By LANDON WOODROOF
Corky French had been a church pastor for over 20 years when he felt a special calling to get out there and do something a little bit different.
I “really had a desire to get out of the church building and into the community and be with people who didn’t have a pastor, who didn’t have anybody to turn to,” French said.
In 2003, that desire gave birth to Community Outreach Ministries, a local non-profit organization that French heads up.
“Our mission is just to be out in the community taking help, hope and healing to people who are broken, bruised, wounded, sometimes invisible and forgotten in our community,” French said.
As a non-profit, COM depends on the generosity of others to support its work. Some help comes from various churches that COM has partnered with, but other funding comes from individual or corporate donors.
It has two main fundraisers each year: the Night for Hope dinner and silent auction in the fall and a golf event in the spring.
The golf challenge has been going on for over a decade now, but just recently it got a new name to honor a dearly departed friend.
The Ron Griffeth Memorial Golf Challenge was named for a dedicated member of the COM team who passed away in 2016. Griffeth helped French minister to those struggling with addiction and was part of a regular COM Bible study group. Plus, he liked to participate in the organization’s annual golf tournaments.
“He supported us with his time and his resources,” French said. “He was a large donor as well.”
This year’s Ron Griffeth Memorial Golf Challenge will be held Monday, April 23 at the Nashville Golf and Athletic Club in Brentwood. Check-in is at 11 a.m., lunch is at noon and tee-off is at 1 p.m.
COM is still looking for teams to take part in this year’s tournament. There is no entry fee, but teams are asked to raise a minimum of $2,000 each to help support the COM mission.
French said there lots of ways the teams could do that, either through individual donations or by getting companies to sign up for sponsorships. Hole sign sponsorships are $250 per sign. A larger corporate gift of $5,000 entitles companies to hole signs, inclusion on the official tournament banner and program and four player slots in the challenge.
“The more teams, the better,” COM Board of Directors member Steve Speake said.
COM is also seeking volunteers for the golf challenge. A list of volunteer opportunities as well as contact information to sign up can be found on the COM website.
“We’ll be glad to talk to them,” French said.
While the golf challenge promises a good time to its participants, all that fun is in service of a higher mission.
French and other COM staff members and volunteers are out in the community year-round looking to lift up those who find themselves in difficult or vulnerable positions.
While COM team members perform a wide variety of services, from working with drug addicts to providing marriage counseling, there are four main categories that much of their work falls under.
Or, as French puts it, there are “four vehicles that get us into the community to carry that help, hope and healing we’re talking about.”
The first is called Behind the Badge.
This is the name for COM’s ministry with local law enforcement. French has been the lead chaplain at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office since 1999.
In that capacity he has seen the unique challenges that officers are faced with on a daily basis, not only in the line of duty but in their private lives as well.
“The main threat, the main stress to them is not being physically hurt, although that is a possibility every day,” French said. “The main threats are emotional, relational and spiritual.”
French said that being a law enforcement officer is one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Often overworked and underpaid, officers have higher rates of divorce, alcoholism and suicide than the general population, he said.
COM team members are there to help police officers dealing with these challenges and more. French said that COM helps officers identify the stressors negatively affecting their lives and “then we just walk with them.”
COM’s work also extends to responding to emergency calls. For instance, if law enforcement officers are called out to a traumatic scene, French or another COM team member will often come to attend to family members or other bystanders.
“We can handle the trauma part of it, the people part of it, so [the officers] can take care of their jobs,” French said.
Outside the Lines is the name of the second of COM’s specific ministries. This one connects COM team members with local student athletes.
“We believe that the athletic field is one of the greatest classrooms in the world,” French said.
The program was actually started 20 years ago at Brentwood High School by French and former coach Jack Daniels. COM took over the ministry when it formed 13 years ago. It now also ministers to Brentwood Blaze football players and cheerleaders.
French said that COM team members teach the athletes various life lessons to help them off the field.
Another ministry that COM engages in is called Breathe. This ministry is aimed at caregivers of ailing or disabled family members.
“A growing area of concerns is more and more people are having to take care of their loved ones because we’re living longer and there’s more of us as the Baby Boomers age,” French said. “The stress and difficulty that caregivers have in that role is extremely difficult.”
COM offers training and support for these caregivers, letting them know that they are not alone in their situation.
The final ministry offered by COM is also the newest. Not many people necessarily think that business leaders or religious leaders, people at or near the top of their various organizations, often need help themselves.
The Unleash ministry recognizes that these leaders are just as human as anyone else.
“Being a leader sometimes can be a lonely, difficult road, and we try to pull up alongside those men and women and help them be the best version of themselves that they can be,” French said.