Homestead resident Bennie Butler lived a life of serving others and spreading kindness in her community. Her last act of kindness went a long way, all the way to New York, to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy who lost everything in the tragedy.
For days, Bennie volunteered by the collections truck folding clothes and classifying donations that the Homestead community brought to be taken to Rockaway, New York, one of the areas most affected by the storm. Bennie also coordinated efforts with dozens of other volunteers who participated in the relief drive that was organized by Councilwoman Judy Waldman.
“We couldn’t have done it without her, as soon as I told Bennie about the idea she was ready to get to work,” said Councilwoman Judy Waldman, who organized the Homestead Gives Back Hurricane Sandy Relief Drive. “Bennie was one of my closest friends and she was always there for me and for others. We worked together on so many projects to help our community and to help those in need. It is hard to believe that the Hurricane Sandy Relief Drive is the last project we will ever do together.”
In only ten days the Homestead Gives Back Hurricane Sandy Relief Drive filled a large truck with hundreds of much needed donations for the residents of Rockaway. Councilwoman Waldman was able to secure vast donations of food, blankets and other needed items with the help of residents and sponsors such as the Homestead-Miami Speedway, Farm Share, Congressman Joe Garcia, Jose Camarillo, from Sky Net, and northAmerican Van Lines and Homestead Transfer and Storage, Co., which donated the truck and driver that delivered the donations. Councilwoman Waldman, along with her close friend Bennie Butler, and dozens of volunteers collected and classified donations that Homestead residents, with memories still too fresh of Hurricane Andrew, brought daily to the drive.
“Here in Homestead, Fla., many of us survived Hurricane Andrew, and we understand what it’s like to go through a disaster like that,” said Bennie in a letter published by People Magazine in December of last year. “So we have a truck parked at City Hall, and we’re filling it up with supplies. This is our small town’s way of paying back, and the outpouring makes me proud of our community.”
Councilwoman Waldman, also a survivor of Hurricane Andrew, knows the importance of offering help to those who have lost everything in a tragedy. Twenty years ago, the City of Homestead experienced devastation as Hurricane Andrew swept through hundreds of homes and businesses on August 24, 1992. Waldman, as most Homestead residents, subsisted for months from donations from strangers from all over the United States. The kindness that people showed towards one another and willingness to help strangers overcome this disaster left a lasting impression on the Councilwoman.
During the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, Councilwoman Waldman founded the Kindness Awards as way to recognize residents who perform an act of kindness or service their community, and to remember the resilience of the human spirit and its willingness to assist in times of need. For the past ten years, Councilwoman Waldman has honored dozens of people who have helped the community in one way or another by awarding them with a Kindness Award during the month of August. Councilwoman Waldman was ready to honor Bennie at this year’s Kindness Awards for her selfless service to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Unfortunately, Bennie left us too early, and her kindness and service had to be honored by Councilwoman Waldman during her memorial services on Friday, March 1st.
“Thank you for your kindness, for your dedication and your commitment to help others,” said Councilwoman Waldman as she presented the Kindness Award. “This is not only for your efforts to help those in need after Hurricane Sandy, but for so many other projects, so many hours of volunteering and helping others that you dedicated. I will never forget you and what you have done for me and for others.”
Bennie Butler was born July 29, 1947 in Baltimore, Maryland to her parents Charles and Ernestine Rolph (deceased). Bennie’s father was a career officer in the Air Force and she spent her early school years traveling the world with her family. She eventually settled in Homestead, Florida with her family where she graduated from South Dade Senior High School in 1965. Bennie’s love of travel started as a young child and upon graduation she was hired as a flight attendant with United Airlines. She flew the skies around the world for thirty-seven years. In her final years before retirement she decided to come back to Homestead in 1997. She was happily married to her husband Jim for thirteen years. Bennie was an accomplished artist and enjoyed making jewelry and working on beautiful pieces of fused and stained glass. She served on the Board of Directors of Councilwoman Waldman’s Little Angel’s Foundation, and often donated her artwork to charities for their auctions.