Copyright ® Race Track Chaplaincy of America: Pennsylvania Division, Inc
"What does a Chaplain do at a RaceTrack?"
That is often the first question asked of Rick Bunker, Chaplain at Philadelphia Park Racetrack, when he speaks with any individual or group. It helps when they learn that he primarily is a pastor to the 2000 people who live and work at Philadelphia Park and their families. This number includes the hot walkers, grooms, exercise riders, pony riders, jockeys, trainers, and horse owners who work seven days a week year round. They care for about 1,500 horses at the 39 barns that make up the backstretch community at the track. Of the workers, 200 live in dormitories on the track property.
The chaplain's day begins with a walk through the barns, making his track pastoral calls. Those morning visits give the chaplain the opportunity to learn the needs of the stable workers, arrange appointment times, and simply to offer a listening ear and helping hand. Greeting the exercise riders as they trot and gallop their horses also keeps him in touch with that group of people he serves.
Besides making the barn and backstretch visits, the chaplain visits in homes and hospitals; leads the weekly drug, alcohol, and gambling meetings; has daily devotions; conducts weekly chapel services; organizes special events; distributes clothing and other items to the workers; conducts funerals and weddings; sits on the sports program committee and leads the dormitory representative council; provides regular counseling; and serves as a liaison for health care and education for the track personnel.
The chaplain's office conducts several special events annually. Among these is the Annual Christmas Party, made possible by the horsemen’s association as well as churches throughout America. The children of track personnel receive gifts and each track worker living in the dorm receives gifts. It's indeed a wonderful time for everyone.
The Chaplain's office staff includes numerous volunteers from area churches and from racetrack personnel. The Chaplain's office staff includes: Bobbi Templeton, Secretary to the Chaplain who works Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We also have 6 men who are Recreation Hall Supervisors and one is always there from 8 AM - 9 PM seven days a week.
Volunteers are vital to our work. Each week Chaplain conducts a bi-lingual service in our chapel and is assisted by Mr. Rey Roque and Mr. Juan Polanco, who provide translation. Volunteers or office staff, distribute clothing and other items that have been donated by churches and individuals. Mr. Bob Valentine provides his time and transportation for workers who need a ride for their appointments with a doctor or dentist. Dr. Brian Rizen is also available on a regular basis. He donates his medical skills to those on the track. On Tuesday and Saturday we have the LaSalle Neighborhood nurses in our recreation hall for blood pressure checks, flu shots, etc.
The Chaplain's efforts receive the guidance and assistance of a devoted local Council. The current members of the Council are Rev. Thomas Brooks, President; Mr. Rey Roque, Vice-President; Mr. Donald Hogeland, Treasurer; Mr. James Manero, Secretary; Chaplain Rick Bunker, Rev. Dr. Barbara Eldred, Mrs. Bobbie Enke, Mr. Jorge Palacios, Mr. Juan Polanco, and Mr. Daniel Sourwine.
The chaplain and council serve those at the track in order to share God's great love through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, seeking to make disciples by sharing the good news of what Christ has done for them.
The ministry gets financial support from the Philadelphia Park management, the horsemen's association, churches of various denominations, and individuals.
Chaplain Bunker will be happy to present the ministry to your church or group or to show you around the track in order to give you a first-hand look at the work.
Office of the Chaplain
P.O. Box 1000
Bensalem, PA 19020
Phone: 267-223-3513 or 267-223-3398