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Red Cross names new Kauai director

LIHUE — For the last six years, in his post as interpretive ranger at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, Padraic Gallagher has worked to help save and protect the island’s flora and fauna.

Now, he’s excited about a new opportunity, this time helping Kauai residents.

“That’s really what I’m looking forward to,” the 47-year-old said.

Gallagher has been hired as the new Kauai County Director of the American Red Cross. He takes over the position on Monday and replaces Keri Russell, who left in October for a job with another nonprofit.

Originally from the Chicago area, Gallagher moved to Kauai six years ago — sight unseen — after accepting the job with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He has previous volunteer experience with the Red Cross, both here on Kauai and in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he worked at AmeriCorps VISTA, a national service program fighting poverty.

He graduated from Benedictine University outside Chicago in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in history.

Gallagher said he enjoys helping others, and the Red Cross is a perfect fit.

“Our mission is to prevent and alleviate human suffering, that about says it all,” he said. “Plus, it’s pretty cool to work in the shadows of people like Clara Barton, Ernest Hemingway and Amelia Earhart.”

And the Red Cross is happy to bring Gallagher on board.

“He brings with him an extensive history of volunteer management and training experience from U.S. Fish and Wildlife and AmeriCorps VISTA,” said Coralie Matayoshi, CEO of the Hawaii Red Cross. “He has also served as a dedicated Red Cross volunteer on Kauai and other parts of the country. He will be working closely with our Kauai Red Cross Advisory Council and local government and community groups to respond to disasters big and small, recruit and train more volunteers, teach preparedness and build resilient communities on Kauai.”

Gallagher said he’s looking forward to the challenges that come with the new job, as well as working with a fantastic group of volunteers — many of whom he already knows personally.

Asked about his goals, Gallagher said he’s not coming in hoping to make any major changes. Rather, he wants to build on what his predecessor, Russell, was able to accomplish — specifically, recruiting more volunteers.

Under Russell’s guidance, the emergency preparedness and disaster relief nonprofit bolstered its Kauai volunteers from 25 to 130.

“My big thing I want to do is the same thing. I want to build on what she established,” Gallagher said. “We are a volunteer organization, and we can’t do what we do without volunteers.”

Additionally, Gallagher plans to grow community awareness about the role of Red Cross and the importance of preparation in the event of a hurricane, tsunami or other disaster. Short of some guarantee from a higher power that there won’t be another disaster, Gallagher said the island should be ready for one.

As for what he believes will be the biggest challenge of his new job?

“I guess proving myself,” Gallagher said. “I’m not from Kauai, I wasn’t here for Iniki and I hope people don’t hold that against me, but I have lived through tornadoes, snowstorms, floods, extreme cold and heat, and I have learned a lot and bring that knowledge and wisdom to the job, and I will do my best to help the people of Kauai.”

Those wishing to volunteer with the American Red Cross’s Kauai office at 245-4919.

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Chris D’Angelo, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cdangelo@thegardenisland.com.

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