Loading
Search
NEWS STORIES

Merrill fire department recruits first chaplain in 130-year history to bolster mental health effortsSubmitted: 08/21/2019
Stephen Goin
Stephen Goin
Reporter/Anchor
sgoin@wjfw.com

Merrill fire department recruits first chaplain in 130-year history to bolster mental health efforts
MERRILL - The newest member of a fire department in Lincoln County trained for years to help the community but his experience doesn't include fighting fires.

Instead, David Szeto's years as a pastor qualified him for the newly created role of chaplain with the Merrill Fire Department.

"To have that privilege and the blessing to do that is just nerve wracking but on the other hand I'm very honored that they selected me to be the very first one," said Szeto.

In June, Szeto was chosen by Merrill's firefighters to serve as the departments first ever chaplain in 130 years.

"Spiritual care, emotional care, the wellbeing of the person as a whole is very important," said Szeto.

Since joining the department on a volunteer basis, Szeto visits the fire station at least once a week to meet the people he said he's been called to advise spiritually.

"That's why Pastor Szeto [is] coming into the fire station on a routine basis interacting with the guys; he's building that trust," said Fire Chief Josh Klug.

Szeto currently serves as the pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Merrill but his volunteer work with the fire deparment will focus on emotional counseling rather than religion.

"If you don't want any prayers or spiritual aspect at that time, I'm still there," said Szeto. "I'll hold your hand, I will just comfort you, because that's all some people need."

Szeto's hiring is a part of the fire department's mission to champion mental health.

"It's really about creating a web of protection for our members," said Klug.

That web also includes the department's employee assistance programs which connects firefighters with counselors from Aspirus in Wausau following traumatic events.

"Whatever the member needs to have the mental wellbeing to do their job well that's what we're trying to provide for them," said Klug.

Szeto will also be called to provide counseling in disaster situations to help impacted community members. He may even complete some firefighter training to understand what those first responders go through on a daily basis.

"He is a resource not only for our members, but also potentially out in the community too," said Klug.

People in Lincoln County will get the opportunity to meet more members of the fire department at Merrill's Community Night Out on August 27th. 


Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
| Print Story | Email Story
Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com





 IN OTHER NEWS

PRICE COUNTY - We'll never know exactly why a plane broke up in the sky over Price County, killing six people.

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its final report on the accident over Catawba in July of 2017.

+ Read More

Play Video

WAUSAU - Wisconsin produces 90 to 95 percent of all the ginseng in the whole country. 

Ninety-five percent of that crop is grown in Marathon County, according to the Wisconsin DATCP.

+ Read More

ELCHO - Devastating storms hit the Elcho community back in July. Many trees are still down across the region and some people worry the cleanup process isn't going fast enough.

Life may be returning to normal for some people. Others wonder if the forest debris will ever be hauled away.

"The area was out of electricity for six days," said 38-year seasonal resident Ben Merry. "All my friends and family members and so forth that are up there told me, um, they recommended me that I not come up."

The damage left by severe thunderstorms that hit on July 19 shocked residents like Ben Merry and his wife.



+ Read More

RHINELANDER - Scammers hope to get their hands on your money and they'll try to reach you any way possible.

People from all backgrounds can fall victim to scams.

Scammers go where they can reach people, which means they spend a lot of time on social media. This puts people at risk of leaking their private information.

Many scams used to only attack the elderly and take away their golden years, but that is changing.

One law enforcement official says everyone is being attacked.


+ Read More

Play Video

CRANDON - The Ojibwe people want to share their culture with the people of Wisconsin.

+ Read More

Play Video

ONEIDA COUNTY - Following a summer filled with gun violence including deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin are taking steps to end the epidemic.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - People in the Northwoods often travel a long way to get specialized healthcare not offered locally.

With the turn of a shovel Friday, Rhinelander's Aspirus Clinic moved one step closer solving that issue. A ground breaking ceremony cleared the way for a 21,000 square foot expansion.

The current facility opened in 2008 and employs 73 people within a 28,000 square foot building.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: