New foundation aims to equip police chaplains to better help officers

As John Bundick spoke about his new foundation’s upcoming fundraiser, emergency sirens could be heard all around him.

As a volunteer police chaplain, he’s used to such. Heck, even as a youngster, he was accustomed to those alerts. He grew up with much of his childhood unfolding with his volunteer firefighter dad Fred in the German Township Volunteer Fire Department firehouse in Taylorsville.

“First responders are a very particular community,” Bundick said. “It’s a thing that always has clicked with me.”

The younger Bundick early this year launched a new venture: the local, nonprofit Foundation for Law Enforcement Chaplaincy, established to fund chaplaincy and direct services to support area law enforcement and other first-responder agencies.

The organization is hosting its first fundraiser, an informal coffee-and-dessert event from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 21 at Hotel Indigo, 400 Brown St. in downtown Columbus, with a limit of 150 people. The idea is simple.

“You’ll be able to come and donate if you so choose, but if nothing else, find out more about our important work here in Bartholomew County, and see if this issue makes your heart sing,” he said.

Organizers still are seeking corporate sponsorships for the gathering.

Bundick mentioned that the goal for the first-year budget is nearly $30,000. Part of the budget ideally will go to bring in visiting speakers and experts to come here and share ways, for example, to cope with first-responder stresses. Those messages would serve as an aide for chaplains, officers and their families, according to Bundick.

So far, the organization has raised slightly more than $1,000, according to its Facebook page at Foundation For Law Enforcement Chaplaincy.

Bundick recently returned from a chaplaincy workshop that included sobering statistics: 45% of officers younger than 45 (and normally quite healthy) have had heart attacks compared to 7% of the general population, and have a life expectancy of 57, compared to a general population life expectancy of 79.

Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman, mentioned that support for the work of police chaplains is vital to in turn support police officers in myriad ways.

“Too often in the past, the mental health and well-being of officers has been overlooked and not talked about,” Harris said. “Unfortunately, I know that we have seen much the same thing with our military personnel.

“When I began my police career in the mid-1990s, mental health was something you didn’t talk about. You were sort of just expected to handle it yourself.”

Bundick is one of three volunteer chaplains for the local city police department (the others are Pastor Al White and Christian counselor Nita Evans). This is his fifth year in that role.

Sally Pankratz, the foundation’s vice president, got involved for a basic and heartfelt reason.

“I feel really passionately about it, and some of that began with some of the worrisome happenings around our country involving police shootings and racial tension,” Pankratz said. “So, for me, this is a perfect way to be able to channel some of my concerns and actually try to help the situation instead of simply complaining.

“I believe that is possible to be a passionate supporter of first responders dealing with stress in their lives, and I also believe at the same time it is possible to also be a supporter of people who believe that they have been treated unfairly.

“Somewhere in the middle of that, we as concerned citizens need to figure out how to effectively help both of them.”

She added that the foundation is an ideal opportunity “to help officers with stress, anxiety, and things that we as everyday people we just can’t imagine.” She said that probably would include trauma at horrific accident scenes.

“Mental health support for police officers is paramount,” she said.

About the event

What: Coffee and dessert fundraiser for the new Foundation for Law Enforcement Chaplaincy, where donations will be accepted.

When: 6 to 9 p.m Oct. 21.

Where: Hotel Indigo, 400 Brown St. in downtown Columbus.

Tickets: $10, available on the Facebook page for Foundation for Law Enforcement Chaplaincy