Chaplains support East Texas businesses; Atheists say keep prayer out of workplace
POSTED: Monday, May 20, 2013 - 7:20pm
UPDATED: Monday, July 8, 2013 - 10:57am
KETK Tyler, Tx — For the past 27 years, Marketplace Ministries has provided nearly 600 companies across the world--- extra support.
The support comes in the form of a Chaplain.
And here in East Texas, we're told, the need is greater than ever.
It's been 11 years now and Donna Skorheim still loves being a Marketplace Chaplain.
She's just one of the nearly 27-hundred across the world.
Skorheim is the Chaplain leader in Tyler, keeping an eye on 8 East Texas businesses every single day.
Her job is simple--- she's paid to visit companies and provide support to employees.
Skorheim says, "You cannot describe a day of a Chaplain, because you never know when a tragedy is gonna hit, when an employee is going to be in the hospital, and you're called to the hospital."
Skorheim says, no day is ever normal.
But with the everyday stresses of the economy, finances and family--- she says, her services are in high demand.
And she's always ready to help.
Four of the companies she helps with---- East Texas Children's Therapy Service, Almcoe Refridgeration Company, JW Wireline Company and The Heights of Tyler-- an East Texas nursing home.
All four are growing companies.
All four offer this benefit to their employees, if they want it.
Chaplains offer prayer when the employee agrees to it.
Skorheim says, they never force religion on anyone.
But if they ask for it, she will obliged.
Skorheim says, "It speaks volumes for them that they have someone there to express care and come alongside just to support and encourage."
They support families of employees as well.
And she says, you never know when they'll be needed.
In January, two employees who work for JW Wireline in tyler, an oilfield service company, were hurt on a job site in San Antonio.
Isha Myrick says, "When they got to the hospital, a Chaplain was sitting there waiting for them and he visited them every day."
The support was overwhelming.
They tell KETK, the men are currently doing well in rehab, but still have a ways to go.
They won't return to work for months.
As far as the bosses go---- they couldn't be more supportive.
They say, they're happy chaplains pray for their companies and offer support.
Without them, they say, morale would be low.
Bill Almquist is the President and CEO of Almcoe.
He says, "My belief is that a person who is happy at home and happy in their personal life, is a very productive and happy employee at work."
Marketplace Ministries has been offering their services to the company for 10 years now.
Almquist says, it's the key to the company's success and retention to their workforce.
He says, "If I was to take away this benefit, I probably would have a mutiny on my hands. It's that well-received by our 100 plus employees."
He says, it's a voluntary program.
And, no employees are forced to participate.
But as these companies continue to provide this benefit to their staff---- this question comes up---- should religion be allowed in the workplace and our east texas schools?
There are people out there who say--- No!
Jacob Klinefelter and Chris Williams are part of the group "East Texas Atheists."
At this time, there are 60 members.
Their beliefs are different than many folks in East Texas.
They believe prayer doesn't belong in the workplace and they don't believe in God.
And they say, there are a lot more non-believers in East Texas than people realize.
Klinefelter says, "It's very easy to think 99% of peers are believers in some sense."
A recent poll found the number of Americans who say they're religious, dropped to 60-percent.
And it found, the number of Atheists across the country was up.
Klinefelter says, it's difficult to be an Atheist in East Texas.
He says, "There's a good chance you're making your co-workers very uncomfortable on a regular basis."
Chris Williams agrees, "It's something to be mindful of. You don't want to alienate good employees."
Skorheim says, they're not in any way trying to change anyone's faith.
She says, they're just trying to bring some happiness, in a very stressful world.
She says, "Our world falls apart and at times like that, it's nice to have a friend that's there just to care."
Southside Bank and Texas Bank and Trust are also two other companies that take part in the program.
Southside is actually one of the first to participate.
The company has been welcoming the program to its employees for nearly 30 years.