Pa. first responders receive nearly $550K in donations from local resort
Farmington Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brian VanSickle said he was in shock after being invited to the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and presented with a six-figure donation
Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa.
FAYETTE COUNTY, Pa. — Brian VanSickle may not have believed in Santa Claus before, but he's a true believer now.
"I met Santa Claus Friday and her name is Maggie Hardy Knox," said VanSickle, chief of the rural Farmington Volunteer Fire Department in Fayette County for more than 20 years.
The chief admits he's still in shock after being invited to Hardy Knox's posh Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Wharton Township the evening of Dec. 4 — where he was presented a $450,000 donation to the fire department, which has five vehicles and about 25 contributing members.
President of Nemacolin and 84 Lumber, Hardy Knox is the daughter of billionaire Joseph Hardy III, who founded both businesses. She has served as president of the building supply company, which has 250 stores, since 1992.
The fire department donation was part of the resort's ongoing Christmas holiday program held on Fridays, termed "Unwrapped." The festivities on VanSickle's night included a special appearance by three New York City Ballet dancers presenting a live performance of the Nutcracker, a light show, the arrival Santa and Mrs. Claus and their elves and recognition of local first responders.
In addition to the donation to his department, VanSickle said another $90,000 was presented to Fayette EMS, the local ambulance service.
"It's just really awesome and I can tell you that, first, Joe Hardy (Maggie's father), beginning in 1998, and now, Maggie, have been so generous with us. We wouldn't be able to maintain our ambulance station in Wharton that stretches all the way to the Yough Lake if it wasn't for their generosity," said ambulance Chief Officer Richard Adobato.
Adobato chuckled about a telephone call he received Friday from Bob Topper, administration director of the ambulance service, who went to Nemacolin to pick up "a donation" and telephoned him afterward.
"He was amazed at the amount, and he also told me how he was invited up on stage with the Nutcracker performers to accept the donation," Adobato said.
"There were a lot of smiles all around that night," Topper added.
Adobato estimated the single donation will fund the Wharton station through the spring of 2022.
"Their continuing generosity literally saves lives in that region because the service area is so large," Adobato said.
VanSickle, who also is a Wharton Township supervisor, said the coronavirus pandemic has really hindered the fire department's fundraising and the donation was needed. He estimated that thefire department has about a $90,000 budget shortfall.
He said he had an inkling a donation was in the works after he was invited to Nemacolin around Thanksgiving to outline the department's needs.
"It really couldn't have come at a better time," VanSickle said.
The fire department plans to use a portion of the donation to replace a pumper truck that is more than 20 years old. A new vehicle could arrive sometime in 2022, he said.
In addition to Friday festivities, the resort said special activities continue on Saturdays, including breakfast with Santa, children's painting classes, art tours, outdoor ice skating and other holiday workshops. All guests are required to socially distance and wear masks at all times.
The "Unwrapped" celebration will conclude Dec. 18 with Miss America 2019, Nia Franklin, as a guest along with champion figure skater and Dancing with the Stars performer Johnny Weir, who promises to wow the crowd with an ice skating performance.
(c)2020 Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)