beech has been contacted by several organizations throughout the greater Southeast Minnesota area. The nonprofit plans to keep replicating its model elsewhere, even, potentially, throughout the Midwest and nationally.
"We're just making things happen right now," Beech said. "We're making sure that our officers, firefighters, and deputies are resilient, that their families are plugged-in and mutually supportive, and that the citizens they serve on a daily basis are cared for with compassion."
You can help Salt & Light Partners in its mission to support emergency workers, first responders, and those experiencing trauma through chaplaincy services. The organization is one of Spave's preferred nonprofit partners, and we're honored to support it.
You can contribute to Salt & Light Partners through the Spave app. Set up automatic, recurring donations to the nonprofit, or make a one-time contribution. Your charity will help Salt & Light Partners as it grows and expands its impact.