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Chambers and James Funeral Homes receive 2021 Pursuit of Excellence Award

SPECIAL HONOR — Eric Fithyan, owner of Chambers and James Funeral, Pet and Cremation Services, and Ellen Daugherty, his administrative assistant, hold confirmation of the Brooke County business’ receipt of the National Funeral Directors Association’s Pursuit of Excellence Award and the extensive application form they submitted to be considered for the honor. -- Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — For its outstanding service and community involvement, Chambers and James Funeral, Pet and Cremation Services has received the National Funeral Directors Association’s 2021 Pursuit of Excellence Award.

It’s the eighth consecutive year the Wellsburg and Follansbee-based funeral business has received the honor, which NFDA leaders said is given for proficiency in six key areas. They are: Compliance with state and federal regulations; staff participation in ongoing education and professional development; offering outstanding programs and resources to bereaved families; maintaining an active level of community involvement; active participation and service to the funeral profession; and promoting funeral home services through marketing, advertising and public relations.

Candidates are required to adhere to a pledge of ethical practices.

Chambers and James is one of 539 funeral homes, and the only one in West Virginia, to receive the award, which is comprised of 18,500 members representing nearly 10,000 funeral homes in the United States and 43 other countries.

Fithyan said to be considered for the award, funeral homes were required to submit an extensive application form that included a report on a recent community project.

He said Chambers and James’ report was about the placement of 22 seasonal banners in Wellsburg’s Downtown Business District.

In an effort to beautify that area, Fithyan solicited sponsorships from local businesses and groups for alternating colorful banners that mark the seasons and special occasions.

For example, banners for summer read, “Our Community is Heating Up” while others flown around Veterans Day say “Thank You for Your Service.”

Fithyan was aided by staff and volunteers in posting them along the city’s Town Square and Charles Street.

It’s among a variety of community projects Fithyan and his staff have undertaken through the years. Others have included organizing a U.S. flag retirement service with the help of veterans groups and collecting sweaters and other items for veterans in nursing homes.

Fithyan said many awardees noted ways they have faced challenges presented by the pandemic, such as livestreaming funeral services for family and friends who can’t be present in person.

He said while the practice addressed elderly and other at-risk family members concerned about exposure to COVID-19, it accommodates those unable to travel for a service, including family members in the military.

Jessica Koth, NFDA public relations director, said, “As the pandemic continues to impact our country, funeral homes are finding extraordinary ways to meet the moment and provide meaningful support to grieving families and communities. The Pursuit of Excellence Task Force was very impressed with this year’s entries and commends all of our honorees for their hard work and dedication during these challenging times.”

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