After more than a decade of helping others, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation is asking for a little help itself.
The historic chapel at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial and the home of the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland is in disrepair, and the NFFF needs help restoring it.
According to the NFFF, the Romanesque, revival-style chapel was built in 1839 by the Daughters of Charity, led by Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton, the only canonized American-born saint. The campus has a rich history including its role in 1863, of aiding both Union and Confederate troops after the Battle of Gettysburg. The site was designated the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Chapel in 1998 by the NFFF and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"The historic chapel is now in a state of disrepair with the interior in need of restoration and renovation," wrote NFFF Executive Director Ronald J. Siarnicki. "The Foundation is working closely with the Sisters of Charity to ensure that the historical nature of this building is preserved."
The renovations will include an elevator, renovation of the main sanctuary and choir area, and installation of a fire suppression system. The project will also include converting part of the building into office space, because the chapel will soon become the home of the foundation's corporate offices.
At the same time, the chapel will continue its traditions at the annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend, when families of fallen firefighters attend a private service that includes the reading of each fallen firefighter's name and the ringing of a fire bell.
In addition, on Family Day, the chapel is open to the families as a place of reflection, while Honor Guard members maintain a silent vigil. Families and friends of the fallen heroes can light candles in remembrance of their loved ones and leave a rose in the Maltese Cross in the altar area.
The Foundation is seeking support in the form of in-kind donations and monetary assistance to facilitate the extensive renovation.
Anyone interested in contributing funds or materials can contact Executive Director Ronald J. Siarnicki at (410) 721-6212 or by fax (410) 721-6213. Or, they can write to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, P.O. Box 498, Emmitsburg, MD 21727, Chapel Renovation, ATTN: Chief Ronald J. Siarnicki.
Congress created the foundation as a non-profit, tax-exempt, Section 501(c) (3) organization in 1992 to honor fallen firefighters and to assist their survivors. However, NFFF officials said, Congress provided no funding and the foundation depends upon donations from caring individuals to maintain their many services.