Red Cross Volunteer Honored
Molokai’s Lester Keanini has traveled across the country, dedicated thousands of volunteer hours and even moved to Maui — all to support the Red Cross. For this dedication, he was recently awarded the honor of Maui County Volunteer of the Year.
The award is based on nominations, said Michele Liberty, Red Cross Maui director, and Keanini got the most nominations. Final selection was made by the Maui Advisory Council. March is Red Cross month, and Liberty said it’s also a time to honor the organization’s many volunteers — and “Lester’s humble humanitarian, spirit embodies that of the Red Cross mission.”
For the past year, she said, Keanini’s been volunteering every day, full time, at Maui Red Cross office.
“He does everything,” she said. “He’s become that person our volunteers are used to seeing. He’s always so warm and friendly, Molokai style.”
A man of more action than words, Keanini responded to the award by laughing and saying simply, “It’s alright.”
Five years ago, Keanini started working with the Red Cross on Molokai and was assigned as Molokai Disaster Team Leader, according to the Red Cross. There were only a few volunteers with the organization on the island at that time. Now, there are nearly two dozen. That’s thanks in large part to Keanini’s recruitment efforts, as well as free disaster training offered on Molokai last year.
“Through his passion and hard-work, Lester was able to increase the Molokai disaster team, successfully lead and support his team during disaster responses, and engage volunteers with preparedness projects and community disaster educational events,” read a Red Cross statement.
When the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami caused damage to homes on Maui and Molokai, Lester and his team identified 25 families who needed Red Cross assistance and ensured their immediate needs were met.
In 2012, Lester deployed to his first Red Cross national disaster response for Hurricane Isaac where he delivered supplies and assisted with shelter management. His service offered inspiration for current and new volunteers.
Molokai resident Halona Kaopuiki was one of the newly trained Red Cross volunteers in last year’s class.
“When I saw Lester Keanini helping victims on the news in Louisiana, it made me feel proud to see a Molokai boy volunteering his services away from home.,” said Kaopuiki, in a Red Cross news release. “So I am grateful to be involved with this program and hope to continue and move forward.”
Currently on Maui, Keanini co-leads the organization’s logistics team, monitoring inventory, moving supplies and providing logistical support.
“As soon as everythings on a level flow, maybe I’ll go home,” he said.
In the meantime, he dedicates his time to building up the organization and supporting Molokai’s team of volunteers, who are always at the ready in case of disaster. The last time they were activated was during Tropical Storm Flossy last July, when volunteers on Molokai opened the island’s shelters.