Thanksgiving is a time to express gratitude for the blessings in our lives, but a local nonprofit organization doesn't wait until November to say thank you. They do it 365 days a year, and their gratitude is targeted toward the first responders in our community — the police officers, firefighters, and other emergency personnel who show up for us in crisis situations.
First Responders 1st (FR1) provides emotional and spiritual support for those on the front lines protecting our community, with the mission of strengthening their personal well-being for work and for life. Founder and executive director Lonnie Clouse had been a chaplain (a nondenominational spiritual representative attached to a secular institution) for the NASCAR community for 17 years when his position was eliminated due to significant downsizing. He spent two years serving as a volunteer chaplain with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department where he found a passion for helping first responders. That passion turned into First Responders 1st, a nonprofit serving multiple departments including Concord Police, Gastonia Fire Department, and CMPD.
Helping the Helpers
FR1 supports first responders by doing everything from attending swearing-in ceremonies to individual counseling with chaplains trained in emotional trauma. They work with bereaved family members, deliver meals, and even do yard work for police officers.
The stark reality is that many first responders witness the worst day of people's lives. They respond to scenes of emotional trauma, and they may not have opportunities to decompress and debrief after these incidents, which can quickly take a toll. In fact, more police officers and firefighters die by suicide each year than in the line of duty, and their rates of PTSD and depression are five times as high as the general public. FR1 gives first responders a safe, confidential way to process the toughest parts of their jobs so they can continue to give their best to their families and communities.
“In a stressful and challenging year FR1 has provided a safe haven for me," says one first responder served by FR1. "The ability to be able to vent and communicate with them has been very encouraging and helpful." Another first responder shared that the confidentiality of FR1 services is one of the biggest factors that allows them to open up.
“It is encouraging to see first responders be more open to emotional health services. This is vital in the overall health and longevity of our responders,” says Lonnie Clouse, who has been deployed as a chaplain for first responders in many crises, including the shooting at Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018.
Make a Difference on #GivingTuesdayCLT
You don't have to be a trained chaplain to help FR1 make a difference in the lives of our local first responders. With just a few clicks, you can provide supplies through the FR1 Give Shop Wish List. These items help FR1 show first responders that they are supported and cared for, as they go out to support our community. Every gift you purchase helps FR1 devote more resources to its counseling and support services.
#GivingTuesdayCLT is coming up on December 1. Let's make this a day to remember for the first responders of our community. To donate or learn more, visit FirstResponders1st.org.DO GOOD Right Now
You can support FR1’s work right now in just a few clicks when you vote for this organization to win November’s #SpotlightOnCLT $5K courtesy of the Amy and Brian France Foundation- VOTE NOW!