Describe your volunteer activity with San Rafael?
Reverend Jan is a volunteer in the San Rafael Police Chaplain Program. Before being ordained as an Episcopalian priest in 1994 she raised four children and worked at San Rafael High School for 20 years as the Secretary to the Vice Principals of Discipline. As a San Rafael Police Chaplain, she has ministered to officers, witnesses, victims and other police staff and loved ones after a traumatic event or for routine support. She has been out on every kind of call possible: Bomb threats, stalking, suicides, domestic violence, etc. She has visited officers’ relatives in the hospital and at home and delivered eulogies at the funerals of officers. Currently there is one other volunteer San Rafael Police Chaplain, Will Nelken, who is a pastor at Trinity Community Church near Dominican. In 2013, Reverend Jan was inducted into the Marin Women’s Hall of Fame.
Why did you choose to volunteer for San Rafael?
I started in 1995. At the time I was staff at a church in Sausalito and asked myself: “What else I could do with my time?” I saw a little tiny ad in the Marin IJ that said the San Rafael Police Department is starting a chaplaincy program. Bells went off and I applied for the job… as I sat in the room to be interviewed, I thought, THIS is me! This fits like a glove!
What do you enjoy most about your volunteer work?
It is a privilege to be allowed in people’s lives, at the most important time of their lives. It’s been my passion and I just love it. It’s never dull. I really like working with the City Council too. I’m asked to do invocations. I’ve done a total of 85 weddings and 20 blessings for staff in San Rafael. Years ago one of the police staff asked me to do a “cat blessing” so I did.
What are you most proud of in what you have accomplished as a volunteer with San Rafael?
The SRPD has an awards evening and I received the Meritorious Conduct Citation. It noted much of my work ranging from pastoral care to giving birthday cards, gifts, and marriage ceremonies. The award noted I do the “Little things to make a difficult job a little easier.” It meant the world to me because that is my mantra. I’ll always be grateful for that award. It meant so much because they nominated me from within the Police Department. I was very moved and I started to cry.
What other volunteer activities in addition to your San Rafael police chaplain volunteerism do you do?
I am a volunteer for the vets at the College of Marin. I am a chaplain with the San Francisco Division of the FBI and the Chaplain Director of First Responders Support Network. It is a (week-long) retreat for all emergency services personnel who are suffering from PTSD. We’re only the second place in the world that does this and I’m one of the founding members.
I am a chaplain for Project Grace which takes mothers in the US that have lost a child and takes them to a foreign country to a woman who has lost a child. I have been to Central America, Africa and Greece with Project Grace.
What would you suggest to those considering volunteering with the City?
I think everybody should be volunteering. We’re all given special gifts and our responsibility is to spend it for the good of humanity. To me, one couldn’t find a better city than San Rafael to volunteer. I do not think there is a more well-run city than San Rafael, from the top to the bottom. It’s just the best city to be involved with.
In a few words, describe your volunteer experience.
Over the top!
The work Reverend Jan does for our community and for our department comes from her heart. She is the most caring, sincere, and loving person I have had the pleasure to know. She is available at a moment’s notice to assist with some of the most emotional life events we respond to. She is invaluable.
- Police Chief, Diana Bishop
Click here to learn more about this amazing woman at the Marin Women’s Hall of Fame website.