A Decade of Healing Heroes: Operation Restore Marks 10 Years of Support
September 28, 2023 | For ten years, The Franciscan Center in Tampa has provided a lifeline to first responders who have faced trauma in the line of duty.
“We had a lot of police officers killed on duty that were murdered. It sent shockwaves through the system,” recalled Reverend Rick Malivuk, on the impetus for starting Operation Restore in 2013.
He said that at the time, existing support like brief peer counseling was not enough to address the toll that traumatic incidents were taking. That’s when, at the request of then-Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, who is now Tampa Mayor, Reverend Malbec, a Lutheran pastor, teamed up with The Franciscan Center’s Sister Anne Dougherty, OSF to develop a new model.
“She and I were both working with the Tampa Bay Regional critical incident team and working with first responders who’ve had a bad bad call and we’ve both thought that we could do a better job,” he said.
Operation Restore was born, facilitating small confidential groups over four days to guide participants through processing experiences in a supportive environment.
The program is held on the grounds of the center, on eight quiet acres on the Hillsborough River. First responders receive personal, confidential treatment after experiencing critical incidents, line of duty deaths, and the general effects of pressure throughout their careers.
“You get to see and do things as a first responder that nobody else gets to see or do, but you have to see and do things that nobody should have to see or do,” said Mayor Castor during a ten-year anniversary and commemoration prayer service, September 28, 2023.
The program incorporates counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, peer support and trained professionals who treat post-stress using one-to-one counseling, group processing, education, and a proven scientific technique called EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.
“First responders are in the business of fixing things. When you experienced those traumatic events where you couldn’t fix it, you couldn’t make it better, they take that personally and it takes its toll on an individual both mentally and physically,” said Mayor Castor.
Father Beale, a Catholic priest who provides pastoral care during the retreats said the impact of the program is profound.
“There’s this release, and relief, where folks just feel some peace over things that they’ve been carrying for quite some time. That’s certainly the hope and the goal, and definitely having tools in that toolbox so that when they go out, but then they’re able to carry on what they’ve learned here and pass it on. That’s our hope. We want them to pass it on,” he said.
Over the past decade, the program has expanded across state lines, serving over 400 police, firefighters, EMTs and others. The program relies entirely on donations to continue its life-changing work, donations and partnerships are always welcomed.
“Anybody concerned about mental health and specifically that of first responders, we welcome their partnership,” said Mayor Castor.
If you or anyone you know would like information about Operation Restore, visit franciscancentertampa.org.
The Franciscan Center is a non- profit, 501(3)(c), private retreat house sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, NY with dedicated laity who are committed in carrying out the mission.