On October 18, 1947 a group of twelve women, representing five communities, met at Geneo's Coffee Shop in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. In addition to coffee, their purpose was to discuss the possibility of establishing a state wide Ladies Auxiliary, at the request of the men's association. The discussion was pro and con, but the LADIES AUXILIARY OF THE ILLINOIS FIREFIGHTER'S ASSOCIATION was formed. The first president was Mrs. Esther Walk of Fox Lake. She spent her three years as president traveling around the state organizing localized auxiliary groups in various communities.
The first five or six years consisted in organizing, developing a working set of by-laws, and generally setting up a viable auxiliary. By 1953 the membership has grown to 520 women with twenty auxiliaries represented; by 1961, 800 members representing thirty communities. Women everywhere realized that they could help the fire service.
The auxiliary's first scrapbook contest was held in 1952. The winner was the Crete Ladies Auxiliary. The contest has been held ever since, becoming one of the favorite traditions enjoyed by the membership. While Sue Heusing (Beecher) served as Historian, the Men's Association was shown the winning scrapbook made by the Sauk Village Ladies Auxiliary. The men were so impressed that they requested that the auxiliary create a similar book for their history. The challenge was accepted and in 1980 the IFS "History Book" was presented to the men. The work was very impressive with its hand-carved front cover, made of walnut - the work of Jacque Slawnikowski (Sauk Village).
In 1948 the auxiliary donated $10.00 to the Men's Legislative Fund, and by 1960 the amount could be increased to $100.00. Revenue was earned in various ways, particularly by raffles. In 1985, the auxiliary presented a huge check for $1,000.00 to the Men's Association. The sizable gift was most appreciated.
Since the early days of the auxiliary, it has continued to make financial contributions to the IFA fund. Recently, the challenge was accepted to sponsor scholarships for further educational endeavors by firefighters, in the name of the L.A.I.F.A. Hopefully, this fine tradition, started during the term of Beverly Miller (Burbank), would continue for many years. It should be mentioned that the scholarship funds donated by the auxiliary were met by the Illinois Fire Chief's Association (IFCA).
The LAIFA's main purpose has always been to be a "helping hand" to each local auxiliary as it goes about its activities. At the same time, the organization tries to be informative on current fund raisers and to help each other in whatever ways possible.
Of special importance is the annual auxiliary conference and the opportunity in networking that the meeting has offered to anyone who attends. Through those brief get-togethers have evolved many long lasting relationships and true friendships.
The present aim of the Ladies Auxiliary is to make the organization a strong support system for the men's association and for everyone actively or inactively engaged in fire service within the state of Illinois.
The auxiliary stands ready to assist - to serve coffee and food at fire scenes, to help provide scholarship assistance for firefighter education and training, and to help represent, in our respective communities, the service mission and the professional objectives of the Illinois Firefighter's Association, Inc. (IFA).
From: Badges of Courage
A 100-Year History of the Illinois Firefighter's Association, Inc.
1889 - 1989