HISTORY OF THE AUXILIARY
Ninety-five years ago, in August 1928, several ladies were attending the Virginia State Firemen's Association Convention in Ocean View, Virginia.
Mary Travers of Alexandria was one of the ladies attending and she began talking with other ladies present that it would be nice if the ladies could have an auxiliary to the Virginia State Firemen's Association (VSFA) The idea was enthusiastically echoed by the other ladies attending.
Mary Travers contacted Chief James M. Duncan, Jr. of Alexandria, who was President of the VSFA, and asked his permission for this group of ladies to attend the business meeting of their convention. He granted permission. This group of ladies then asked the Association if they could be an auxiliary to them. Chief F.C. Jesser of Covington Fire Department moved that the ladies be accepted with open arms and only one restriction - that the auxiliary would not interfere with the men's business or them with ours.
That is how it all began back in 1928 with the Charter Auxiliaries of Alexandria, Harrisonburg #1, Jefferson District, Luray, Orange, and Staunton.
Mary Travers served as the first President and was later named Mother of the Auxiliary, a title she well deserved for starting a great organization that has continued now for 95 years.
Over the years the Auxiliary has seen a growth from 6 auxiliaries to a present membership in the year 2023 of 20 auxiliaries and 16 individual members throughout the state. Our current members are from the following areas of the state: Abington-Bena, Arlington, Blacksburg, Buckroe (Hampton), Fairfax, Falls Church, Farmville, Fox Hill (Hampton), Galax, Hose Co. #4 (Harrisonburg), Matthews, Poquoson, Riner, South Hill, Spotsylvania #1, #2 and #9, Strasburg, Tappahannock-Essex, and Vienna.
In 1937, Helen Williams' proposal of a Firemen's Relief Fund, to help ill or injured firefighters, was adopted This fund has grown from a 25¢ donation of the membership - to get the fund - started to a fund that sends out several Love Gifts each year to our ill or injured firefighters.
Sylvia Baker from Staunton has been on the Firemen’s Relief committee since 1998. During that time Sylvia documented each LOVE gift of $100.00 that was sent. Between 1998 and the current year 2023, a total of 203 Love gifts have been sent.
In 1948, Helen Williams and Frances Simms used the Dogwood as a symbol of Firemen's Relief, it was designed into a button with a blue background and adopted by the state auxiliary. The Virginia General Assembly designated the third Saturday of April as Dogwood Day, and the buttons are sold, and the money used for Firemen's Relief. Other than monies received through this sale, the fund is maintained by contributions of member auxiliaries in the State Association.
In 1955, Frances Simms designed our auxiliary banner which is displayed on the head table at all meetings. In 1994 this banner was retired and replaced with the red banner we use today.
Upon request, a Resolution of Respect is sent to the nearest relative and department of a deceased firefighter or auxiliary member. The first Resolution of Respect was requested and sent in 1962. As of today, 1,061 requests have been sent out.
In 1999, Jean Pickin of Buckroe suggested that the Auxiliary develop a Scholarship Program. The Scholarship Committee was appointed in November of 1999 and the first scholarships were given in the spring of 2000. The recipient must be an Auxiliary member, Child, or grandchild of an auxiliary member. The scholarship committee gives a new question for the essay every year. The application must be received by March 15 of each year.
Between 2013 and 2014 the logo for our organization was designed. Members could now order shirts with the logo embroidered on them.
The Auxiliary has three meetings each year - a Spring Zone, a Convention, and a Fall Zone. These meetings have been held in many fire departments all over the state and the gracious host auxiliary for each meeting makes us feel welcomed and at home in every community.
Prior to 1980, the state convention was hosted at local Fire departments. In 1980 it was moved to the Coliseum located in Hampton, Virginia. The convention is held traditionally in Summer from Wednesday through Saturday and is our opportunity to come together to work for the good of the state auxiliary. In 2018 the 1st combined state convention was held bringing both the Firefighters and Rescue personnel together. It is now known as The First Responder Virginia Conference/Expo.
COVID-19 hit our country and with that, the 2020 Conference/Expo was cancelled then the Conference/Expo resumed in 2021.
Ladies who have reached the age of 70 are eligible to be presented to become life members. To date, the Auxiliary has 368 life members.
At the convention, the oldest Fireman and Auxiliary members attending the business meetings are recognized.
There is a Dogwood Tree Dedication Service and a Memorial Service at each convention meeting in memory of those firefighters and Auxiliary members who have passed on in honor of those still serving their fellow man. At each Memorial Service, an Auxiliary is chosen for the Dogwood sapling to be planted at their Fire Department.
In 2021, the Auxiliary voted to have a Challenge Coin made. Joan Dempsey of Vienna took the lead on the design of the coin. With the approval of the design from the membership, Joan ordered the coins. The coins are sold for $10.00 each with proceeds going to our Ways & Means Fund.
At the Fall Zone meeting in November 2021 held at Tappahannock-Essex, Diana Reed, Christiansburg, suggested a way to get the Auxiliary name out in places that we visit we do a collection to donate as a service project to the area we are visiting. The Auxiliary would only do this at the Spring and Fall Zone meetings. All members in attendance liked the idea. It was decided the host auxiliary would choose where they wished to donate to, and the type of items needed. Each member would bring the requested items to the following zone meeting.
Carolyn Landis of Hose Company #4, Harrisonburg was appointed the state mother in 2022 and continues to serve today. There have been several before her whose dedication and memory are honored - Mother Travers, Mother Baker, Mother Morgan, and Mother Atkinson.
There have been 47 Presidents, each residing a 2-year term, apart from Carol Stickley who served from 2018-2022. The current President is Lisa Saul, Riner (2022-2024).
In the fall of 2009, our state Auxiliary made its first social media presence on Facebook.com. The page and profile are a public site where local Fire departments and state members can announce upcoming events. You will find exciting news on the Auxiliary to the Virginia State Firefighter's Association page.
In September 2017, a website was established it is also a public domain. You can find out about the state auxiliary as well as become familiar with many of our services at https://www.vsfa.org/about-vsfa/auxiliary-to-the-vsfa/.
In 2021 the number of officer chairs was reduced by removing both the Historian and assistant conductress at which time the Historian committee was formed.
2022 Historian committee began the daunting task of working through 95 years of stored items. It was determined that a Google Drive would be where these items would best be preserved for future generations of the State Ladies Auxiliary. This committee is working on four photo albums, each with 25 years of special items to display at our meetings throughout the year.
As we move toward 2028 marking 100 years of the Auxiliary to the Virginia State Firefighter’s Association, we embrace change to promote unity across our great state.
Tracy Andrus, Fox Hill
Robbin Griffin, Spotsylvania
Bonnie Harris, Riner
Our 95th Year of Service