By Lesley Johnson
If you’ve ever met Carlos Romo, you’ve gained a friend. This gregarious AARP Oregon volunteer loves people, and it shows whether it’s helping a neighbor, solving a problem for an immigrant, or making a new volunteer feel at home. A tall man with a warm smile, Carlos is able to make a quick connection with others, which serves him well as he strives with all of his heart to serve others.
Carlos Romo became an AARP volunteer in 2008 while living in Nevada. Initially a PhD university professor in foreign languages and literature, Carlos later transferred into administration and finished his career as a Deputy Administrator for the Nevada Equal Rights Commission. Though Carlos’ wife, Nancy, had been a member of AARP since she was 49, it wasn’t until Carlos retired that he became enthusiastic about AARP’s “great advocacy and education efforts” and started to volunteer.
Growing up, his family was active in social issues. According to Nancy, “Carlos leads with his heart. He was discriminated against as a child and he knows how it feels. He is very comfortable talking with people. He is an A+ personality.”
Because Carlos is trilingual (Spanish, Portuguese and English) he became an invaluable volunteer in Nevada, often going to ranches in the state to educate workers and helping in any way he could, and serving on the executive council.
AARP Nevada State Director Maria Moore said, "I can recall vividly that once you ask Carlos for his help be ready for full-steam ahead. I remember asking him to translate a document for us once and he had it back to me in record time, and was also very ready to take the show on the road. His passion and commitment was the engine that drove me many a time."
“AARP gives me an opportunity to make sure my voice would be heard, and I like helping people know about our work to strengthen and preserve Medicare and Social Security”
In 2015 the Romos moved to Washington County, Oregon where he jumped right into volunteering with AARP Oregon. Beaverton volunteer Julie Manuel said, "I realized really quickly after Carlos moved here from Reno that we had acquired quite an asset. He was already totally versed in AARP and was very quick to lend his knowledge to all. I was extremely pleased that he also lived in Washington County, so I could also add him to our local volunteer group. That was only the beginning. Soon he had a hand in Fraud Watch Network and was profuse at giving seminars to any size group that would listen.
“Then he became involved with OregonSaves," Julie said, "and he went out to many Latino environments to inform them of what a good choice Oregon Saves is for them." (Julie Manuel is the recipient of the 2020 AARP Oregon Andrus Award for Community Service)
OregonSaves began July 1, 2017, as a pilot program, and was officially rolled out Oct. 15, 2017. Oregon is the first state to launch a state-run auto-IRA program for private-sector employees. This was and still is a big priority for AARP – to help people save for retirement and get ahead who don’t already have a retirement savings program at work.
“Carlos was a tireless advocate for OregonSaves,” said Joyce De Monnin, AARP Oregon Communications & Media Relations Director. He became a volunteer leader on the OregonSaves project by holding meetings at chambers of commerce (Woodburn and Hillsboro) and at the Mexican Consulate, doing Spanish language TV interviews, and traveling with treasury staff to help translate. “He also helped me organize an AARP Day in Woodburn to better understand Oregon’s LatinX majority community where we met with elected officials, the media, farmworkers union, and future leaders. He made a huge difference to help OregonSaves succeed,” Joyce said. Because of his outstanding work with OregonSaves outreach, Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read sent him a special letter of thanks.
Diversity and inclusion are important values for Carlos. He served for two years as AARP Oregon's Diversity Advisory Committee Chair. He even lives in a "multicultural cul-de-sac where Carlos is the neighborhood grandpa”. According to Nancy, he “helps keep the street looking nice, loans neighbors garden tools and has an open door to his younger neighbors.” In addition to AARP, Carlos and Nancy are both Eucharistic Ministers at their local Catholic Church.
AARP State Director Ruby noted that, “Carlos Romo is one of our most dedicated and well-versed volunteers on AARP issues. He's an excellent presenter and keeps me on my toes with the latest national and local information regarding issues impacting the 50+ and their families.”
As for me, I think there is nothing not wonderful about Carlos. At my first statewide AARP event, I was name-tagged and seated, and though I felt entirely comfortable, it was obvious the other ‘kids’ had all known each other for a while and it would take time to learn the 'school norms'. Carlos was early to connect, learning and remembering my name long after the nametag had fallen off, and bringing me into the fold. Later I would witness Carlos’s skill in presenting to a variety of different audiences on a variety of different topics. When I expressed a desire to become involved in the Fraud Watch speaker’s series, Carlos and Bob (Bruce) individually walked me through the program and presented me with an official T-shirt. No matter that I wear a women’s medium and the shirt was a men’s x-large. It remains a treasure.
Every single day, AARP volunteers fuel AARP's work in communities across the country. Without the volunteers who donate their time, skills and passion, AARP wouldn’t have enough capacity to empower people to choose how they live as they age. We volunteer for a variety of reasons; in the words of Carlos Romo, “Age is a plus! We can make life better for all”.
Lesley Johnson, is a Salem AARP Community Action Team member
This story is provided by AARP Oregon. Visit the AARP Oregon page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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