What happens to New York City rescue workers beyond the hugs, candles and casseroles? Like in any traumatic situation, loved ones, friends and even strangers providing emotional support eventually must return their attention to their own lives, and the affected folks are left to face their changed lives alone.

We don’t want our uniformed workers to ever feel alone again. Sympathetic gestures are always appreciated and well received, but it is the distinction between sympathy and empathy that is at the root of the philosophy for our cause. It is our vision to create a place where uniformed workers can go at any time to be around others who understand the situations their job lands them in.

The Emergency Services Respite Center is a healing center that would seek to employ uniformed personnel that have served in the NYPD, the NYFD, Port Authority of New York/New Jersey, or New York Critical Response/ New York State Emergency personnel. The San Angelo center will serve fire, EMS, law enforcement and all Department of Defense personnel. It would be a place of compassion, counseling and camaraderie and offer much of what is not available in other counseling environments. It would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week in a location that is private and where it’s safe and easy to ask for help. Counseling will be available at no charge to all uniformed personnel – regardless of service.

The center would be a focal point for EMTs and others, especially those with children. Parents could leave their children with a professional caretaker and sit down with a counselor or chaplain, or just lounge with others and watch a movie with some hot chocolate from a coffee bar. It would offer needed downtime for their minds and a chance for them to unwind in a safe setting with people who understand their feelings.

The center will also have a very special component, the full time and active involvement of clergy. Taking notice of the successful work performed at Ground Zero by so many priests, ministers, rabbis and imams makes it impossible to establish any program or organization focused on rehabilitative mental care without the inclusion of faith. Through the power of faith and the sympathetic ear of our fellow members of service the center will be equipped with many tools to help comfort and strengthen the health of New York’s uniformed personnel.