All-Around Good Guy Steve Romano Provides Locals with a Virtual Gathering Place While Giving Back Throughout the Year
If you live in the area, there’s a good chance you’re a follower of Wake Up Cocoa Beach, the Facebook page for folks who like to keep their finger on the pulse of society concerning happenings going on in their own backyard. For those who do follow the page, you’re probably acquainted with its founder, Steve Romano, father of two, local Re/Max Solutions owner/broker and the man behind so many of the charitable undertakings in and around Cocoa Beach.
Steve is originally from Clarksburg, West Virginia, where he grew up as one of four siblings to restaurateur parents who decided to relocate to Cocoa Beach in the mid-’70s. They’d spent their honeymoon here years earlier. Quickly adapting to beach life, he could always be found surfing, fishing and playing ball as a kid.
After a brief stint as a racquetball pro in the early ’80s, he began working in his mom’s real estate office putting in signs, picking up keys and acting as office courier. This early exposure to the business is what prompted him to procure his own realtor’s license, and he’s been in the business ever since.
In 2012, Steve started Wake Up Cocoa Beach. Originally created to inform people about the local election going on at the time, it eventually morphed into a news source for Cocoa Beach residents, supporting budding and established businesses, finding lost pets and keeping an eye on city hall in general.
“We now have more than 8,100 members, and if it weren’t for Wake Up Cocoa Beach, we probably wouldn’t have had that first art show. I will never forget members handing me $5, $10 and $20 bills just to help out back then,” Steve says.
When asked if he had any particularly fond memories in connection to activities spurred on by the popular page, Steve reminisced about one noteworthy incident that happened in 2015:
“We’ve helped a lot of people, but my favorite one was when our local VFW was going to honor Elia Fontecchio, a local resident who was killed in Iraq in 2004. A dozen or so of his platoon were coming in for the ceremony, so when I posted on Wake Up Cocoa Beach that we should roll out the red carpet for these guys, we absolutely crushed it. We ended up raising enough money to pay for their rooms and load them up with food and beverages. We also sent them to NASA for the day and had a pub crawl later on through the various downtown watering holes. I will never forget how Cocoa Beach treated these guys, with girls hugging them and taking pictures, people buying them drinks and toasting to their service—it really is a special place.”
It’s easy to see that what basically started as a virtual gathering place for locals now serves a dual purpose far beyond keeping folks informed or giving them a place to post. You’d think his dance card would be full, but he still finds time for other worthy causes.
As a member of the Space Coast Realtor Association for almost 35 years, Steve says the group’s main charity is the Brevard Children in Need Foundation, which raises money for homeless kids in connection to school supplies and other necessities.
“It heartbreaking to hear about so many kids who have to struggle just to get through school. Our organization helps raise money to see that they have what they need to get a decent education, and in the spring we gather up prom dresses and suits so kids who can’t afford to wear something nice can get dressed up courtesy of us,” he says.
If you’re wondering, his altruism began with his mother.
“My mom was always helping people and was the definition of giving is better than receiving,” he says. “In 1991, I signed up for the Big Brothers program. I helped a kid out who was being raised by his grandma. I remember the folks who ran the program thought it was pretty strange that a 29-year-old single guy in Cocoa Beach volunteered for the job.”
In 2014, Steve got involved with the art festival.
“The folks who ran the Cocoa Beach Art Show got into some type of disagreement with the city. They had decided to move the show to Port Canaveral. The town was pretty upset—understandably so—because we’d just lost the Air Show, and now to top it off on Thanksgiving weekend the streets of Cocoa Beach were going to be dark. A small band of brothers and sisters got together and insisted: not on our watch! We had a pretty good inkling that people would still show up, so we put our heads together and raised enough money to put on a really great show, regardless, and as each year passes it just keeps getting better.”
With a view toward results, he teamed up with city manager Jim McKnight in 2018 after the latter contacted him about promoting a holiday can drive for a nearby homeless shelter. Steve gamely suggested making it a challenge between the city and WUCB. The outcome? Let’s just say they probably did 10 times better than expected because of the power of people pulling together.
That’s what Steve Romano is all about: bringing people together, giving back and making a difference.
1 S. Orlando Ave., Cocoa Beach, 321.432.0342, Facebook.com/pg/Wake-up-cocoa-beach