Decades before her own children grew up to be first responders, Maria Riley developed a soft spot for helping firefighters.
“Way back when, firefighters would come to their elementary school and train the teachers in emergency response. Because I was so involved, I was allowed to train as well,” Riley said of how she first became part of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). “That’s how it all began.”
Riley’s volunteerism has snowballed over the years – she’s now a CERT coordinator, a fundraiser for the Los Angeles Fire Department and a mainstay at a number of events for our firefighter charity, the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund, including the LAFD Invitational Golf Tournament and Hope for Firefighters. She also helps out at the annual Open House event.
“I love doing something good for people,” Riley said. “Volunteering has always been my thing.”
“Maria is definitely a force to be reckoned with,” said the charity’s Volunteer Coordinator Juliet Brandolino. “She has a smile that can light up the room, but don’t let her charm and that mischievous sparkle in her eye fool you. She is our very own ‘Wonder Woman.’ Strong, smart, resourceful and formidable – she is the complete opposite of a shrinking violet.”
While Brandolino boasts she can rely on Riley to take care of V.I.P’s and make sure events run smoothly, Riley says fundraising for her favorite organizations is her niche.
“I love to contact people,” Riley said. “I love to network. I tried to teach my kids you have to have a reason and purpose in life. It’s important to reach out to people, not just because you’re trying to socialize, but because you’re trying to pick somebody’s brain to get what you need.”
Maria Riley…Dedicated to First Responders
When Riley first got involved 25 years ago, she had no idea her children would grow up to be first responders. She has a son who is a firefighter and a daughter who is a police officer. Three of her four kids served in the military. Riley says her children’s service validates what she does, but it hasn’t really changed the reason she volunteers. She says her fellow volunteers and the men and women they raise money to help are also a part of her family.
“I think it’s the family portion of it – the family bond,” Riley said. “I think that’s what it is. There’s this closeness that you work together with people. No matter who you are there is such a tight bond with the department. I have to admit that the fire department itself has my heart.”
Riley plans to continue volunteering and raising money for her favorite organizations, particularly the Firemen’s Fund.
“We are so grateful to have Maria as part of the [LAFD] family and as our wonderful volunteer,” Brandolino said.
To volunteer like Maria, sign up for our volunteer Boot Brigade here.
By Kate Cagle