A Rest Stop is a safe place for first responders to go to when they are on duty. It is a non-contact office, meaning they are not in the public’s eye and can stop for a moment to catch up on paperwork, eat lunch or refreshments. It provides first responders 24 hours a day, 7 days a week access to secure rooms, most often in a church building. Each rest stop is stocked with small, grab and go food items, water, wi-fi connectivity, a table to write reports, and a comfortable chair. More than water and snacks, it is an intentional effort to give care to those who protect our communities.
First responders are usually assigned to geographic districts where they patrol and work in order to be responsive to calls in an area. For most first responders, especially police officers, they frequently have to drive a distance to an office, fire station, or precinct to take a break or do paperwork. This can be both time-consuming and strategically inefficient, especially during major incidents.
Police officers in particular can be vulnerable sitting in a car late at night writing a report under the dome light. Giving first responders secure access to a rest stop ensures that they limit their exposure to those who might otherwise wish them harm.
Responding to everyone’s worst day involves human suffering that most of us will never experience. A rest stop, unlike a community space such as a coffee shop, is an environment for first responders to discuss a call without exposing the public to the horrific nature of the event. The rest stop also allows for privacy involving sensitive information that needs to be kept confidential.
For their own safety and that of the public, first responders remain on high alert, or hypervigilant, throughout a shift. They must be ready to confront emergent situations and threats to themselves or others. Rest Stops allow responders to step into a stable, secure environment that gives them a chance to regulate their own emotions and process difficult calls.
“After many years of working to care for the local first responders there was a very tangible difference between the response to our ministry before we had a Rest Stop and the response afterwards.”
– Pastor of a local church
We have first responders using Rest Stops during overnight shifts and many days during their work week. Many express thanks for the Rest Stops and ask for help in establishing more in other areas of town.
As the Church and a community, we may say we are thankful for the work that public servants do for us. When we demonstrate that gratefulness by giving first responders access to our building, a place to rest, and genuine hospitality, we show that there is a community that appreciates, supports, and cares for those who daily leave their own families to care for our families.
A Rest Stop is an avenue for meaningful connection. They are offered without anything expected in return. It is the trusted connection between first responders and the community that conveys heartfelt support for these men and women.
People call 911 and state their need. First responders come as soon as they can, to every call, no matter the conditions and without regard to their own needs…and they do this repeatedly, every shift, every day, and in many cases, every hour.Much research has looked at the unique challenges facing first responders. They confront stress and trauma so regularly that they become vulnerable to Post Traumatic Stress Injury. As a result of the daily workplace realities, their personal and professional lives can be severely impacted by the added stressors.
So, what difference does it make if we provide a safe, caring place for them to catch their breath and be re-equipped emotionally? We have seen this make a significant difference in the churches hosting Rest Stops and in the first responders themselves.
A local pastor whose church hosts a rest stop has seen this change first-hand. Initially, when this pastor would go on ride-alongs with police officers, they would introduce him and the church he served. The officers would be polite and greet him and a few would stop and talk to him as they exited for their shift. After this church opened a Rest Stop, he was announced as a pastor from a church who had just opened a Rest Stop. The room erupted in applause and officers stood at the door to shake his hand and thank him. It was as if his church had discovered how to speak the local first responders’ language, and now many opportunities have been opened as this new trust has been established.
Contact us today to find out more about how your church or organization can host a rest stop.
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