In the summer of 2015, 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.
Meanwhile, the SoWal Community Chaplain began to realize that she needed a way to involve more of the community in helping under-resourced individuals and families who were reaching out. After some research, she discovered Communities of Transformation, a poverty-alleviation program with substantial support from the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, but that was ecumenical and community-oriented at its core. It was relational and holistic, defining poverty as a lack of resources in any of five dimensions: spiritual, relational, physical, financial, or intellectual. In November of 2018, Christ the King Episcopal Church hosted a community meeting to explore the idea of bringing Communities of Transformation to South Walton, and start-up funds were quickly raised, as well community partners identified. Good News United Methodist Church agreed to be the host site for the weekly meetings, Community Church of Santa Rosa Beach agreed to provide office space for the site coordinator and SoWal Community Chaplain (two part-time positions combined in one person), and Caring and Sharing of South Walton agreed to provide the 501c3 umbrella, including financial oversight and a separate bank account for operating expenses. In March of 2019, Communities of Transformation launched its first Florida site in South Walton. Six women came for the first Awaken class, and twenty-four volunteers began training to be matched in small groups twelve weeks later with those Awaken graduates. Another class of 4 Awaken students and five volunteers graduated in December of 2019, and as of March 2020 twelve Awaken students participating in the third Awaken class, alongside ten new volunteers.
In December of 2019, a dream came true and the board of Caring and Sharing of South Walton approached the SoWal Community Chaplain to consider coming on board as the full-time Director of Outreach in January of 2020. This offer, which was accepted with joy, allows Emily to continue to oversee the Communities of Transformation program, as well as provide pastoral care and connection to other community and faith-based resources to those experiencing a time of crisis or transition, especially those clients coming to Caring and Sharing for food and assistance.
SoWal Community Chaplain, Inc. was officially dissolved in December 2019, and all its assets transferred to Caring and Sharing of South Walton, whose mission was consistent with that of the SoWal Community Chaplain. All the resources on this website will soon be transferred to the website of Caring and Sharing of South Walton.
For more information about Emily Proctor, click here, and for more information about what the SoWal Community Chaplain did before becoming the Director of Outreach at Caring and Sharing of South Walton, click here.