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First Responders 1st
(FR1) was started in January of 2018 by Lonnie Clouse. Lonnie previously served for 17 years as a chaplain to the NASCAR community with Motor Racing Outreach. He also served with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department as a volunteer chaplain, and he loved being involved in the lives of these officers.
It was after Clouse stumbled upon a book by Craig Groeschel entitled “Chazown” that he became inspired to start a nonprofit in support of the First Responders. Groeschel encourages his readers to do something for a living that they have a passion for and would do for free, and that's just what Clouse did.
As the 2017 season came to a close, MRO announced a significant downsizing due to lack of funding, causing his chaplaincy role to be eliminated. Shocked and discouraged, Lonnie began to question his purpose and calling in ministry.
After much soul searching, Lonnie realized that he needed to start his own nonprofit for First Responders to provide emotional support for those who are on the front lines serving and protecting our communities. The mission "is to provide a ministry of emotional and spiritual support to First Responders, strengthening their personal well-being for work and life."
Clouse then reached out to his local Chief of Police (Gary Gacek) from the Concord, NC Police Department to get things moving. He knew that CPD has nearly 200 officers and they needed a resurgence in their chaplaincy program. The Chief sent out a survey to 100 officers, and 97 of them welcomed a consistent chaplaincy presence within the department. From there, other opportunities presented themselves within the First Responder community in the greater Concord area.
"In 1999 I was living in the Northern Virginia area and had been a counselor (chaplain) in various settings including a youth home for troubled teenagers that was founded by Coach Joe Gibbs," Clouse told us of how he got started. "It is called Youth for Tomorrow. When I heard MRO was looking to hire a chaplain, I applied and Coach Gibbs wrote a letter of reference and the rest is history. Coach Gibbs has had a huge impact on my life and I respect him for his unwavering faith and for his heart to help others."
He felt inspired by Coach Gibbs and how he lived his life, setting aside his job to help others when he could. That is his ultimate hope for First Responders 1st, "I want to live a life of purpose not just profit."
Since Clouse's nonprofit is relatively new, he's looking for ways to spread the word. He hopes to find local businesses and churches that are willing to help support FR1 so that they can provide the emotional and spiritual support that are first responders need. (Read the attached PDF to learn more.)
There have already been several local businesses that have jumped on board and are helping support such as, Charlotte Motor Speedway
, JTG Racing, and Metrolina Greenhouses.
"I also like to go out into local churches, community events and business functions to share my heart for supporting our First Responders," Clouse said.
Slogan- Serving those who serve and protect our communities
Mission- To provide a ministry of emotional and spiritual support to First Responders strengthening their personal well-being for work and life.
- To come along side of our First Responders in routine and in crisis response, in a way that enables them to continue giving the best of themselves to their coworkers, the community and their family.
"I long to see the day when our First Responders have access to the resources to help them live a holistic health lifestyle," Clouse told us. "It is heart-wrenching how often I hear about suicides and men and women whose lives are in shambles when they retire. I would love to provide confidential 3rd party counseling at no cost to our FR’s."
Clouse informed us that many do not want to go to their superior's or HR Department when they are struggling because they do not want it to be a black mark in their files. It's something he desperately would like to see changed.
As a result, FR1 is open to ideas, feedback and suggestions. "We want to provide the most comprehensive care that we can for our FR’s and we welcome feedback of any kind- negative or positive," said Clouse
This non profit is all about genuinely caring for those who serve and protect the local community.
A local school recently partnered with FR1 to host a snack drive for their police department. They ended up collecting 6,000 snacks." We were able to help facilitate delivery of those snacks and the officers were thrilled," Clouse stated. "A captain said that he had been with the department for 26 years and this was the first time that anything of this caliber had ever been done for his department."
FR1 would like to know of any local schools, churched or civic groups would like to help facilitate a drive for the police, fire, EMT or dispatch personnel. It's often that the community takes these people for granted and it's important to know that the community is in full support.
They will also be hosting an upcoming trivia night fundraiser for FR1 this Fall, so stay tuned.
"I recently participated in a charity bicycle ride with several other local law enforcement agencies including Kannapolis PD," Clouse told us. "We rode from here to Washington DC to help raise money for the fallen officers family fund. It was an honor to pedal alongside of our local FR’s to honor and remember those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice. We rode 500 miles in 4 days and the event culminated in DC with a candle light vigil in Washington DC for fallen officers where 30,000 officers from around the country attended."