“We support a lot of Widows & Orphans fundraisers and we encourage people to donate to the charity throughout the year,” says Robert Rebbe, retired Fire Captain of Station 114 and vice president of LAFD Sertoma Club. “We send people to their events and they send people to ours.”
From merit scholarships to pancake breakfasts to toy drives, LAFD Sertoma Club is engaged in a year-round commitment to families of brave firefighters, as well the Los Angeles community altogether.
For almost 40 years, the club has supported the Wounded Warrior Project, Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, Stars Inc., American Heart Association and the March of Dimes, just to name a few. And come September, Sertoma will once again join Widows & Orphans on the links for the LAFD Invitational golf tournament.
Robert’s enthusiasm for the club’s mission is unmistakable. “When we started working with the Widows & Orphans back in 1980, we were primarily [Relief] Association members. Now, the Sertoma Club has plenty of members who’ve never worn a LAFD uniform, but still care about what firefighters do for our community,” Robert continues.
“Our goal is to help the LAFD, so that’s why we keep ‘LAFD’ in our title, but now we support service organizations that may have no connection to firefighting. It all comes back to ‘How do we help each other out?’” They are also expanding to other fire departments in the surrounding five counties.
The Sertomans currently are in talks to get involved with the Hearing Healthcare Providers of Arizona as well as a gang intervention program in San Pedro. But to Robert, the Toys for Needy Children is really the flagship of the LAFD Sertoma Club. It began in 1976, and each year it’s only grown bigger and bigger.
“Last year alone, we (the LAFD) collected 118,000 toys,” Robert shares eagerly. “We have a surge in October, but we collect toys all year around.” Robert says the toy program has expanded to five surrounding counties, with each area collecting for the needy in its own region. Things really blossomed with ABC’s Spark of Love advertising across Southern California. Robert says the commitment from ABC began in 1992 and this support is a key factor in its on-going success. Robert says they always need volunteers since they do most of the gathering and sorting.
That news must make 35-year charter member and president of LAFD Sertoma Rey Rojo very proud. It was his idea to start the toy drive 40 years ago. But the retired LAFD Deputy Chief and octogenarian feels everything Sertoma does to help the community is important. “Knowing our participation benefits the widows and orphans of our members is the most rewarding part.”
To learn more about the LAFD Sertoma Club, please visit www.sertoma.org.
By Candace Nicholson