LIHUE — Shortly after Michele Molineaux moved to Kauai, she heard stories of the devastation caused by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. And she heard stories of how the American Red Cross helped the island recover.
She knew what she wanted to do next: Join Red Cross.
“You have to be an ohana when things happen,” she said.
Over the past five years, Molineaux has manned the hotline, managed shelters and responded to families in need when they lost their home. Today, she serves as the west disaster action Team Captain, where she coordinated three home fire responses in the past year and has helped train new responders in the field.
Despite being a full-time Kauai Humane Society employee, Molineaux consistently finds time to assist the Red Cross in many ways, said Krislyn Yano, communications manager of The American National Red Cross, Hawaii State Chapter.
“Michele’s organizational skills have been a major factor in the development of the Red Cross program on Kauai,” Yano wrote in an email. “Her commitment as a volunteer to the Red Cross exceeds expectations and furthers the Red Cross mission of helping others and saving lives.”
Molineaux was honored Saturday as the 2015 Red Cross Volunteer of the Year for Kauai at an annual Heroes Breakfast at the Waikiki Marriott. Those honored on other islands were Jan Kealoha (Oahu), Kenneth Cutting (East Hawaii), Phillip Fernandez (West Hawaii), Rebecca King (Maui County), and Daniel Suzuki (Animal Hero).
Across the United States, hundreds of thousands of volunteers are part of the Red Cross. They respond to fires, teach lifesaving skills like first aid and CPR, and volunteer at Army Hospitals. In Hawaii alone, there are over 1,500 Red Cross volunteers helping the community.
“We want to take this time during Volunteer Week to thank our volunteers for their service and dedication,” Hawaii Red Cross CEO Coralie Chun Matayoshi said. “They help us fulfill our lifesaving mission every day, and we are overwhelmed with gratitude for their service.”
Last year, Hawaii Red Cross volunteers provided food, shelter, comfort and hope to 152 local families, or 469 individuals, who faced emergency situations.
They served 5,731 meals and snacks to victims of disasters and emergency workers in the field, housed 2,616 people during times of evacuation and presented disaster preparedness information to 22,001 people. They trained 13,222 people in lifesaving skills and provided 12,672 services to military members, veterans and their families.
Molineaux, who lives in Koloa with husband Russell Faraldi, said it was wonderful to see the Red Cross honor so many people.
“We have some amazing volunteers on Kauai who do a lot of work every day,” she said.
Molineaux has covered both the west and central areas of the island when the central area disaster action team captain needed to step down. She also serves as the focal volunteer for catering surveys on Kauai, lining up caterers like the Sheraton Kauai Resort to ensure that there will be hot meals for the public during times of disaster. She manages the Kauai Red Cross hotline and has helped build its efficiency, organizing the volunteer hotline schedules to ensure that it is covered 24/7.
She has seen firsthand the impact that the organization and its volunteers have had when people are reeling from fires, floods or other times of troubles.
“When you see somebody who just lost everything, or someone with kids who doesn’t know what is going to happen, Red Cross provides relief,” Molineaux said.
It’s important that people have a place to go and shelter where they can recover after losing their home.
“It’s very rewarding to be able to just be there for them on an immediate basis and say, ‘Hey, you’re not alone at this moment. We can help you out,’” she said. “That’s been really rewarding.”
She said the spirit on Kauai to help each other is strong. When the need arises, everyone pitches in, she said.
“It’s really heartening to see,” Molineaux said. “You need to know those people are there if something does happen.”