Franklin County Chaplains step in to help first responders and families in need

How public safety volunteers step up to offer an ear, or a shoulder to cry on, when families need it the most

ROCKY MOUNT, Va. – Despite staff shortages, this Franklin County group plays a pivotal role after the call to 911 and before the Red Cross arrives.

For the past 10 years, Franklin County Public Safety Chaplains volunteers have stepped up to offer an ear or a shoulder to cry on when families need it the most.

Back in May, Bailey Paxton and Ethan White called for help when they noticed their one-month-old daughter was struggling to breathe.

“I mean I was freaking out,” Paxton said. “It was very scary.”

That day they lost Paisley Lee-Anne White due to a heart defect.

“I was anxious, and all these random people were showing up,” Paxton said. “And then he shows up and he’s being friendly and I’m like I don’t know you.”

That’s when Paxton met JT Clark.

Clark even paid a hotel for the parents for a couple of nights, out of his own pocket. Clark is a member of the Franklin County Public Safety Chaplains, a group of volunteers who step in to assist families when they need it the most.

“It’s the worst moment in their life,” Clark said. “It’s really a privilege to have an opportunity to step in their situation and just love on them and just to be there for them.”

The group receives around 14 to 18 calls a month.

As staff shortages linger, Darrell Wilmer, the lead chaplain, organized the group to help fill the gap that first responders can’t always handle.

“And that actually causes a little more toll on people and a little more pressure when they are pulling on a lot more work than normal,” Wilmer said.

Paxton said to have the chaplains console her at the moment was one blessing, but the ability to reach out to Terri Lee Clark after the tragedy saved her even more.

“I’ll call Terri and I’ll text her and I’m just kind of like I need your help right now,” Paxton said.

Terri Lee Clark has worked with the organization for more than three years and said sometimes distressed families just need someone to give them a bit of hope.

“Sometimes there aren’t words to be spoken,” Terri Clark said. “But it’s just being present. Just being in the moment with them.”

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Alexus joined 10 News in October 2020.