The Ventura County Fire Department Chaplain program consists of people who volunteer their time to assist residents of our community who have experienced the death or serious injury of a loved one. They are available to respond 24 hours a day, every day. Chaplains who answer that call are available to talk with, pray for, and minister to those in need.
Bob Ameche started his career with the Ventura County Fire Department as a reserve firefighter in 1975. He retired as a battalion chief in 2012 and has continued serving as a volunteer Fire Chaplain ever since. He lives in Oxnard with his wife. They have three children and six grandchildren. His interest in serving others with faith-based support started in 1977 after responding to a tragic accident. During a debriefing among the firefighters, the conversation drifted toward the brevity of life and faith in God. ‚ÄúLater, as I was thinking about our conversation, I realized I wanted God in my life. I prayed and repented for my sins and asked Jesus Christ to be my Lord. He saved me that day and I am eternally grateful.¬†As I grew in my faith, I looked for opportunities to show God's love to others, and when our former Lead Chaplain, Larry Modugno, asked me to join the program, I gladly accepted. In 2020, when Larry passed unexpectedly, I assumed the role of Lead Chaplain.‚ÄĚ
Matt Elam has served as a pastor for 14 years at Monte Vista Church in Newbury Park, where he has worked with youth and missions programs. He grew up in Thousand Oaks, graduating from Thousand Oaks High School before going to college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he played baseball. ‚ÄúMy interest in the chaplains program came in gratitude from seeing first responders in those moments of grief and loss, understanding the need for that support, especially for people who may not have a church community of their own.‚ÄĚ
Rabbi Mike Lotker
Rabbi Mike Lotker spent the bulk of his first career as a physicist in the alternative energy business, working in windpower, solar and geothermal energy. He has served synagogues in, Guatemala, Montana, Arizona and California.¬† In 2003, he was ordained as a rabbi at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, where he also received his Master of Hebrew Letters degree. His rabbinic thesis addressed the theology of Jewish-Christian Partnership. He is presently Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Ner Ami in Camarillo, Scholar in Residence at Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks and the Community Rabbi for the Jewish Federation of Ventura County. Rabbi Lotker has published a book entitled, A Christian‚Äôs Guide to Judaism.
Ed Mills has been a VCFD chaplain since 1997. He attended seminary, holds a master‚Äôs degree in pastoral ministry and was ordained as a Catholic deacon. He previously worked as a chaplain at Los Angeles County General Hospital. ‚ÄúAs a deacon, my goal is to serve and share within the community. Being a chaplain provides me a structure for doing that. It has been, and continues to be, an honor to work beside the firefighters of this department.‚ÄĚ
Arnold Reyes is a deacon at Padre Serra Parish in Camarillo. He and his wife, Anne Marie, live in Camarillo. They have three children and two granddaughters. Deacon and chaplain Larry Mogduno was a mentor and teacher to Reyes and convinced him to become a chaplain in 2015. Reyes provides spiritual direction to people of any faith tradition and participates in Illuman.org where men support one another in deepening their spiritual lives. He can often be seen walking his spiritual companion, Koni, in Camarillo.
LaMarcus A. Keys
LaMarcus A. Keys is the founder and senior pastor of Life of Victory Worship Center in Oxnard. As pastor, his mission is to teach on and serve by faith, unity, and love.¬†He recently released his first book, Love Walk. His first passion is his family. Keys and his wife, Danielle, are the proud parents of three daughters. He also has a heart to help people that are hurting. ‚ÄúBeing part of the VCFD‚Äôs Chaplain Program provides another opportunity beyond ministry to reach the people in our community through demonstrations of love, compassion, and care,‚ÄĚ he said.
Lyn Thomas is pastor at Ojai Valley Wesleyan Church, where he has served since 1992. He lives in Ojai with his wife, Kathy. They have three sons and a daughter-in-law. He joined the fire department‚Äôs chaplain program in 1996. ‚ÄúIt was just a way to serve the community,‚ÄĚ Thomas said. ‚ÄúTo come alongside the crews and help people in their time of need is a ministry I‚Äôve found very fulfilling.‚ÄĚ
Sam Chang has a master of divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena and served as a pastor at a Korean Community Church in Los Angeles. He currently attends Westminster Presbyterian Church in Westlake Village. Compassion for people in need is at the center of Sam‚Äôs volunteer work. ‚ÄúMy calling from God led me to the compassion ministry,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúBe present in the name of compassion for their immediate need.‚ÄĚ
Kay Wilson-Bolton started her Chaplain career in 2007 with the Santa Paula Fire Department. When she heard there was an opening she said, "That's for me."¬†Kay served Santa Paula as mayor and, in 1990, signed the proclamation creating the position of fire chaplain. She is an active¬†real estate broker with Century 21 Everest and manages Santa Paula's homeless shelter. Her husband, Howard Bolton, died in August of 2021 and she lives in Santa Paula with more than one rescued pup. She is an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church.
Brian Clements of Simi Valley retired in 2008 from Ventura County Alcohol & Drug Programs where he was Clinical Director for the Simi Valley Alcohol & Drug Treatment Center and the Drinking Driver Program. He is an ordained Deacon at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Simi Valley. He started his volunteer work as a chaplain with the Simi Valley Police Department in the early 2000s. ‚ÄúThroughout my life, I have been blessed to have individuals in my life that brought me emotional and spiritual support and comfort during some of my most challenging and life-changing circumstances,‚ÄĚ Clements said. ‚ÄúAs a volunteer fire chaplain, I hope I can, in some small way, begin to give back to the department and the community that kind of pastoral care and ministry of presence that was so freely given to me.‚ÄĚ
Tyler Ripley is a firefighter at Station 31 in Westlake. He lives in Camarillo with his wife and son. He joined VCFD in 2012 as a fire control worker in the Wildland Division and became a firefighter in 2016. He has been involved in a variety of ministries since 2006, including work in Australia, Indonesia, Honduras, Uganda, and Mexico. ‚ÄúI am honored to represent the Ventura County Fire Department as one of its first sworn fire chaplains. My prayer is to see this program be used to help others in times of hardship and to walk with our members to better love and support each other.‚ÄĚ
Pat Coulter is a Catholic deacon at Holy Cross Church in Moorpark and has served as a VCFD chaplain since 2011. ‚ÄúI really, really care about the people we serve,‚ÄĚ Coulter said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve had a great life and that has given me the chance to be there for others when they are going through some of their darkest times.‚ÄĚ
Raymond Vasquez, of Oxnard, is an ordained deacon in the Catholic church. He retired after 30 years of work as an electrician and member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Vasquez also worked as a chaplain for St. John‚Äôs Hospital and ProCare hospice. He has been a volunteer chaplain with the Ventura County Fire Department since 2008. ‚ÄúI just want to be present to those in need and in their time of grieving, even if I don‚Äôt say anything ‚Äėpresents.‚Äô‚ÄĚ