Hilliard's first responders have chaplains' shoulders to lean on

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group
Corby LaCroix (left) and Brody Taphorn are the chaplains for the Hilliard Division of Police and the Norwich Township Fire Department, respectively. They are pictured Oct. 16 outside the Joint Safety Services Building in Hilliard.

It never gets easier, but Corby LaCroix and Brodie Taphorn know it is their calling to be with people in times of trouble.

LaCroix, 45, of Hilliard and Taphorn, 45, of Dublin are chaplains for the Hilliard Division of Police and the Norwich Township Fire Department, respectively. LaCroix is worship pastor at Northwest Bible Church in Hilliard, and Taphorn is campus pastor of the Upper Arlington Lutheran Church at Mill Run.

The men said since beginning their collaboration in August, they generally respond as needed to offer spiritual and emotional support and guidance for police officers and firefighters, but they also help community members, as well.

Such was the case Oct. 1 when Taphorn was called by Hilliard officers to respond with them for a death notification to a family. Neither chaplain works exclusively with each group of first responders, so either might respond to a call.

“To hear the shrieks of grief guts you,” said Taphorn, who joined the family’s pastor in consoling people as they gathered at the residence.

The volunteer chaplains are not compensated and are not based at the Joint Safety Services Building, but Hilliard police Chief Robert Fisher called the chaplaincy “a huge asset” and “another resource for our first responders and our community.”

“The trauma that police officers can experience sometimes compiles, and it is good to have (the chaplains) as part of our team,” Fisher said.

Norwich fire Chief Jeff Warren said he welcomes having the chaplains augment the peer support among first responders.

Brad Kochis, a former pastor at Lifepoint Church, had served as pastor for the Norwich Township Fire Department for about 10 years before leaving the community last year to join the staff of clergy at Mount Vernon Nazarene University.

Now LaCroix and Taphorn are the first members of the new public-safety chaplain program.

“We have an active peer-to-peer support team that was lacking a faith-based piece for about the last year,” Warren said.

Serving those who serve the public inspired LaCroix to join the program, he said.

Before moving to central Ohio in 2013 from his native Texas, LaCroix was a worship pastor at a church south of Dallas and also was involved in the ministries of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service.

While there, he experienced the public reaction to the local murder in February 2013 of Chris Kyle, who had authored a book, "American Sniper," about his experience as a U.S. Navy SEAL. Kyle’s life story was dramatized in a 2014 film directed by Clint Eastwood.

“That lit a fire in me,” said LaCroix, who attended Kyle’s funeral and later in 2013 reached out to Northwest Bible Church.

“I was looking for a change,” he said. "(My family) sought the move to Ohio because we sensed a bit of spiritual unrest where we were and knew we wanted to serve in a new place in order to better utilize our potential influence. It was a difficult choice, because after doing an online search and much prayer, the best fit (at Northwest Bible Church) was so far away, and we were leaving (other) family."

After he became worship pastor at Northwest Bible Church, LaCroix said, he reached out to several people at the Hilliard Division of Police, including Lt. Doug Lightfoot, about establishing a chaplaincy for the division, an effort that resulted in the current public-safety chaplain program.

“I have wanted to do this for years," LaCroix said. "I am excited to be a presence for our first responders and available for them in whatever way.

“First responders have our back, (and) I want to have theirs."

LaCroix and his wife, Cari, have three teenage children: two daughters and a son.

Taphorn said he learned about the new chaplaincy program from Carl Schweisthal, chaplain of the Upper Arlington Police Division, and Bob White, a former Hilliard police sergeant, both of whom are on the staff at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church on Lytham road. Joe Valentino, campus pastor at the Upper Arlington church, is the chaplain for the Upper Arlington Fire Division.

“I have always had a fondness for people in public service and our military,” said Taphorn, a U.S. Army Reserve veteran. “I am grateful for them and want to be a resource to help in their own time of need."

Taphorn and his wife, Andrea, have three teenage children: two daughters and a son.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo