Join us for just about any event and you are bound to meet Valerie Lawrence, one of the most dedicated volunteers and Relief Association members, and the surviving spouse of LAFD Captain John Lawrence. Whether she’s managing and running the raffle and auction for the Lane Kemper Softball Classic, checking in guests at Hope for Firefighters or coordinating volunteers at the LAFD Invitational golf tournament, she always has a smile on her face and fills the room with energy.
We asked Valerie to share with you the many reasons she’s inspired to give so much to her extended firefighter family and your Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund. This is what she shared:
I was recently asked, from a widow’s point of view, how the charity assisted me and what it means to me.
I need to reflect back the last 30 plus years and the countless times, we as a family, needed assistance and without hesitation there was someone there to help me through my darkest hours. Starting back in 1978, John and I lost our baby. For any parent this is a very painful experience that you remember the rest of your life. We made one phone call to the Relief Association and all of the arrangements were handled with courtesy.
In 1994, the year of the Northridge Earthquake we were like several members, temporarily homeless, and had so much demolition to do around our home. On their days off several members of the LAFD came over for a scheduled work party to tear down our red-tagged garage and carport. The Relief Association stepped in and covered the cost of food and beverages.
When my husband John passed away as a result of an on-the-job injury, the outpouring of support was bittersweet. There was always someone there for the guidance we needed. The support did not stop there. I can still walk into the office and feel the love, concern and outgoing support that warms my soul, knowing if I needed anything, all I needed to do is ask. I have had the pleasure of members attending all of the memorial services from Colorado to Sacramento to Hollywood.
My decision to volunteer comes from my heart because I know it is the right thing to do. When you lose the love of your life you experience many secondary losses. This may be the person that paid all the bills, mowed the lawn, took care of the automobiles or did the cooking and so much more.
Working with the Relief Association, I have met several other widows who have experienced even greater losses. If the surviving spouse married the firefighter after he or she retired from the department, there is no pension income to make ends meet. Medical premiums are no longer covered and this becomes an additional out-of-pocket expense. Not all firefighters are covered under Social Security unless they worked an additional job besides the LAFD. These are huge burdens to bear besides the loss of the one you love. Keep in mind that for every $6,000 raised, the charity can help a widow cover her medical subsidy for one year. This barely touches the surface of all the organization provides.
So back to the original question…what does it mean to me? The World. I could not have done this alone and for that I am forever grateful and truly blessed.