In 2007, the Richmond Fire Department was hit with what turned out to be a series of deaths of several of our fellow firefighters.
We first lost F.F. Jerry Hall. His name was placed on the IAFF fallen firefighters memorial in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Richmond Fire Department and Local 995 were able to absorb most of the cost.
The next year, the RFD was hit with two more blows with the deaths of Lt. Bernard Emerson and Master Firefighter Billy “Rev” Harris. Unfortunately, the RFD and Local 995 were not in a position to send two more families to see their loved ones’ names placed on the same fallen firefighters memorial.
With the help of the Richmond East Moose Lodge, the Brothers and Sisters’ Combined, and Local 995, we sent a total of eight of Billy’s family members and four of Bernard’s family out for 3 days with the RFD picking up the tab for two honor guardsmen and 2 escorts to comfort and support the families throughout the ceremonies held in their loved ones’ honors.
After this unfortunate series of tragic events and the realization there was a need for better preparedness, David Loving and Mike Williams (then of Rescue 1, stationed with Billy) approached the Fire Chief , Local 995, the Brothers and Sisters Combined, and RFD Our Family (RFD’s family support organization) about an idea of starting a foundation.
The Foundation would be formed with all 4 groups holding board positions in the non-profit corporation with several members putting up their own money for the application process.
After many meetings of brainstorming, we wrote and rewrote our Articles of Incorporation, By-Laws, and Mission Statement.
In the beginning of 2008, this dream became a reality with the award of our non-profit status as a 501c3.
We then began the most dreaded task of all (asking for money),but with true fire department attitude (overcome obstacles), the original board came up with the slogan of ”Give us a dollar a pay and we could really raise some cabbage!”
We estimated that if new members pledged $1-2 per pay, we could reach our goal of $50,000 in a quick period of time (which we did). Then we, the board members, decided to up the ante and lead by example, giving $5 per pay.
As you can see, our vision and dedication has paid off. Not only have we established a foundation to support our fire family, but we have also inspired and assisted several other departments in establishing their own foundations.
Additionally, through the combined efforts of our board and members, we have branched out in support of our fire family in many ways.
We have renewed old traditions, honoring our fire retirees with an annual dinner paid through ticket sales.
Through our family support organization, RFD Our Family, we have assisted families in a time of crisis, brought our fire family together through picnics, our 1st Annual RFD vs. RPD VCU Tug-of-War (where we won in less than 4 seconds), and other events.
We will continue to build and grow to support the members of our department, our fire family.
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