After volunteering in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Patricia Geyer said she felt a calling to do something more with her life and to make a difference in the world.
The retired hair designer, makeup artist and corporate image consultant spent months trying to figure out what that calling was, until she found chaplaincy, which she has been doing ever since.
Geyer went through intensive training to become a chaplain, and now she is sharing her knowledge and teaching others the ins and outs of chaplaincy at an International Fellowship of Chaplains basic training course.
The basic training, which will take place in Westminster April 16-20, is open to anyone in the community who is interested in becoming a chaplain or anyone who wants to learn how to better deal with people and crises, Geyer said.
Geyer, a chaplain for the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, said oftentimes people are unaware of what a chaplain actually does in the community. People usually tend to think chaplains are pastors, reverends or other religious officials, but in reality they aren't always.
"We are individuals who believe in God and we have personal spiritual faith," she said. "But we are non-denominational in our role in the community and society."
Mindy Albright, another chaplain who will be teaching the basic training course with Geyer, said people also have a common misconception that chaplaincy only occurs in military or hospital-like venues.
"In actuality there isn't an area in life that true chaplaincy would not be applicable to," Albright said.
Chaplains can work in several different arenas, Albright said, including nursing homes, hospices, schools, law enforcement agencies, emergency services, rehabilitation centers, shelters and disaster relief.
Geyer and Albright said they have also seen an increasing number of chaplains working inside of corporations and the veterinary world.
Chaplaincy's venues are so diverse because a chaplain's main job is simply to assist people in their time of need, Geyer said.
As a chaplain with the Carroll County Sheriff's Office she said she deals with death notifications, suicides, funerals and more. However, her main job is to be there for the law enforcement members she works alongside, to provide psychological and spiritual support in whatever form each particular person needs.
"The stuff they are exposed to, and the visuals and intellectual information they receive because of the nature of what they do can be very damaging to them," Geyer said. "They use me as a crisis intervention specialist."
Geyer's husband Richard, a retired Army colonel, is also a chaplain. He works with veterans and assists them in getting the benefits they are entitled to, she said.
Geyer said people from all walks of life turn to chaplaincy for varied reasons. Some feel a calling like she did, and some just have an innate need to help others.
Geyer said she encourages anyone interested in chaplaincy to pursue further training through an institution like the International Fellowship of Chaplains.
"As a chaplain you are dealing with people in crises and you can cause great harm to someone if you don't know how to properly interact with them and treat them," she said.
The basic training Geyer and Albright teach through IFOC immerses students in critical incident stress management and critical incident stress debriefing. Participants will also learn how to properly assist someone who is experiencing grief and loss, depression, domestic violence, substance abuse, fear and panic disorders and other personal crises.
After basic training Geyer said she recommends students take more courses in a specialization, like law enforcement or emergency services.
The basic training class is $295 if participants sign up by March 16 or $325 after that date.
To register for the class visit http://www.ifoc.org.