“We build a wall between our head and our heart.”
So says Jordan Long, founder of the nonprofit organization Revital, helping first-responders cope with the rigors of everyday life in the field.
Long, a paramedic firefighter himself for a decade with Adams County, knows first-hand what it’s like to regularly put his life on the line. Some have no issues. A majority need a little help along the way.
“Stats surrounding first responders are alarming,” Long said. “Divorce rates are super high. Some studies say nine out of every 10 marriages involving police officers end in divorce. Numbers for firefighters aren’t much better. Suicide rates are on the rise. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, cancer and sleep deprivation are all challenges these men and women face.”
“The job was starting to take a toll on my family and I was truly unaware and in denial of how emotionless and disconnected I had become. That’s when I had my ‘a-ha’ moment. My wife was really the driving force in pointing it out to me.”
In February of 2020, Long decided it was time for a change. An exasperated wife and two young children made the effort a labor of love. The idea to start a nonprofit focused on getting ahead of issues was born.
“We wanted to be proactive rather than reactionary,” Long said. “We wanted it to be outdoors, we wanted to offer free services that would aid in maintaining mental health, and then we wanted to be a bridge to available resources.”
Navigating uncharted waters
Of course, a month later the world drastically changed with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Long was able to turn that into a positive, too.
“I spent the first three months of the shut-down filing nonprofit paperwork and writing a strategic plan. We launched in September of 2020, providing services at my old fire department kind of as a proof of concept.”
It didn’t take long for the idea to gain traction. Long said a large donation from an anonymous individual helped get the project off the ground, but the demand continues to increase as tensions in society continue to rise. He and his wife have been working together on it for almost two years now.
“We’re almost to the point where we need to bring on staff,” Long said. “We can’t handle it all anymore.”
Long reached out to the Elevations Foundation for help as well.
“The Elevations Foundation award was our first grant, and so far it’s our only grant,” Long said. “We’re hoping to be in the running for more this year, but Elevations was monumental in our eyes as the first foundation to support us.”
Long said the foundation has proven to be more than just a financial resource, too. He reached out to Eric Lentz, the Executive Director of Elevations Foundation, for guidance in handling the ins and outs of a nonprofit.
There are unique opportunities to help, specifically for those with first-responder experience under their belt. Current or former first responders interested in helping others cope with the rigors of the job are urged to reach out to Long and his foundation. And, of course, everyone is welcome to make a financial donation to help support the cause.
In the end, Long said he’s just hoping to help his fellow first responders navigate that wall between their head and their heart.
For more information on Elevations Foundation and the work its doing in our community, to learn more about its grant program or to help support one of the foundation’s causes, please click here.