Nearly three years ago, Emily Proctor moved to this area with her husband, who was starting as a priest at Christ the King Episcopal Church.
She began to notice for the first time all the people who struggled to find support—from those who needed resources such as financial assistance to those who just needed a bit of emotional support during a crisis.
After a bit of research, she realized that finding resources in South Walton can be overwhelming. Many of the hubs for community resources stand about 45 minutes to an hour away, so if you’re not sure where to look or have difficulty finding transportation, having access to these can be difficult.
That’s when the idea of a community chaplain started to form in Emily’s mind.
She began to express her thoughts aloud, and a couple with ties to the area who managed a family foundation based in Texas encouraged her to make a formal proposal to them for funding. She did, and in October of 2016 the Joyful Blessings Foundation agreed to provide two-years of funding to help her start this community ministry program.
In January 2017, under the umbrella of Christ the King Episcopal Church, the SoWal Community Chaplain began helping her first client, and began meeting with local pastors and nonprofits in the community. At the recommendation of the South Walton Ministerial Association, she soon began a conversation with the board of Caring and Sharing of South Walton about the possibility of partnering in ministry.
Together, they began to discuss a partnership that would expand Caring and Sharing’s reach and impact in South Walton. In addition to providing food and limited financial assistance, with the help of the SoWal Community Chaplain, Caring and Sharing would be able to provide spiritual support to its clients, help connecting to other community resources, and perhaps one day a program to help families move out of poverty permanently through education and skill-building and developing long-term relationships across class.
These services could also be offered to the larger community, beyond those who come through the doors of Caring and Sharing on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Employers, pastors, tourists, and those new to the community could also call for help and support for themselves or others, and the Community Chaplain could work in the community to make information about faith-based and community resources more accessible.
By February 2018, the SoWal Community Chaplain received its 501(c)3 nonprofit status, and in April 2018, the Board of Caring and Sharing voted to make its work together official and to work together to fundraise for the ministry to continue through Caring and Sharing.
While the partnership with Caring and Sharing continues to develop, the SoWal Community Chaplain continues to provide pastoral care to individuals who don’t have a church home and are experiencing a time of crisis or transition and to field requests for information about community and faith-based resources from individuals, businesses, churches, and nonprofits.