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Step up ‘Ms. Bea,’ it’s time you were honored


Bea Butler, who is affectionately referred to as “Ms. Bea,” has been volunteering with Ronald McDonald House since its founding in 1991. Ask anyone who knows her to describe Bea Butler, and you most likely will hear the words loving, gentle, dedicated and caring.

For Bea Butler, supporting Ronald McDonald House Charities ® of Memphis has become a way of life. (Courtesy photo)

These were the words Sarah Lacy, volunteer coordinator for Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Memphis, used to describe Butler Tuesday night when she was honored as “Special Event Volunteer of the Year” at the organization’s Volunteer Appreciation Banquet.

Butler, who is affectionately referred to as “Ms. Bea,” has been volunteering with Ronald McDonald House since its founding in 1991.

“She’s got a huge heart and has been so dedicated and consistent. Anything you’ve asked her to do, she’s done it. I was so glad she got it, because I know how faithful she’s been through the years,” said Donna Skaarer, another longtime volunteer.

Caron Byrd, executive director of Ronald McDonald House, describes Butler as a “beloved” member of the Ronald McDonald House community.

“Everybody knows her heart is with the kids. She is not bashful or shy at all about asking for donations because she believes that people ought to give back, and you do it for the kids who are sick and the parents who are going through difficult times,” said Byrd.

“She always has a hug and a kiss for you. She’s just a sweet person.”

Butler’s journey as a volunteer for Ronald McDonald House began before the house existed.

“I got involved with the Ronald McDonald House while I was already volunteering with St. Jude. I started volunteering with them in 1987, when the children who left St. Jude would go to the Red Roof Inn on Union. That’s where they had to stay because we didn’t have a Ronald McDonald House® here in Memphis,” she recalled.

“When the volunteers were told that they were going to build one here, we were so excited. Because we knew the children would have a place to come.”

Butler has been a familiar face at Ronald McDonald House ever since.

“She’s been active in our Big Scoop event selling T-shirts and other merchandise for the last 17 years. She’s always just trying to generate extra money for Ronald McDonald House by getting donations and getting pull tabs (from aluminum cans) that she collects and turns in from the schools,” said Byrd.

“But, she’s very active in the community, too. She believes that people should get involved, and she uses herself as an example. She’s always giving back. She brought her kids up volunteering in the community. It’s just a way of life for her. You ought to do for others. You help out.”

Butler has been an active volunteer within with the Memphis Business Academy for five years, according to Memphis Business Academy High School Principal Menthia Clark.

Butler’s son, Jermaine Butler, is the basketball coach for Memphis Business Academy Middle School and her two grandchildren, Reneisha Sanders and Toreko Vaesey, attend the high school.

“She headed our Parent Teacher Organization and was the liaison for Memphis City Schools. She went to the meetings and always brought her husband along with her,” said Clark.

Before he passed last spring, Butler brought her husband – who suffered from Alzheimer’s – to every volunteer activity she participated in.

“She took really good care of her husband and loved him so much. She would always explain to him where he was and what was going on whenever she would bring him along with her,” said Clark, who admittedly was amazed by Butler’s dedication to return to volunteering two weeks after her husband died.

“She never skipped a beat,” said Clark.

“Every area the Ronald McDonald House has, I have participated in. You name it, I did it. And now, I’m still working and volunteering and doing whatever I can for the House because children are so important in our lives,” said Butler.

“And the parents need consoling, because a lot of parents are going through all these difficult changes with their children. I like to be there so I can say something positive to them and tell them God has never made a mistake.  

“Sometimes God puts us through things to pull us out of stuff. Weeping may endure a night but joy will come in the morning.”

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