The men and women who are first responders for the Missoula area put their lives on the line on a daily basis, but who do they turn to when they need to talk about their experiences, their hurts and heartaches? Chaplain Chuck Lee.

Chaplain Lee heads up an organization called Emergency Responders Support Services, of which Lee is a full-time employee and Mandi Peterson is a part-time employee. Together, they provide support services, as chaplains, Lee primarily to the Sheriff's Office and Peterson to the Police Department. They also serve the Montana Highway Patrol, Missoula 9-1-1 dispatchers, Detention Officers, Missoula Fire, Frenchtown Fire, Neptune Aviation, Missoula Emergency Services, emergency room staffs at both St. Patrick Hospital and Community Medical Center, and Medstar Helicopter services.

A benefit dinner to support the organization is this Saturday at Missoula Alliance Church.

Missoula County Sheriff Carl Ibsen said Lee serves the sheriff's department in a variety of ways.

"Chuck is an amazing resource for us," Ibsen said. "He'll go out on coroner calls if we need him to speak with the families, he's a good sounding board to the officers when they're frustrated or they've got something going on or when they've had a bunch of really unpleasant calls."

Deputies know when the time comes to inform a family that a loved one has died, whether in an accident. through criminal activity, or even suicide, that Chaplain Lee will be there to provide comfort and consolation.

Ibsen said Lee has earned the trust and respect of everyone he works with.

"It's nice to know they have someone they absolutely can trust, that they absolutely know that the conversation goes nowhere else," he said. "He also rides with the deputies on a regular basis to keep in touch with them."

Ibsen also said Lee was one of the only people he could confide in during an extraordinarily difficult time when Ibsen lost his wife in an accident with a drunk driver.

Lee draws a small salary from the sheriff's office, but his primary support comes through regular donations to Emergency Responders Support Services. With that in mind, there is a benefit banquet to support Chuck, Mandi and the organization this Saturday, November 15 at 6:00 p.m. at Missoula Alliance Church, catered by Dickey's Barbeque. Admission will be $15 per person for the dinner and several valuable items will be auctioned off during the event, such as a black powder cap and ball pistol, two guided fishing trips, gift certificates to Southgate Mall, OnX Maps is donating a GPS hunting map, two one-night stays at Lolo Hot Springs, passes to the Missoula Children's Theater, Montana Club gift certificates, gift certificates from Gomers Diesel, and others.

The public is invited to attend. Please RSVP by calling the Missoula Alliance Church Office at 251-3983.