Responder Life Rest Stops Offer Care and Support to Police and First Responders

on Thursday, October 08, 2015 Posted in Stories, Happenings, Street & Gang Violence

A first responder's life ended tragically last month, a casualty of the intense psychological demands of the job. Suffering guilt from his failure to save the victims of a raging fire, the man took his own life by sealing himself in a room and turning on the gas. Lost in the media hype of anecdotal unjust shootings are the stories of darkness and anguish that first responders face every day.

Responder image 1More than 20,000 first responders work in the tri-county Portland area: police, fire fighters, emergency medical and corrections personnel. They go into places and communities where most of us fear to tread. They respond to tragic accidents and fires. Every day they deal with issues of mental illness, misfortune, abuse, or unspeakable crimes.

Responder Life is a non-profit organization birthed in Christ's compassion for first responders. For eight years volunteers and staff of Responder Life have been motivated to serve first responders in Portland with the goal of seeing them thrive in their career and personal lives.

Rest Stops are one of the services offered by Responder Life through its partnership with 15 churches in the Portland metro area. Rest Stops are specially-equipped rooms that provide first responders (primarily police) with a safe space to file reports, do research, make calls, and generally de-compress from their street activities.

As of this September, 20 Rest Stops are currently operating in churches throughout the Portland area, three of which were added this summer. Five new Rest Stops are coming on line before the end of the year. With all the recent events and attitudes towards police, including the media fed distrust, Portland area officers truly prize the support and encouragement they receive through the Rest Stops program.

The service was publicly recognized in 2014 by the Portland Police Department (PPD) when Responder Life's Steve Chadwick received PPD's Distinguished Service Medal for his work developing the service. One Portland police officer wrote the following.

"I just wanted to tell you how much your continued kindness and support means to me and my fellow officers. Sometimes just saying 'Thank You' on a business card just doesn't seem to reflect the gratitude I feel. Over the years of doing this job, the constant barrage of negativity has taken its toll on my compassion and empathy. Your support helps restore me. Thank you again!" Responder image 2

Rest Stops help to bridge first responders relationally with the communities they serve. Since both churches and first responders are co-participants in the "war against darkness," they will have opportunities to share information with and support one another. In 2014, one Rest Stop church was able to moderate response to an officer-involved shooting in North Portland.

"This is a good service to a group whose needs are usually overlooked," says Trey Doty, executive director of Responder Life. Plans are underway to double the number of Rest Stop locations in the Portland area. The service depends largely upon the vision and volunteer support of local churches. Church hosts generally have ideas about how they want to serve first responders, from prayer, to occasional celebrations, to connecting with them relationally and serving them and their families.

Rest Stops have also become a critical link between School Resource Officers (who reach out to needy families during difficult times) and area churches. Every year Portland School Resource Officers have held a fundraiser in a rented space. This fundraiser is now held at a local church free of charge, and much of the event support is handled by church volunteers.

If you want to be part of setting up a Responder Life Rest Stop at your church or at your business, you can contact Steve in the Portland area directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .