Exactly 20 years ago this month, the first director of Chaplain Services for Tyson Foods was hired – setting in motion what would become a program about 100 chaplains strong.

It was in 2000 that Director Alan Tyson began to build the program, eventually hiring Efraín Baeza-Núñez. Baeza-Núñez says one of his biggest challenges at the time was recently immigrating from Mexico and not knowing how to speak much English.

“I was unfamiliar with chaplaincy, and I did not know a lot about U.S. culture,” he said. “I came to this country following God’s will and with a heart to serve the people. Tyson gave me the place and the flexibility to do that, while still serving my church.”

He’s still with us as a part time chaplain at our Sedalia, Missouri facility.

“I have seen this program grow and become more professional,” he said. “Each year, Tyson has been taking care of us, providing training with very capable people. The company has grown in different areas. We’ve hired more chaplains to meet the demand for the new plants we’ve acquired.”

This now robust team provides compassionate pastoral care to our team members and their families in 22 states, regardless of religious affiliation or beliefs. The program includes full time and part time chaplains available to listen, encourage, or pray with team members who reach out to them.

“While the chaplaincy program at Tyson Foods may sound novel, it is a staple of our culture and central to who we are as a company,” said Director of Chaplain Services Karen Diefendorf.

Chaplain Karen has led the program since 2017 and has become a symbol of our chaplains’ compassion and fortitude.

“In my three years at Tyson Foods, our chaplains have provided the strength team members need, no matter their religion,” she said. “Some days, they visit a team member’s family who is sick or maybe help a team member in need of community resources like housing or transportation. Like its role in the military, the chaplaincy is an important benefit that provides a sense of comfort during high-anxiety situations, while also helping team members celebrate their greatest wins—either at work or at home.”

Chaplains have played a special role this year, providing perspective and encouragement through the difficulties of a pandemic. And we are proud to have recently been recognized as second among Fortune 100 companies on the Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Index.

This unique program is one of the hallmarks of our “faith-friendly” culture at Tyson Foods – and it’s thanks to the chaplains who work tirelessly to take care of us.

Chaplain team photo taken in 2016