Area chaplains offered a barbecue to the men and women of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station on Wednesday for all they do to protect and serve the community.
The Chaplains Program of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, not to be confused with jail chaplains who ensure that inmates have access to ministers and religious advisors, are a group of men and women who volunteer their time to provide for the spiritual and personal needs of Sheriff’s Department personnel and their families. Wednesday’s barbecue was a gesture of appreciation to those the chaplains assist at the station.
“It’s just our way of spreading our thanks,” said Eric Morgenstern, executive chaplain for the Sheriff’s Department. “Thank you for serving the county, thank you for serving the department, thank you for working so hard, thank you for putting your blood, sweat and tears into it.”
The chaplains program, according to Morgenstern, addresses the needs of department members during individual times of family crisis, geared to give spiritual uplift, instill hope and give deputies and staff the opportunity to talk freely about work issues and life issues.
“We’re trying to help them reduce stress in their life and get to know them, and let them know that there’s support out there for them when they’re going through life-and-death situations every day,” Morgenstern said.
He added that what the Sheriff’s Department sees and deals with on a daily basis must surely take a toll on deputies and staff, and so, in addition to providing volunteer services, the barbecue — and an ice cream truck, too — just seemed like a good idea.
Capt. Justin Diez of the SCV Sheriff’s Station said the barbecue was greatly appreciated and a definite way to keep morale up.
“Food makes people happy,” he said with a smile. “It’s the universal language of love, period.”
Diez said he often likes to do barbecues at the station as a way for those there to relax, unwind and maybe even goof off for a little bit.
“Chaplain Morgenstern knows that, and he just wanted to do one,” the captain said. “So, he was able to get chaplains from around the county to help out.”
Diez also expressed the importance of the department’s chaplains, saying that their service is invaluable. Mental health, he said, is a big issue in the community, and the station offers a four-part program to address mental health issues. Those four parts, he said, include a peer support group, a doctor from the psychological services bureau, a peer support canine named Ginger, and the volunteer chaplains program. He added that the station is the only entity in the county Sheriff’s Department with a support dog.
Ginger, who was at the barbecue with Morgenstern, was not enjoying a burger and ice cream, but was there to say hello and provide support services if needed. That’s not to say, though, that Ginger didn’t want a plate.