Some people are just born with the condition. It’s called Volunteerism. It is not a state of affairs that is easily learned nor is it a job that receives pay. It isn’t something that is demanded of one’s self, or even forced. Rather, it is a state of mind that controls or governs one’s life. In essence, it is a choice a person makes to give of their time and of themselves. Steven Romas has this condition and made a decision early in his life to follow that path. He has been on that trail ever since.
Steve’s first fire department related act of volunteering came when he was only 19-years of age. This is when he joined the LAFD Explorer Program. Steve was a born leader which was evident to others right away. He worked hard, learning the job of a firefighter and passing on his knowledge to his fellow explorers. Still, Steve watched as the political pressures of the day caused him to be passed by while his fellow explorers were hired. Even so, Steve didn’t give up his dream of being a firefighter. Instead, he decided to continue volunteering as an assistant advisor for his post until age 23. It was 1987 when Steve finally achieved what he had worked so hard to earn, the badge of a Los Angeles City Firefighter.
Steve wasted no time after being hired, quickly following his ambitions and rising quickly through the ranks of the Department. Along the way, however, he never deviated from helping others nor did he forgot where he came from. It was the Summer of 1989 when he first met Lane Kemper. It was at one of the Bats and Beers events when Lane asked Steve to run to the store and buy some more hot dogs and soda. At the next year’s event, Steve stepped up and volunteered to handle the procurement of all the drinks. He quickly learned that companies had dedicated funds to donate products to fundraising events, which Steve took full advantage of.
While assigned to Fire Station 60, Steve furthered his entrepreneur skills and began to procure further items for the events. Ice was donated, while Costco covered the hot dogs, buns, and condiments. Coca Cola donated all the beverages, and Steve even found a catering company to donate the cooking and serving supplies. It wasn’t easy, but Steve got the needed items and did it in a way that upheld the standards of the Department.
When Captain John Lawrence transferred to Fire Station 60, Steve and him hit it off right away. With John’s experience and contacts, they were able to bring things to a different level. They were able to get a liquor license, followed by the generous donation of beverages from Budweiser—They were now legal!
Unfortunately, or maybe for the best, times changed and eventually the Parks Department decided that they would no longer allow alcohol to be served at the event. Lane and John made many attempts to get the event to continue; however, both the Department and the Parks stated that in no way would alcohol be tolerated and that those involved would be subject to discipline, fines, or even incarceration. This is when Lane made the hard decision to discontinue Bats and Beer.
Hard times were ahead. Lane Passed away, followed by John Lawrence. Things didn’t look good, but new hope would soon arise. Another member stepped up and got things rolling again. It was Engineer Bill Bringas, and he proposed that they bring back Softball as the Kemper Classic. Steve was hesitant at first, but with a new administration in place with the LAFD, he decided why not give it a try. With the help of all involved the event came back stronger than ever and since has raised the needed funds to benefit the WODFF. Valerie Lawrence also stepped in for her late husband, John, and started organizing a raffle at the event furthering the financial impact of the fundraiser.
13 years have now gone by, and except for this past year of Covid, Steve has made it his goal to incorporated the help of his wife and children, along with other volunteers. Each year they have gathered at Steve’s house to sort through the t-shirts sold at the classic and load the trailer full of supplies. Because of people like Steve and his family, Valerie Lawrence, Bill Bringas, and now Keith Bandy, The Lane Kemper Classic still survives and we will live to play another day in the sun when this crisis of Covid is over.
Steve volunteering spirit didn’t stop at only softball. With the help of Lane again, he began helping out with the Relief’s Annual Golf Tournament. He started out slow, but after Lane’s passing, he felt compelled to continue what Lane had started and has even made golf a family event, again recruiting the help of his wife and children. Together, the Romas Family has made a powerful team, bringing inspiration to others through their actions.
If softball and golf wasn’t enough, Lane Kemper and Larry Hoerner got Steve involved in another Relief event—Hope for Firefighters. If you have never been to Hope, you are missing out. One of the events at the fundraiser involves a hose cart race. Seeing that the hose carts were in disrepair, Steve enlisted the help of now retired Firefighter Berry Sears and had him build five new carts. Two were for Hope, two for LACoFD and Larry Hoerner, and the last one for Explorer Post 89. Steve also obtained all of the equipment necessary for the Hose Cart and Bucket Brigade events. All of these items, along with the softball equipment was stored at Steve’s house. That is how he became “The keeper of the crap.” Luckily, the Relief Association, under Dave Marino, eventually purchased a trailer to store the Muster equipment, which helped relieve Steve of some of the storage issues.
Unfortunately for the Relief, life changes and Steve is retiring soon and moving out of state. He says he will try to attend some of the events; however, even though the want is there, he still won’t be able to put in the work like he would like to. Last year, Steve had planned to recruit some volunteers to take over some of the responsibilities at these events, but Covid has put a damper on that. Steve asks that if his actions have inspired you in any way, to please reach out to the Relief and to people such as Captain Keith Bandy at Fire Station 64, the County guy—Larry Hoerner, Tom Kitahata and Valerie Lawrence. They will need your help as we hopefully move past these unprecedented times and get back to helping those in need. Steve, in recognition for all you and your family have done for the Relief Association and for its members, we would like to thank you for your selfless sacrifices over the years and we wish you and your family only the best as you move onto the next chapter in your lives. They say the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. We know Steve, no matter where you end up that you will never lose that volunteering spirit—A sincere thank you and congratulations on being selected as 2020 Official Open House Honoree.