KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, a story on Twitter profiled the chaplain for the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs organization is one of many local companies that have chaplains for their employees to turn to for help. One of them is family-owned Furniture Mall.
Owners and brothers, Jeff and Jamie Winter, shared with FOX4’s Loren Halifax why they find it’s worth the investment.
When you visit any Furniture Mall store in the Kansas City area, you might run into Daniel Smith. He’s friendly, cheerful and upbeat, but he doesn’t sell furniture. He’s the corporate chaplain.
Jeff and Jamie Winter grew up helping their father with his restored furniture business, next to his service station in Emporia, Kansas.
After careers in engineering, they returned to grow the family business. But now with three locations in the Kansas City metro and one in Texas, they employ about 230 workers.
When the business was smaller, they could check in with individual employees themselves, but they’ve grown past that now. They wanted a better support system for employees when they faced personal difficulties.
They heard about corporate chaplains from a friend in the furniture business who recommended Corporate Chaplains of America, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, that contracts with businesses to provide chaplains.
They hired a part-time chaplain for their employees first, and saw great results, but wanted it to go further. They hired Daniel Smith full-time a few months before the pandemic hit in 2020.
“I worked in churches, I teach, but never thought I would do this,” Daniel said.
Each week he tries to check in with as many employees as he can.
“My job is to try to come alongside our employees and do everything I can to remove obstacles from them having a life that’ successful,” he said.
His does typical chaplain duties, like performing weddings, performing or attending funerals, providing counseling, visiting the sick, helping people find treatment for substance addiction or mental health problems. But sometimes the needs are outside that scope. He has helped employees avoid foreclosure, set up a budget, find rides to work and assemble furniture.
Employees told us he helps them with parenting and child-rearing challenges and other personal problems that can feel overwhelming.
Some employees said they were skeptical at first but eventually found that they valued the support, either for themselves or because they saw it help a co-worker who could then perform better at work.
His help is free and confidential. He does not share anything without an employee’s permission or unless someone is a danger to themselves or others. Occasionally he has to get help outside the scope of his ability, but he follows up with each individual to provide encouragement and support.
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The Winter brothers said that while they and their families personally adhere to a religious faith, they do not use Smith’s position to preach or promote religion in the workplace. They find it improves morale and helps them hire and retain employees. They say their experience is that when their employees have help navigating problems in their personal lives, their work lives improve.
You can read more at the Corporate Chaplains of America here.