Responding to the call

When Bill Butler got the call about going to West Virginia to assist in areas devastated by flooding, he knew he couldn’t say no.

He and his wife Cathy lived in Charleston for 15 years, from 1972 to 1987. He often traveled around the state in his work as a manager with a coal mining company and still has many friends there.

“I just felt I couldn’t desert these old friendships in a time of need,” said Butler, a Kauai Red Cross Volunteer of the Year. “I started to say no and it dawned on me what the situation really was here and I just had to say yes.”

Butler left Monday for West Virginia, arrived Wednesday, and will stay there until July 17 to help with organization and assist with community partnerships.

Charleston was not hit by the flood waters, but towns nearby it were.

“These are areas we had spent time in, people we were acquaintances with,” Butler said in a phone interview with The Garden Island after he arrived in West Virginia.

And they are good people, he said, giving people.

“They’ll help each other when something happens,” he said.

Butler said the damage in West Virginia was tremendous, more than most people could imagine. The Red Cross will do all it can to aid the recovery.

Red Cross workers opened numerous shelters in Fayette, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Nicholas, Pocahontas and Roane counties and are providing meals, relief supplies and other assistance to those affected as well as meals for first responders.

Red Cross disaster mental health workers are helping people cope. Health workers are helping to replace needed items like prescription medications and eyeglasses. The Red Cross is monitoring the situation and working with state and local officials and partners to help ensure people get the help they need.

Butler was one of three Hawaii Red Cross volunteers who deployed to West Virginia. Two volunteers from Oahu left Monday, too. Penny Lindsey is assisting with logistics and facilities and Renise Bayne is assisting with casework.

Some of his duties are making sure different agencies and partners are coordinating their efforts to avoid duplication and help the most people possible, and to be sure help is going to all areas that need it.

“We search for areas that in the rush to respond, may have been missed,” Butler said.

After his first shift, Butler said it was a tiring day.

“It’s a huge response and huge disaster,” he said. “It’s going to be a long one.”

“Where I’m at in Charleston, life is very normal,” he said. “We’re at the edge of where the problem areas.”

Butler has spoken to Red Cross people in the field to prepare for what he would find.

“They’re saying if anything, it’s worse than what you’ve read in the newspapers,” he said.


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