After working with the North River Fire Department in Manatee County as a Chaplain and volunteering with the American Red Cross for more than two decades, Chaplain Kelvin Foster knew helping people in need would be challenging.
What he and many other Americans didn’t expect, was the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we all work to get through this together, the American Red Cross has launched a Virtual Family Assistance Center with one primary goal: to provide virtual care for families grieving the loss of a loved one to the pandemic. When Foster was asked to serve as a Chaplain for the program, he thought these sessions could be inestimable.
“I knew people were in need after a disaster and just wanted to help,” said Foster. “It is part of my calling as a Chaplain.”
A virtual team made up of mental health professionals, spiritual care and health services volunteers can provide emotional support, counseling and education on COVID-related stress or mental health issues due to the loss of a loved one. Taking calls from all over the country, Foster also paying close attention to addressing the needs for at-risk groups, the elderly and especially communities of color during the pandemic. He knows all too well about the pain and hurt, losing five family members to COVID-19.
“My experience with the loss as a result of this pandemic informs me to be curious as to what they might be feeling,” explained Foster. “It informs the questions that I ask, so when I ask those questions, they can give me some idea of how I can be of help.”
Callers can also be connected to faith-based providers and resources if they choose.The caller can also expect assistance with basic medical questions and referral to community resources. Foster does recognize that dealing with grief and trauma on a telephone call is not the same as face-to-face interaction, but said the same skills can be applied.
“The ability to listen intently and purposefully, being able to acknowledge to that person that they were heard helps them to process what they’re going through.”
All Family Assistance Center support will be provided virtually and is completely confidential and free.
People who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 are encouraged to visit redcross.org/VFAC to access a support hub with special virtual programs, information, referrals and services to support families in need. The hub will also connect people to community resources provided by partners in their area. People can also connect with the Red Cross immediately by calling toll-free 833-492-0094 for help.