Public Safety Chaplaincy
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Public Safety Chaplaincy
Providing spiritual support to the public safety community.
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Andrew Bramma: a member of the #policefamily #officerdown

Andrew Bramma: a member of the #policefamily #officerdown | Public Safety Chaplaincy |
This weekend North Yorkshire Police, along with many members of the wider police family are in mourning. They are reflecting on the sad passing of a colleague and friend who like others, left home ...

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Spiritual Survival for Law Enforcement: Cary A. Friedman: 9780976196617: Books

Spiritual Survival for Law Enforcement

~ Cary A. Friedman (author) More about this product
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Spiritual Survival for Law Enforcement [Cary A. Friedman] on

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Memorial Honours Heroism Of Police

Memorial Honours Heroism Of Police | Public Safety Chaplaincy |
ITNMemorial Honours Heroism Of PoliceSky NewsFiona Bone and Nicola Hughes, who were killled in the line of duty, are among the police remembered at a memorial service. 6:37pm UK, Sunday 30 September 2012.
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A Dedicated Employee Is A Dedicated Employee

A Dedicated Employee Is A Dedicated Employee | Public Safety Chaplaincy |

Should active duty civilian employees who die, from any cause, be provided some sort of honors ceremonies? Is so, what? If not, why not?

Know the question gets even more complicated.

  • Do civilian employees who wear a uniform, such as dispatchers, parking enforcement, desk officers, and jailors, deserve more consideration then those who don’t?
  • Does a secretary deserve more consideration than a clerk?
  • What about custodians and mechanics?
  • Do managers deserve more than those who aren’t?
  • And the list goes on.

A dedicated employee is a dedicated employee, sworn or civilian. Although a full honors ceremony, rifle salute, Taps, and flag fold, may not be appropriate there are ceremonies that can be performed, and rightfully so. As with any funeral planning protocol, what the family wants is paramount. My experience has been that civilian employee’s families didn’t expect any sort of honors ceremonies performed at the service. However, when I discussed the potential to do specific ceremonies for them some accepted the offer and some declined the offer.

Remember, funerals are for the living. Families who declined the offer didn’t think a paramilitary style honors ceremony was appropriate for their funeral service. It was their decision. Those who accepted my offer were very appreciative and typically stated how working for the department was just as important to their deceased family member as any sworn member of the department.

For civilian department members who did not wear a uniform I typically offered a casket flag and flag fold by two honor guard members. The U.S. Flag Code permits any citizen to have a national flag as a casket flag. The fold and presentation symbolized the commitment and dedication the employee demonstrated to the department, its mission, objectives and values. If the employee wore a uniform, such as dispatchers, front desk officers, parking enforcement etc., I also offered Taps. I didn’t offer the rifle salute.

When it came to providing honors I classified all civilian employees as the same. Managers, supervisors, secretaries, clerks, custodians, mechanics etc. were all dedicated employees. I wasn’t going to impose a value or rating system on their importance to the department.

Regardless if there would be any sort of honors ceremonies provided I always offered the family the same management and coordination service as I did for sworn. They always appreciated having someone manage the service and provide the support they needed to cope with the complexities involved.

Typically only minimally aware of the paramilitary culture of the department they were often surprised at how the service was managed. Having the uniformed officer’s march in and sit in a predetermined location impressed them.

Having the chief or the employee’s commanding officer give a eulogy was another unexpected part of the service. Having uniformed officers perform a hand salute as a final gesture of respect was something they would remember for ever. It’s often the little things that mean so much.

So as funeral coordinators we need to be aware of the special ceremonies we can provide for our civilian employees. They deserve many of the “honors ceremonies” we typically reserve for our sworn officers. They deserve the support and management services of the funeral coordinator and agency. A dedicated employee is a dedicated employee.

John Cooley

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Police chaplain’s role visible sign of God's love

Police chaplain’s role visible sign of God's love | Public Safety Chaplaincy |
Catholic Outlook July 2010 artice - Penrith Area Police Chaplaincy.
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Stages of Grief

Chaplain Larry Todd explains the stages of grief. Police and fire chaplain, Larry Todd is one of Texas’ most experienced and acclaimed chaplains and media figures.
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Considering the Role of the Audience at a Line of Duty Funeral by John Cooley

Considering the Role of the Audience at a Line of Duty Funeral by John Cooley | Public Safety Chaplaincy |

I was recently watching a line-of-duty funeral being broadcast live on the internet. The church held several thousand people and by the time the services began was full, standing room only. The only empty seats were the ones reserved for the immediate family, who would follow the casket in, and the agency, who would march in after the casket and family procession.

As the casket and family procession entered the church everyone stood. I know it’s a show of respect and often marks the beginning of a religious service, but there have been times when I was part of the team planning the entrance procession and there was no discussion about the audience standing or being seated. The procession and audience involvement was traditional or part of a religious rite or just a past practice. I often offered my opinion of a different role for the audience.

I know there are few absolutes in planning a police funeral. The role of the audience during the entrance procession is often never discussed because the procedure is considered traditional or part of a religious service. What I often offered was, “Food for Thought.”

In a church the size of this funeral, the number of people attending, especially in uniform, was impressive, if not awe inspiring. When the family followed the casket into the church and down the aisle and everyone was standing, all the family could see were the people standing next to the aisle as they passed by. It was like being in a tunnel. The family really couldn’t visualize the enormity of the event.

They couldn’t recognize the diverse number of agencies present. They couldn’t appreciate what an awe inspiring event this was. And because of the manner that they would enter and leave the church they would likely never really know or comprehend what a sight it was to behold. They wouldn’t realize the “WOW” factor.

I would have suggested that the master of ceremonies have everyone sit down as the casket and the family processed in.

This is my reasoning:

I don’t think it’s disrespectful for the audience to sit as the casket escort procession, the immediate family and agency, enter and are seated, for two reasons. First, I want the family and agency members to see and realize the enormity of the funeral. I want them to see all the officers present. I want them to realize not only how many are there but why they are there, to give significance to the deceased officer’s life and career.

Secondly, I want the officers in the audience to see the flag draped casket and family members and agency members enter the church. When everyone is standing and the casket and family and agency members enter, the majority of those standing can’t see anything but the backs of the heads of those in front of them. They dutifully stand there until the processional is concluded and haven’t seen anything. I want them to participate in the procession by seeing what is happening and those that are involved.

I want them to watch the flag draped casket being escorted into the church. This has significant meaning to everyone in attendance. I want them to watch the agency members march in and be seated because they all know that it could be them. They should see it happening. I want them to see the immediate family, not just the backs of their heads after they are seated. This is an important aspect of the service also, for these officers from other agencies to actually see the wife, children and parents they have only read or heard about. I want to personalize the funeral and this is one important step to make that happen.

I have talked to various clergy members about having the audience seated during the entrance procession, even if it’s traditionally part of their religious service. They said they had never been asked that question before and after hearing my reasoning for it said it was not a problem, only a slight modification to the service ritual that could be easily accommodated. Some said it was not part of the religious service but just a tradition or past practice and could easily be implemented, especially if in an auditorium.

Funeral coordinators need to evaluate every aspect of the funeral. The entrance procession may need to be looked at from a different perspective, one that meets the needs of the surviving family and the officers in attendance. Does the traditional processional entrance need to be modified? If so, can it be? If you have a legitimate reason to do it, then try to do it. If you can, then do it. If you can’t, that’s okay, because you evaluated your options and make an informed decision.

There are few absolutes. If the service is held in a church or auditorium that has tiered seating and when everyone stands they can see the entrance procession, then there is no need for them to sit. But again, some churches have a sloped seating area, not tiered, and it is not sufficient to allow people standing to see the procession. So they still need to sit.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask why the processional is being done a certain way if it doesn’t meet your needs. Ask if it can be modified. You may learn that “Well, it’s always been done this way…” and “Yes, it can be modified…” Don’t hesitate to offer an alternative plan, along with your reasoning for it. Don’t forget the audience who will likely be expecting to stand for the processional. Insure the master of ceremonies announces not only what will be done but why it is being done.

A simple modification for the processional can have a significant affect on everyone in attendance, the surviving family, agency members, and the officers in attendance. I want the surviving family and everyone else in attendance to appreciate what is taking place.

A simple thing like having people sit during the processional entrance and permitting the family to see the audience, actually see them, can make a significant difference. Having the attendees actually watch the casket and family being escorted into the church and placed and seated has significant meaning. As a coordinator I want to try to insure the meaning is not lost in the crowd. I want the family to walk in and say “WOW.”

John Cooley

A 30 year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, John Cooley has coordinated over 80 police funeral and memorial services. Throughout his career and into retirement, John has dedicated himself to raising the professional standards by which departments honor and lay to rest our fallen heroes.

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Confidentiality by Sgt. John Cooley

Confidentiality by Sgt. John Cooley | Public Safety Chaplaincy |

Sgt. John Cooley retired in 2001 after 30 years of service with the Los Angeles Police Department.

I have attended planning meetings where the agency funeral coordinator shared personal information about the deceased officer or family members that did not involve planning the funeral. It was just a comment they thought would be interesting for others to know, gossip.

In reality there was no reason for anyone on the planning team to know. These comments tarnished the coordinator’s reputation for being a professional and protecting the deceased officer’s reputation or the family’s confidence in there personal information being kept private.

There may be times when a funeral coordinator learns things about the deceased officer or their family members that needs to be kept confidential or private. It is not the funeral coordinator’s job to share personal information that has nothing do with the planning team’s responsibilities. If something involves a particular team member’s duties, inform them in private.

As an example, I had an officer killed in the line-of-duty and during our preparations to make the notification to his wife and children he was described as being a great husband and father. At the notification I, and the other members of the notification team, learned that he and his wife had been separated for several weeks and he had been living in an apartment. No one knew about this situation and it was not my responsibility to inform his co-workers. For me to go back and share this with the entire planning team would have been irresponsible.

Another officer had been killed in the line-of-duty and while preparing for the notification to his spouse I learned that he was being investigated by an outside agency for felony spousal abuse. Again, this had and impact on how I would do my job but not every member of the planning team needed to know immediately, definitely no need to learn of this situation from me.

Another officer whose son was killed in a traffic collision and I responded to provide support. At the scene I learned that the officer/father had just learned that his son was dead and that his son was gay. The son was supposed to be away at college but had returned to town to visit his lover and hadn’t informed his father he was in town. Again, I needed to know in order to do my job best but this situation was not critical to most other members of the planning team doing their job. There was no reason for me, nor was it my responsibility, to talk about the situation to the officer’s co-workers.

Many agencies assign their special events coordinator to manage the funeral, be the funeral coordinator. They are often unaccustomed to dealing with personnel or medical issues that are protected by confidentiality or privacy laws or protocols. They are not accustomed to dealing with personal issues involving the deceased officer or family members or co-workers that may be learned during the planning process that should be kept private, as a matter of professionalism.

A funeral coordinator must earn the confidence and respect of the deceased officer’s family, co-workers, and agency management. Any coordinator that openly shares personal information about the deceased officer or co-workers or family members is just spreading gossip and is not fulfilling the basic premise of being a funeral coordinator, to professionally serve the surviving family, agency, and agency members.

Every funeral coordinator, regardless if it is your regular assignment or if you are assigned when an incident occurs, has the responsibility to know and understand the parameters and limits of privacy and confidentiality. Personal, personnel and medical issues may be involved that people do not need to be privy too, even planning team members. Some information may be protected by law or agency protocol and others by a sense of personal decency and professionalism. Planning a funeral demands more then knowing how to park cars and seat people.

It involves people and people issues. We have a responsibility to accept this and know how to work within the limits that may be imposed upon us. Our reputation precedes us as someone who can be or cannot be trusted. Once we lose that reputation, we can no longer adequately fulfill our responsibilities as a funeral coordinator.

John Cooley

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The Chaplain's Role: How Clergy can Work with Law Enforcement: Rev. Terry K. Morgan: 9781469913674: Books

The Chaplain's Role: How Clergy can Work with Law Enforcement [Rev. Terry K. Morgan]

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Six Important Questions YOU, Not the Mortuary Should First Ask Survivors by John Cooley

Six Important Questions YOU, Not the Mortuary Should First Ask Survivors by John Cooley | Public Safety Chaplaincy |

After any death, especially a line-of-duty death, the family typically experiences a time of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear of the unknown. They know that there will be a lot of decisions that need to be made.

They are uncertain of what they all are but know some will be difficult to make. One of the first decisions they will have to make is to select a mortuary. Once that is done they will dread going to that first meeting at the mortuary. Here is an opportunity for a funeral coordinator to provide some very important support to the family.

I always tried to insure I had an opportunity to meet with the family the evening before their initial appointment at the mortuary. During this meeting I would explain to them what to expect. I reviewed the questions they would be asked, the decisions they would likely be expected to make, and the tasks they would be expected to complete.

I learned that preparing them for this visit provided a sense of self control, lowered their anxiety level, and reduced the fears of uncertainty.

1. Is Death Certificate Accurate?
I had a copy of the death certificate form and I would show it to them and review all the questions they would be asked. Much of the information the surviving family knew but often there were a few items they did not and needed to research. I explained that if they didn’t have some information, that was okay. It could be provided later.

2. Clothing Questions
Families were usually concerned about clothing. I told them it was not necessary to take clothing on the first visit. I gave them a list of items typically necessary and if the was deceased was an officer and going to be buried in their uniform, I had a checklist for that too.

3. Providing a Portrait
I explained how the mortuary would ask for a picture, but only if there was going to be a viewing. How the mortuary needed the picture for cosmetology purposes, not identification. So to choose a picture that depicted their loved one best – how they wanted them to look at the viewing.

4. Present Viewing Options
That they would be expected to decide if there would be a viewing.

5. Burial or Cremation?
An important decision is if there will be a burial or a cremation. Either decision would include selecting a casket or an urn. I provided booklets that explained the differences between a burial and a cremation. Most people really don’t know. It is a very personal decision and should be a well informed decision. Being asked that question for the first time at the mortuary and realizing that a decision is expected, is unacceptable.

6. Financial Options
Other decisions may include selecting flower arrangements, guest books, prayer cards, and memorial pamphlets, and limousines. Then there are the financial issues to discuss and clarify. Even if it is a line-of-duty death there are often financial issues or costs the family will need to be responsible for. They need to be prepared. And we still had to visit the memorial park. Then plan the actual service. And the list goes on.

Reviewing with them the types of decisions they would be asked to make, and what these decision involved, was extremely helpful to the family members. A simple thing like giving them some lists of questions they would be asked and information they would have to provide so that they could be prepared proved to be so helpful.

Many times our job as funeral coordinator is not complicated, it’s just being resourceful, knowledgeable, and people oriented.

Someone needs to care. If we don’t do it, who will?

John Cooley

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Police and peace officers sombrely pay tribute to those killed in line of duty

Police and peace officers sombrely pay tribute to those killed in line of duty | Public Safety Chaplaincy |
Under a warm September sun, hundreds of police and peace officers gathered Sunday at the Alberta legislature to pay tribute to those killed in the line of duty.
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A Police Chaplain’s Message

A Police Chaplain’s Message | Public Safety Chaplaincy |

When god was creating police officers he was into his 6th day of overtime when an angel appeared besides him and said; “Boss, you appear to be having a bit of trouble with this one.”

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Through his seminar, “Healing Power of Ceremony and the Police Funeral”, veteran police officer John Cooley shares his extensive experience and people-oriented insights…...
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Waiting at the Memorial Park by John Cooley

Waiting at the Memorial Park by John Cooley | Public Safety Chaplaincy |

It seems like such a mundane topic to write about but this is one of the funeral coordinators responsibilities that can unintentionally cause a significant amount of distress for the surviving family. The family has attended the funeral services and been taken in the motorcade to the memorial park and are waiting for the interment services and ceremonies to begin.

When the funeral is being attended by thousands of officers and hundreds of vehicles are in the motorcade it typically takes over an hour, often a couple of hours, for the vehicles to be parked and the officers to be placed in their formation. So what does the family do? What does the family need? How do we prepare the family for the delay to be seated? By pre-planning!

Two days before the interment we need to inform the family about what they will be experiencing so that they will know what to expect. They, the immediate and extended family members, need to understand that it will take an hour or more to get everything ready. Then we need to insure that we arrange for everything the family wants or will likely need. We need to plan for refreshments, snacks, and restrooms.

This waiting period would be an opportune time for VIP’s and dignitaries attending the interment services to visit with the family. They are typically parked soon after the family’s arrival and it is a convenient time for them to be introduced to the family. There is much that can be done, should be done and will need to be done and it all has to be carefully choreographed and scheduled.

When the family wants refreshments or needs to use the restrooms is not the time to introduce visitors. Visitations are scheduled at the family’s convenience and only for short periods of time. Another option is to coordinate an opportunity for the family to mingle with the agency members, who are also waiting.

These waiting periods can easily go from one to two hours. The funeral coordinator needs to insure that the family members are well taken care of and not left to care for themselves. However, who ever cares for them must be able to solve problems and make certain decisions.

Children may need to be entertained or allowed to play outdoors. Appropriate toys or games should be brought with them. Caretakers may need to be assigned.

Many memorial parks have the family brought to their business offices that have waiting rooms and restrooms. At other times the family is with the limousines at the grave site. If the family is at the grave site planning may include shade awnings, chairs, refreshments and arrangements to take people to and from the restrooms, vehicles may be needed.

I had a family tell me, after waiting two hours, that they were tired of waiting for all the officers to arrive and wanted the services to begin. We seated the family and started the services. The family’s wishes are paramount. We had a good plan but were overwhelmed by the number of officers attending.

We had significantly more then we expected. The memorial park parking was inadequate and by the time we got the last of the vehicles parked in alternate parking areas and the officers walked to the gravesite, the services and ceremonies were basically over. These things happen.

But as funeral coordinators we need to insure that the family members will be well taken care while they are waiting for the parking of cars and the officers to walk to the gravesite. It is unacceptable, as I have seen many times, for families to be seated inside the limousines or standing around the vehicles just waiting. They have personal needs that must be taken care of or anticipated.

The waiting period at the memorial park is a carefully planned time period. Every funeral coordinator must insure the family’s needs are anticipated or fulfilled. Two days before the services the family should be asked how they want to fill the waiting period and what they would like or need. Then make it happen.

It is not a mundane planning task, the “no-brainer.” It is very important and can cause the family sever distress and anxiety if not properly planned for. Coordinators need to take it seriously. It’s what we do. We plan for every part of the services, including the waiting periods.

John Cooley

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The Question of Security Guard Honors

The Question of Security Guard Honors | Public Safety Chaplaincy |

As a police funeral coordinator and, in retirement, a security company operations manager, I have had experience with this topic. However, I have never had to make the decision I will present for consideration.

The questions is, If your agency has an honor guard and a private security guard is killed in the line-of-duty within your jurisdiction and the security company asks for your honor guard to perform full honors at the funeral service, will you? How will you define “in the line-of-duty?” What criteria will have to be met? Or will you provide honors carte blanche as a community service?

Although I haven’t personally experienced this type of situation I have read about it. So agencies are being asked to provide this service and to make this type of decision. Therefore, I think it is pertinent to ask the question. It could happen to you.

As a funeral coordinator I know that there is a specific definition applied to officers who are “killed in the line-of-duty.” I also know that some agencies apply a very wide interpretation of that definition for officer’s funerals.

As a security company manager I know that I have “guards” who would meet that definition if they were killed while performing their duties. So, as a company manager I would not hesitate to ask a local agency to provide honors for a specific type of incident that met the killed in the line-of-duty definition.

As an agency honor guard supervisor I would fulfill any appropriate request. However, I also believe that this decision would be contested by some agency members, including agency managers.

Again, as a security company manager I believe there is a stereo typical belief that “security guards” are substandard to “real police officers” and therefore not worthy of our “honors ceremonies.”

I know that security companies provide security at locations the local police department cannot protect fulltime. Many of these locations are high risk because of past incidents or the high potential of criminal activity, especially robberies. Security agents assigned, at least from the company I worked for, were state certified, well trained, experienced, well supervised and well equipped.

We expected them to perform their protection and enforcement duties in a professional manner. This included realizing when they were at a disadvantage and not to jeopardize their safety because they were often alone and local police were the only backup.

However, this is not a discussion about tactics or officer safety. But the acceptance that the death of a security guard who is killed in the line-of-duty should be considered equal to a police officer’s death when it comes to providing honors ceremonies.

But, there is an alternative. Agencies can loan their equipment and train a security company honor guard to perform the flag fold and rifle salute. Taps would likely have to be played by the agency unless they have a computer chip bugle.

So, once again, new situations arise that have not been confronted before. New questions are being asked from police agency funeral coordinators and their honor guards. As more and more protection and enforcement activities are assumed by security companies the likelihood of this type of situation occurring increases.

So if it happens to you, what will your answer be? What criteria will you establish? You will need to be prepared to justify your decision, either way.

John Cooley

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No One Asked

No One Asked | Public Safety Chaplaincy |

I recently read a newspaper story about how the wife of an officer killed in the line-of-duty had to pay for the funeral and didn’t have enough money. The story wasn’t very informative about the type of support she received from her husband’s agency but from what was said, I got the impression that the agency funeral coordinator wasn’t experienced or knowledgeable about the people issues involved, especially the financial issues. If they had been she wouldn’t have had many of the concerns she made.

She commented that after the death she received no financial support from anyone. That’s hard for me to believe because there are several support organizations that will provide funds as soon as they are contacted by the deceased officer’s agency. My only conclusion can be that no one knew about these organizations or did any research to identify them.

The one topic that was discussed the most was the widow’s attempt to pay for the funeral with her husband’s life insurance policy. But the insurance company said she wouldn’t receive the benefits for several months and the mortuary demanded immediate payment. I have managed a lot of funerals and I have had numerous mortuaries inform the surviving spouse that they could “reassign” a life insurance policy to pay for the mortuary services.

Basically, a reassignment of insurance is when the spouse signs a legal agreement that a specific amount of monies are to be taken from the life insurance policy before the funds are paid to the spouse and sent to the mortuary. The spouse then receives the remaining monies from the insurance company. I don’t know why she wasn’t informed of this common practice. Possibly, the mortuary viewed the problem as one the insurance company should resolve.

Only knowing what I read in a small newspaper article I can only guess at what happened. I can make two assumptions, one that for some reason the mortuary didn’t offer her the opportunity. The other assumption is that no one asked.

Regardless, she should have been informed about insurance reassignment by the mortuary or the insurance company, because it is a common practice in the funeral planning industry, or the funeral coordinator should have been knowledgeable enough to ask about it.

Once again, if an agency funeral coordinator doesn’t have the expertise to know then they should have the interest to ask. There are a variety of resources available that could have helped this surviving widow and her agency’s funeral planners insure that the financial issues were appropriately resolved and that she received all the available funds or assistance possible. A phone call to me through my website would have been helpful.

Agency planners cannot wait for support groups etc. to call them and offer assistance, they need to be pro-active. They expect the mortuary and memorial park managers to solve all the related problems, but sometimes they don’t. Maybe the mortuary thought it was an insurance company issue to resolve. As a funeral coordinator we need to be aware of what is occurring and when we learn there are financial issues or problems, learn what the problems are, and seek out the resources to resolve them.

If not us, who?

John Cooley

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