Shedding Light on the Keeper

Kīlauea Point Lighthouse Photo credit: Kim Rogers/USFWS

Bob Olson worked at the Kīlauea Point Lighthouse over 50 years ago. The lighthouse sits atop a rocky peninsula on the northwest coast of the Island of Kaua’i, 180 feet above the Pacific Ocean. It is now part of the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge that is home to some of the largest populations of nesting seabirds in Hawai’i.

Recently, Thomas Daubert, Executive Director of Friends of Kauaʻi National Wildlife Refuges, had the opportunity to learn about Bob’s experience and capture it for the Friends.

TD: When did you work at the Lighthouse and what was your role?
BO: I was stationed with the United States Coast Guard Group Kauaʻi from 1967-68. I lived in Poʻipū but one of my primary jobs, as the Lead Electronics Technician, was to maintain the radio equipment and radio beacon at the Kīlauea Lighthouse. The equipment was located, at the time, in the concrete building located just west of the Lighthouse (now referred to as the “Contact Station”). Radio beacons were in use at Kīlauea Point since World War II and required regular maintenance. My duties also included servicing equipment at Makahuena Point.

TD: How did you end up serving on Kauaʻi?
BO: Before I was stationed on Kauaʻi, I was stationed in Hilo. A shipmate of mine on the Cape Small was Norman Peleiholani. He previously lived and worked at the Kīlauea Point Lighthouse serving as a Lighthouse Keeper. I became very close to him and his family at the time and he spoke so highly of his time on Kauaʻi that I sought out a role there for my next station assignment.

TD: What are some of your memories of your time being stationed here?
BO: I remember how great the experience was of the team working at the Lighthouse. Everyone knew everyone and were like family. When I worked on the radio equipment, I was welcomed to dinner with the lighthouse keepers and their families.
I remember coming to the Lighthouse after one particularly bad storm. I was really surprised to see that the storm had broken out the windows in the beacon building. We had to board up the building and clean and dry out the equipment. During another stormy day, I remember sitting at Secret Beach and watching the spray hit all the way up to the Lighthouse, which is already really high above the ocean.

TD: Where were you stationed after your time on Kauaʻi?
BO: After my station assignment on Kauaʻi concluded, I served in Vietnam. After the war, I was stationed on a number of different ships and also at another lighthouse, located at Point Arguello, California. There, I will always remember being awakened by the fog horns, which of course you don’t have at Kīlauea Point!

TD: Have you been back to Kīlauea since you were stationed here?
BO: I had such a great experience during my time on Kauaʻi that I always intended to come back to another station assignment on Kauaʻi or to retire there. Unfortunately, my 21-year career with the US Coast Guard didn’t allow for another “overseas” assignment. After my career wound down, I found myself with my family in Northern California. However, I was able to visit Kauaʻi around 2006 with my family.

TD: When you visited, what were some of the primary differences you noted from your time working here?
BO: When I lived in Poʻipū, Koloa was still a plantation town and there were just two resorts in Poʻipū. Makahuena Point, where I also worked, has changed a lot and is now just a site for condos. I also really noticed the massive erosion to a number of south shore beaches after the two hurricanes that impacted Kauaʻi.
Out at Kīlauea Point, the experience is also very different. The lighthouse is no longer in operation and, therefore, is no longer maintaining a staff of lighthouse keepers. Also, many more people visit the site than my time and, when I was stationed there, guests were only allowed into the first floor of the Lighthouse since it was still operational. Now, I understand that visitors can go up to see that beautiful fresnel lens!

TD: Since your time here, this site has become part of the National Wildlife Refuge system. What wildlife did you observe at Kīlauea Point during your time here?
BO: I frequently saw a lot of seabirds. I remember seeing an albatross once in a while. I was accustomed to seeing them at sea during my time stationed on ships, but not on land.  That was a unique sight.

TD: Mahalo nui loa Bob for your service to our country and to our beautiful lighthouse, and for taking the time to share these memories with our supporters!

Thank you to Tom and the Friends of Kauaʻi National Wildlife Refuges for letting us share this story with you.

It’s About Community

Puddles staying up after his bedtime to view an April meteor shower.

Just like at your refuge, all the public facilities at Ottawa NWR in Ohio closed in response to COVID-19. Ultimately, the Biggest Week in American Birding, which attracts more than 90,000 visitors to the refuge and other lands along the shore of Lake Erie, had to be canceled. It was a blow to the local community and to the Friends because spring and early summer are the busiest times at the refuge.

The visitor center and the Friends store are the heart of the Ottawa NWR. That’s where the Friends of Ottawa’s staff and volunteers connect with members of the community. The Friends didn’t want to lose that connection, so they went about replicating the sense of community online. Aimee Arent, Executive Director of the Friends, shared what they’ve done, what has resulted, and how people have reacted.

First, they began expanding email communication to let folks know what’s happening on the refuge and to share refuge photos. Using creative subject lines like, “It might be worth staying up past your bedtime!” they saw email open rates jump from 25% to 45-50%. They also heard from a state health care official, dealing with COVID-19, who told them that their messages were a “desperately needed breath of fresh air.”

Next, they have been calling members,volunteers and donors to see how they are doing—and letting people know that the Friends care about them. Although callers haven’t solicited donations, many of those who were called renewed their memberships early or upgraded to a higher giving level.

Finally, Ottawa Friends began increasing Facebook activity, even adding an easy-to-join Photography Club subgroup. Results were again positive. Their followers increased by more than 300, and they were especially pleased when one member, who had declared that she would never use Facebook, became an enthusiastic member of the Photo Club group.

Putting the community first has strengthened the Friends’ ties to its members, volunteers, and donors—for now and into the future.

To see what other Friends organizations are doing during the time of COVID-19 sign up for the next issue of The Link, a quarterly newsletter from NWRA & CORFA. https://www.refugeassociation.org/friends

NWRA Fundraising Webinar for Friends

 

NWRA Fundraising Flyer

Click image to go to registration form.

Date: May 12 or May 14, 2020 (two sessions to choose from)
Presented by: Courtney Lewis, NWRA Director of Development

The National Wildlife Refuge Association is sponsoring a webinar exclusively for refuge Friends groups to discuss various fundraising strategies in response to the effects of COVID-19.

The topics of discussion are: Fundraising during COVID-19; Fundraising Events; Foundations, Individual Donors, and Major Donors. If time permits, we will have questions at the end.

Go to the online form to choose the date and time for the session you wish to attend. Connection information will be sent to you the day before the webinar.

“In fifty minutes, Courtney conveyed more useful, practical information on effective fundraising than I’ve heard in sessions many times that long.”  —Mike Baldwin, Ding Darling Wildlife Society