POIPU — Coleen Kasperek says being an American Red Cross volunteer is in her blood.
“My father was an American Red Cross volunteer and firefighter, and my aunt volunteered with the Red Cross when a flu epidemic hit the Northeast in 1918,” she said.
Kasperek, along with her husband, Brian, have been volunteering with the American Red Cross for four years. In those four years, they have responded to natural disasters like fires and hurricanes, and are now part of the Disaster Action Team.
During Hurricane Kilo, which traveled 4,300 miles from south of Hawaii to near the western Kuri Islands, the Kaspereks called 120 people and secured over 40 volunteers to work in emergency shelters, said Padraic Gallagher, director of disaster services for Kauai.
“They were very, very helpful, and put everyone’s mind at ease,” Gallagher said. “We knew we could open up some shelters.”
In addition to responding to natural disasters, the couple also volunteers their time at various outreach programs and have helped install 75 smoke detectors in Kauai homes.
“We don’t physically install the smoke detectors, but we help residents get a plan together,” Brian said.
They also work to spread the word about the American Red Cross, and volunteer opportunities.
“You’re a member of the community, and you need to figure out something you can do to help it,” Coleen said. “If you don’t volunteer, or if we don’t volunteer, who’s going to do it?”
On Saturday morning, the Kaspereks efforts were recognized at the 2016 Kauai Heroes Breakfast, where they were named the 2016 Kauai Volunteers of the Year. The breakfast was held at RumFire at Poipu Beach, at the Sheraton Kauai Resort.
“They are always available for any call or meeting we had,” Gallagher said.
The Kaspereks, who live in Kalaheo, have called Kauai home for almost 15 years.
They got involved in the Kauai Red Cross as a way to give back to the community, Coleen said.
“It’s about being part of the community and participating,” she said. “It’s about giving back, not taking away.”
There are a total of 72 active American Red Cross volunteers, Gallagher said.
Those volunteers represent “heroic aloha,” said Elton Ushio, emergency management administrator.
“The repeated ability of American Red Cross volunteers to deploy immediately to put up shelters is truly impressive and very much appreciated by the county, and residents and visitors alike,” he said. “So kudos to you.”