Corporate Care offers support for employees and companies By Jack Money

Life happens — even at work.

The saying is true in all lines of work — including the oil patch. For that reason, Corporate Care shared a table with another faith-based organization at a recent oil and gas trade exposition.

For Boe Parrish, the business is all about helping companies and their employees deal with problems.

He started the business with his friend Scott Lewis in 1987, after Lewis asked whether he knew what a corporate chaplain was.

A company was asking his friend to become one, Parrish explained.

So, the two talked in an Edmond fast-food restaurant about what a corporate chaplain should be and came up with the idea for the company using napkins to sketch out ideas.

Today, the company has clients from North Carolina to Colorado and from Minnesota to Texas. On a weekly basis, the company cares for 5,000 employees and their family members — a total of about 20,000 people.

‘Life happens’

Parrish, who said he has worked both in the ministry and in sales, said he knew first-hand how employees could be affected on the job by personal problems.

“Life happens, and it is hard to leave a lot of that stuff at the house when you go to work,” Parrish, Corporate Care president said. “These are problems companies need to be prepared to help their employees deal with, because they often can affect productivity.”

He said corporate chaplaincy goes above and beyond other types of employee assistance programs where employees are provided a card with an 800 number that no one calls unless they are threatened with the loss of their jobs.

“Having a proactive, on-site program makes all the difference in the world,” he said.

And the chaplains are there to help the company help its employees — not to convert them.

“We are chaplains, not evangelists. We go to serve, not to convert,” he said.

Payoff for companies

Parrish remembered one case, for example, where a 31-year-old woman who was well-liked and a hard worker at her company learned she had breast cancer. While her company knew about that, it did not know that shortly after her diagnosis, her husband was involved in a car accident that left him unable to work.

When she went to the corporate chaplain, she sought only enough help to be able to afford to buy a wig. But the company, through a benevolence committee the chaplain helped organize, ultimately helped the family with its car and home payments and other expenses.

Her response, Parrish recalls, was ultimate loyalty to her employer.

And that’s the significant payoff for companies, he said.

Taking care of employees

The payoff is particularly important in today’s oil and natural gas business, where big companies that pay well are strenuously competing for qualified landmen and geologists and other industry-specific specialists.

“In that type of environment, you better take care of your employees or you’re going to lose them,” Parrish said.

According to the Association of Professional Chaplains, nearly 4,000 chaplains representing more than 150 faith groups are working with people in health care facilities, correctional institutions, long-term care units, rehabilitation centers, hospices and the military.

But Parrish said those mainly are working in health care settings, and he thinks the service still needs to make additional inroads into the corporate world.

Art Stricklin, vice president of public relations for Marketplace Chaplains USA, agreed with Parrish in that regard.

Stricklin told The Oklahoman the chaplaincy business is growing dramatically. Marketplace Chaplains USA, which has clients in 48 states, is adding a client once every four days, he said.

A ‘wonderful product’

For employers, the service can be a blessing.

Billie Haycraft Jr., president of Frontier State Bank in Oklahoma City, said his business is into its fourth year of using Corporate Care to work with its employees.

Haycraft said Parrish and his company were referred to him by the bank’s owner, who had been using Parrish in another of his businesses for a lot of years already.

Haycraft said Parrish offers a “wonderful product.”

“People are going through personal, financial, marital and health issues — things out of their control,” Haycraft said. “And we believed the company would be a service to our employees in helping them deal with those situations when they happened.”

He said Parrish visits his company weekly, and makes it a point to visit with every one of his employees during each of his visits.

Even more personally, Haycraft said he recently needed Parrish’s services after his mother died.

“And he has made it very easy to go through these troubling times,” he said. “He is just a phone call or e-mail away for any issues that anyone at this bank has. He is available 24 hours a day.”

After four years of being involved with Corporate Care, Haycraft admits it would be hard to imagine his company without its help.

“Yes, I wonder how we got along without that,” he said. “I just don’t know how I could have coped with my issues the past year without Boe, and I think other employees in my business would say the same thing, without a doubt.”

“Life happens, and it is hard to leave a lot of that stuff at the house when you go to work.”

Boe Parrish