LIHUE — When Red Cross calls, Bob Robertson responds.
That’s the way he is. It’s the way he’s always been.
“He’s always volunteering,” said his wife, Jeannette. “He’s seen a lot. When we moved here, he just rolled right back into it. He enjoys it.”
The 71-year-old Robertson was honored Friday night as Kauai Red Cross Volunteer of the Year at the Kauai Centennial Heroes Pau Hana at the Aqua Kauai Beach Resort.
“It touches me very deeply to see something from the efforts I put out,” he said. “But also at the same time, it is a reward when you go out and help someone at a time they are under stress.”
About 100 people attended the event that celebrated American Red Cross and its “100 Years of Aloha” in Hawaii. There were speeches of thanks and appreciation for Kauai Red Cross, its director Padraic Gallagher, and its many volunteers.
“People have thanked me for being here, but I have to thank you folks for doing what you do,” said Kauai Councilman Derek Kawakami.
Kawakami shared a story of a “debate” he and his wife Monica had. She was frustrated, he said, about some of his priorities.
“Do you know who your real friends are?” she asked.
Monica told her husband, “The way you figure out who your real friends are, when things go bad, when they’re not going right and you look around, those people that are still there are your real friends.”
“For the last 100 years when things go bad and when things are not easy, and you take a look around, it’s been the American Red Cross and especially all of the volunteers, that are there,” he said.
Much of the praise was aimed at Bob Robertson, who has been volunteering with Red Cross on Kauai for more than 10 years, responding to disasters on the North Shore from his home outside Kilauea.
Kaulana Finn, Kauai liaison for Tulsi Gabbard, read a statement about Robertson on the congresswoman’s behalf. “You represent the aloha and kindness we should all be thriving for, especially when we encounter someone who is in need of a little extra kokua. Thank you for exemplifying the value of service before self which has the incredible power to build caring and nurturing communities.”
Gallagher said Robertson has been a mentor who helped him during his first Disaster Action Team call. He said Robertson walked him through the process and kept him calm.
“He’s always been there for me,” Gallagher said.
Robertson, a member of the North Shore Lions Club and a ham radio operator, downplayed the credit directed his way.
“I’ve always been active in the community. My dad raised me that way,” he said.
Bob and Jeannette lived in Elkton, Oregon, where he was a volunteer with the fire department before they moved to Kauai about 15 years ago.
He is known for making himself available, any time, for any situation where people need help. Whether a fire, a flood or an accident, Robertson goes out the door when most would rather stay home.
“That’s what I can give to the community,” he said. “My doors are open 24/7. That’s the way it is.”
Sometimes, it’s difficult, he said. “But it’s at that point, that’s where success comes,” Robertson said. “During a disaster when you can see someone who is kind of at their wit’s end, if you can give them some assistance and there’s a twinkle of smile, that’s Christmas come early for me.”