Rev. David Klink, facility chaplaincy program director (FCPD) at SCI Laurel Highlands, was honored as the 2019 State Correctional Chaplain of the Year by the Pennsylvania Prison Chaplains Association at their annual conference in Carlisle on Sept. 18. Klink was selected from a host chaplains who were nominated for their exceptional chaplaincy work.
Pictured from left: Regional Deputy Secretary Trevor Wingard; Char Klink; Rev. David Klink; Mardi Vincent, retired Regional Deputy Secretary; and Rev. Ulli Klemm, religious services administrator.
Klink's journey with the DOC began in 1996. Prior to that, Klink served as a residential services aid at the Somerset State Hospital. When the state hospital was converted into SCI Laurel Highlands, David, like the vast majority of state hospital employees, was offered a job as a corrections officer. After four years as a CO, David exchanged his handcuffs for a hammer and joined the maintenance staff. His prior experience as the head of maintenance for Snyder's Potato Chips made him a natural selection for this new post.
It wasn't until Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Scott retired as the FCPD in 2004 that David assumed this post. His security consciousness, licensure as a Methodist pastor and caring attitude made him the perfect selection.
"David is one of the most caring correctional chaplains I have known," said Rev. Ulli Klemm, DOC religious services administrator. "I have been amazed by the natural and heartfelt way that David interacts with everyone with whom he has contact."
Whether gently grasping the hand of and praying with a dying inmate, welcoming security's presence in the chapel for a routine search, interacting with concerned inmate family members over the phone or knowing each volunteer by name, Rev. Klink has excelled in his compassion for those in his care.
Former Laurel Highlands Superintendent Jamey Luther said, "There is nothing any staff would ask of Rev. Klink that he would not do. Every staff person loves him. While it is sometimes hard for chaplains to mix with and earn the respect of officers, he is able to adapt to any personality and situation and earn their respect. He is the best."
"(When I was Superintendent), Rev. Klink somehow knew the right time to stop by my office to check in on me," said former Laurel Highlands Superintendent and former Regional Deputy Secretary Mardi Vincent. "It was always the right time."
Regardless of the faith or lack thereof with which inmates identify, inmates commended Klink for treating each with the utmost respect, consideration and fairness. One inmate said, "When I think of Rev. Klink, I think of the saying: 'It's not how much you know, but how much you care.' He cares that much."
Upon receiving this honor, Klink said, "I have the awesome privilege to assist inmates and staff along their spiritual journey. I try to instill in each inmate the idea that this period of their life is just that—a period of time. It does not define who they are nor what their life can be during and after incarceration."