Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024 |
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PRINCEVILLE — When heavy rains would fall on the North Shore, and the Hanalei Bridge would be in danger of closing, phone calls would follow. On the receiving end of those calls would be Bill Butler.
The message was something like this: The Hanalei River is rising. It might be necessary to close the bridge. Be ready to open the emergency shelter.
And off Butler would go, leaving the warmth of his Princeville home, for Hanalei School. If the bridge was eventually closed, which it has been several times in the past two years, the retiree didn’t know when it might reopen, leaving him stuck. Didn’t matter. He never hesitated, knowing there might be people who needed shelter.
“I’ve gotten to know the cafetorium rather well,” he said, laughing Tuesday morning.
Butler was honored for his efforts as the Kauai American Red Cross Volunteer of the Year during the organization’s Heroes Breakfast at the St. Regis Princeville Resort.
About 50 people attended the hourlong event to pay tribute to those on Kauai who make Red Cross a success.
Keri Russell, county director, American Red Cross, Hawaii State Chapter, said it was a chance to recognize people “who demonstrate every day that inside each human being is a hero, ready to step in and help whenever needed.”
She said Kauai has about 100 volunteers here, always on call, and those people “are the heart and soul of the Red Cross.”
“We celebrate this spirit of heroism by honoring those individuals who have shown courage, kindness and unselfish character in our community,” she said.
Butler and his wife Cathy moved to Kauai about two years ago from Denver, where he was also a Red Cross volunteer. Once on island, he quickly got involved to serve as the North Shore shelter manager. He not only readies the emergency shelter — cots, water, coffee — as necessary, but staffs the disaster hotline, recruits volunteers, deploys to Mainland disasters, conducts surveys and participates in training programs.
“He’s very passionate and experienced,” Russell said. “He really brings aloha and cares about the island.”
In his short acceptance speech Tuesday, Butler deflected praise and thanked others for their roles with Red Cross.
“I’m very much honored but I’m also humbled,” he said. “There are so many volunteers who do so much for the Red Cross. I’ve just been like them.”
The Red Cross, he added, is not a group of professionals, but a group of volunteers ready to respond any time, anywhere. He just happens to be one of them, he added.
“Working with these people is just a privilege,” Butler said.
Life, he said, has been good to him and his wife. It’s one reason, come the rainy season and those phone calls, he doesn’t worry about being stuck on the wrong side of the Hanalei Bridge.
“You’ve got to give back and get the satisfaction in giving back,” he said. “And there is satisfaction.”
• Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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