Fall is in the air and with it comes one of my favorite events of the year—Open House at LAFRA. This year, unlike past years, the event was held outside, bringing with it a sense of space and renewed freshness. Though the weather was a bit cool at first, the camaraderie displayed at the event quickly warmed the souls of everyone in attendance. From the young at heart to the old and true, members from all over the state joined together to celebrate the 2021 Open House event held at the Relief Association. After a two-year hiatus, not a beat was missed by organizer Juliet Brandolino. A special thanks to our grand event planner for her efforts in organizing yet another successful endeavor. We would also like to thank all the volunteers who helped her in the endeavor. As the morning moved into early afternoon, the tables and chairs started to fill, along with the line to the bar, signaling it was time for the festivities to begin. The drinks flowed and the food was delicious as the membership sat down under the covered seating area enjoying both with abundance and enthusiasm.
Our president, Jeff Cawdrey, took center stage at the podium greeting the guests and starting the program. First up was a presentation of one of the largest checks I’ve ever seen, both in size and amount (see picture), from the most generous of the LAFD groups—The Fire Hogs. Through their tireless efforts, the Fire Hogs were able to raise an overwhelming $46,000 for the Widows, Orphans, & Disabled Firefighters Fund. Fire Hogs president Jack Wise, along with a large group of the membership joined him upfront as he spoke about how the funds were raised, reemphasizing one of the missions of the Fire Hogs, which is to provide assistance for all our fallen and loved ones left behind. Thank you to all the Fire Hogs for your generous support. (Firehogs.org)
Next, President Cawdrey spoke about current pension issues, speaking on point about important changes affecting the membership now and in the near futures. Getting the business out of the way, the program continued with the main event. The Open House event was not all about food and drink. It is also a time when the Association takes the time to recognize an individual that has gone above and beyond in their efforts in helping the Relief Association execute their purpose. This year’s recipient was recent retiree, Captain II Steve Romas. Over the years, Steve has helped in so many ways to better the Association that listing them would be almost impossible. Wanting to thank him for his efforts, Jeff started by presenting Steve’s family with bouquets of flowers. Steve’s wife, Mona and his two daughters, Rebecca and Mellissa beamed with pride for Steve as they received the flowers from Jeff and Joe Vigil. They next posed for pictures with Steve and then took their seats. Jeff continued on by highlighting what Steve had accomplished over the years for the Association. From his early help with the Lane Kemper Softball Tournament, to ongoing support at Hope for Firefighters and the LAFD Invitational, Steve’s generous giving of his time and talents have been an invaluable asset to the membership over the year. Next, Jeff presented Steve with an antique fire helmet as a memento of his service. Taking the stage, Steve began his acceptance speech by thanking those who helped him along the way. Names like Lane Kemper and John Lawrence were mentioned often, along with Valerie Lawrence, Bill Bringas, Steve Ruda and Keith Bandy. Steve also emphasized his disappointment in not seeing more of the younger membership at the event. He spoke of the importance of camaraderie and especially the need to incorporate volunteerism in one’s life and made a call for the younger members to start stepping up and fill in where so many have done before.
Steve, on behalf of the Los Angeles Firemen’s Relief Association, we would like to thank you for your past support and generous giving of your time during so many events held by the Association. It is because of people like you we are able to have an Association that can achieve its goal of serving the membership in their time of need. Congratulations to you for being this year’s honored recipient and thank you for your service. Best of luck to you and your family in the next chapter of your life in retirement.
The Relief Association would like to let everyone know that Open House is an annual event and is open to all the membership—both young and old. We hope you will make time next year to join us and keep the spirit of family, friendship and camaraderie alive.
Written by John Hicks
Photos by Deborah Lew & David Blaire