Restoring and encouraging those who serve is the goal of the local nonprofit Crossroads Mission Care.
The organization, which was created by Dixon Springs residents Patti and Gil Carter, aims reach out to first responders throughout Middle Tennessee with self-care workshops, defusing and debriefing sessions after traumatic events, respite and restorative hospitality, and individual or group coaching.
“We serve first responders of all types and all stripes,” said Patti Carter. “We have the civil first responders like police, firefighters, and EMS (emergency medical services). We have spiritual first responders like pastors and missionaries, and we have military. But the common theme (between all types of first responders) is their ability to run into problem or crisis situations with a willingness to help when everyone else is running in the other direction. On the surface, it seems like an unrelated group of people, but they all have that same ability to serve.”
With a background in counseling, Patti and her husband Gil, a former school teacher, use their 45-acre property in Dixon Springs as a place for those in service to others to come and rejuvenate.
“We do what we call restorative hospitality,” said Gil Carter. “They (the first responders) come out to the farm, where there are hiking trails and campsites and things like that. They may come out and just sit on the front porch (and talk). Patti’s superpower is that hurting people talk to her. Part of the healing is being able to verbalize some things that they’ve been carrying around inside for 10, 20 or 30 years.”
Patti Carter added, “They come for the day. They can choose if they want interaction, or if they just want to rest. If they just want a place to be, then, we will give them food and water, and they can go be by themselves for a little while. If they need to interact, then we can sit on the front porch and talk through what is going on and debrief.”
Crossroads Mission Care provides coaching to first responders in order to help them get back to a healthy place with a plan to move forward.
“As a coach versus a therapist, we want to see where they are and make a plan going forward,” Patti Carter said. “How do you get back to a healthy place? If there are things that need to go back and be dealt with, that’s when we say, ‘Let me refer you to somebody. Can I give you the name of somebody who can help you with that?’
“We started doing this as peer-support when we were on the mission field. We saw the need for it. We decided that we liked being a safe place that people could come to outside the chain-of-command, outside the reporting structure. That’s one of the big differences between coaching and counseling.”
In addition to restorative care, Crossroads Mission Care has an encouragement program that provides gift baskets to first-responder stations in multiple counties throughout Middle Tennessee.
“About four times a year, we do encouragement baskets that are donated items from the community,” Gil Carter said. “We go to about 56 different stations to drop those off and say, ‘All the people who donated these items appreciate what you do.’ ”
Patti Carter added, “We work with the fire department in Lafayette, the police department, the sheriff’s department, the EMS. In addition to the encouragement baskets, one of the things we’ve done for the EMS is check in with the heads of the department, because they are the ones who really don’t have anyone to talk to. When you’re at the top — just like the adage, it’s lonely at the top — it applies to them.”
At the top of his profession, Gordonsville Fire Chief Daniel LaFevor, from Smith County, has taken advantage of what Crossroads Mission Care has to offer to both him and his crew.
“On the mental-health side, a couple of my firemen were having problems,” said Gordonsville Fire Chief Daniel LaFevor. “We have a chaplain in Smith County, but I wanted someone who is not affiliated with anyone else in the county to come talk to those people. So, (Patti) came and just talked. It helped us tremendously. One of my firemen said, ‘I told her things that I hadn’t told anybody in 35 years.’ It was a tremendous help to us.”
The work of Crossroads Mission Care also extends beyond the United States borders to several spiritual first responders overseas.
“I met the Carters back in 2017,” said Lauren Clark, a missionary to Kathmandu. “Early in 2019, we were blindsided by COVID and had to return to the (United) States for a year. In that year, we reached back out to (Crossroads Mission Care).
“I reached out to (Patti) in a time of struggle. Just being a young mom and wife in a foreign country, I needed some support and encouragement. Patti and Gil have always supported us, and I know they always will. We are very grateful to have met them along the way. If we end up in the States again, we’d love to work alongside them at Crossroads and serve others the way the Lord has called the Carters to serve us.”
Continuing the outreach of Crossroads Mission Care takes financial support, which is solely raised by the Carters though speaking engagements at churches and civic organizations and by events such as the First Responder Alpha Games.
“All proceeds (from the Alpha Games) go straight back into the non-profit (Crossroads Mission Care),” said Patti Carter. “But approximately 95% of our funding is raised outside the service area providing for services here in Middle Tennessee.”
The First Responder Alpha Games provides an opportunity for friendly competition between different first-responder divisions as they compete in various sporting events.
“The goal of the Alpha Games is to allow the first responders to have an event where they can blow off steam and build their community,” said Patti Carter. “(For example), the fire that happened down the street had Macon County’s fire truck along with Hartsville’s fire truck respond. So, those communities work together. It builds camaraderie and trust, and therefore, safety and better functioning on sites during crisis, because they know each other and have worked together and played together. It allows the community to see a little of what the first responders do.”
The First Responder Alpha Games will be Sept. 17 at Trey Park in Hartsville. Law enforcement, firefighters, and EMS from several Middle Tennessee counties will be competing against each other to see which county or department prevails. The children of first responders will also have the opportunity to compete in events for prizes. The hope of the Carters is that it will become Hartsville’s annual, signature event.
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