There is more than one type of first responder. There are those who arrive in a flurry of lights and sirens, as they rush to address the emergency at hand. And then there are those who enter the scene quietly, offering enduring compassion, comfort and solace to those facing traumatic loss.
As the volunteer fire chaplain for Snohomish County Fire District 5, Pastor Steve Boek is one of the latter.
A Portland resident for over 25 years, Pastor Steve moved to Sultan in October of 2012 to take over pastoral duties at Sultan’s First Baptist Church, located at 315 8th Street. An entrepreneur, Steve owns and operates his own sign and banner company, which offers graphics-related services. The company, still based in Portland, is called “Banners Of Every Kind,” cleverly using Steve Boek’s last name as an acronym.
It was during his first year of Sultan residency that he became acquainted with Snohomish County Fire District 5 Fire Chief Merlin Halverson, which is what led to his service as the volunteer fire chaplain. He was immediately impressed with Chief Halverson, he said.
“I appreciate Chief Merlin,” Steve said. “He’s a great man, and I’ve just really enjoyed working with him.”
As the fire chaplain, Pastor Steve is frequently called in crisis situations to provide care to husbands, wives, sons and daughters dealing with the shock and grief that comes with losing a loved one. When a crisis occurs, Pastor Steve is summoned to the scene by either firefighters or sometimes law enforcement, to console surviving family members and offer grace and love. Once on scene, he remains for however long he is needed. During one recent incident, he was called to the scene at 11 p.m. and stayed until 4 a.m., providing care in what he described as a “difficult situation.”
He is additionally tasked with caring for Snohomish County Fire District 5 firefighters, whose consistent and continuous exposure to trauma and hardship can be draining both mentally and physically.
District 5 first responders are an exemplary group of people, said Pastor Steve.
Another way Pastor Steve serves the community is through involving his congregation at First Baptist Church in various events. One such event is a celebratory 4th of July community picnic hosted by the church. The church has provided free hamburgers and hotdogs to the community, with the firefighters of Snohomish County Fire District 5 manning the grills. In addition to free food, the event provided activities, including inflatables for kids, volleyball and music.
“Last year was the first time we included music,” Pastor Steve said. “This year we couldn’t find a musician, so we did karaoke, and it seemed to be well received.”
“As our congregation grows, we hope to increase our level of outreach and involvement in the community. We’re always looking for avenues and opportunities, because we feel that a church ought to be an asset in the community,” he added.
He is interested in expanding his level of volunteerism and would like to help meet various needs of senior citizens in the community. He has also explored the idea of working with the Sultan School District, as he would enjoy the opportunity to use his business acumen to help young people as they begin to contemplate their futures. Additionally, he would like to specifically target trouble areas in the community, to help improve the trajectory for youth and adults dealing with issues such as hopelessness and substance use.
Pastor Steve has been a regular guest during the weekly Coffee with the Mayor meetings held every Friday at Galaxy Chocolates. He said that he loves the close-knit Sultan community and has no plans to leave. The small-town atmosphere in Sultan is appealing to Pastor Steve, who was struck by it right away.
“When I first came up to Sultan, in my first week I was greeted by first name in the post office,” Steve said. “I really enjoy being able to get to know our community leaders, and be able to address each other on a first name basis.”