For Ron Wiley, community service is his business — and business is good

Ask Ron Wiley what community events he will be participating in this month, and he will need to check his schedule.

“Seriously, it’s a little hard to keep track,” he said.

It is better to ask him what he will be up to during the next week, or the next 24 hours, or the rest of the afternoon. And if you ask him about his role in a recent fundraising event for the Ronald McDonald House, or the Humane Society, or the Red Cross, or the United Way, or any of the other service groups he helps out with, be sure to specify which event you are talking about because, chances are, he went to them all.

On Monday, he will be taking part in the Annual Kaua’i Hospice candle lighting memorial.

Dec. 8, 9 and 10, he will be doing a blood drive for the Red Cross.

And he just finished with the Kaua’i Humane Society’s “Santa Paws” event on Saturday.

“Ron’s one of our heroes,” said Kaua’i Humane Society Director Dr. Becky Rhodes. “He’s helped to reunite thousands of pets with their families over the years.”

As Wiley pulls the microphone toward him, it calls to mind a koala bear bending a eucalyptus branch to reach a leaf. Maybe it’s the full beard and thick head of hair. More likely, it’s that both creatures are so obviously suited to their habitats.

Of course, the Kaua’i radio celeb is far less elusive than the marsupial, venturing often from the windowless cloister of his 93.5 FM KQNG radio broadcast booth into the community that has come to know his distinctive voice, sense of humor and the local causes he holds dear.

Wiley said as a radio DJ (and host of morning show “Trade Radio”), he acts as a conduit for the local community. He said it has been nice to see businesses and regular working folk “step up” the aloha during these tough economic times.

“You don’t just do it to distract yourself. It’s really a kind of healing. You could call it a spiritual healing,” he said in an interview Friday.

Riley’s first words as a professional radio DJ were “Buenos Dias,” spoken in a Spanish language radio station in Tucson.

After a string of other stations, including a 1975 to 1989 stint at Honolulu’s KIKI, Wiley arrived on Kaua’i on April Fools’ Day, 1989. This April 1 will mark his 27-year anniversary as one of Kaua‘i’s most beloved radio personalities.

Wiley said that contemporary blues Grammy winner Kevin Moore (Keb’ Mo’) crystallizes his approach as a radio professional and active community member in one of his songs: “I’m gonna make my world a better place … I’m gonna make myself a better man.”

While Wiley uses his radio platform to make his world a better place, he said local businesses that hope to shine could take the same approach, and often do.

Because Kaua‘i is such a tight-knit community, Wiley said each person has relatively more impact. “I call it ‘scale of impact.’ Here, if any one person in a business is polite — extra polite — it gets around.”

As someone positioned to reach a lot of people, Wiley said he must accept the extra “responsibility of impact.” Though not a Rotarian himself, he takes the Rotary Club’s motto of “Service before Self” to heart, saying that everyone in the business community — even if they don’t work in radio — can find daily opportunities to broadcast a positive and caring tone.

“It gets back to actually being helpful,” he said, adding that, if you’re in the service industry, as many are here on Kaua’i, it’s important not to see serving others as demeaning. Helping someone out — even if it’s just smiling and speaking kindly with a customer — can be exalting in a way,” he said.

As co-chair of Kaua’i United way, with friend Doug Spears of the Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa, Wiley finds satisfaction helping people discover the power of believing in themselves to make a difference in their own lives.

“We encourage folks to understand their own capacity to overcome adversity,” Riley said. “You don’t stand a chance if you don’t believe you can.”

• Luke Shanahan, business writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or lshanahan@kauaipubco.com

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