Volunteers up close: Chuck Butterfield

Chuck Butterfield has been officially retired for going on 19 years now, but for the vast majority of that time it has been pretty hard to tell. To put it another way, on a continuum of life’s golden years there is couch potato retirement on one end and Chuck Butterfield’s definition of “retirement” on the other. Luckily for the people of Sarasota County and its many worthy causes, Butterfield, who turns 74 in March, admits he gets bored rather easily. “I just need to stay active,” he says. “I kayak. We have a boat we sold. We golf periodically. I just enjoy doing things. But I don’t volunteer unless it feels good and I feel that it’s fun.”

Since he and his wife moved to Sarasota full time in 2001, following a 25-year career in management positions for an Omaha-based natural gas company, Butterfield’s lengthy resume of fun has included the following:

-Three years (2001-03) assisting with the opening of Habitat for Humanity (ReStore) stores in Sarasota.
-Two years (2004-05) as the paid coordinator of 600 to 700 volunteers at the Selby Botanical Gardens.
-Two years (2006-07) as a volunteer at Old Spanish Point “before my dermatologist diagnosed me with poison ivy for the third time and told me to stop.”
-Two years (2007-08) as a volunteer at Nathan Benderson Park, where he parked cars, answered questions and drove boats for the judges of high school and college rowing events.

And until a few weeks ago, when he resigned from the board to spend more quality time with his wife, Butterfield also was the president of the Friends of the Legacy Trail for two years–a span in which the group’s paid membership grew from 200 to more than 1,000. For Butterfield, it was “a major commitment” of 30-plus hours per week. Which is why Butterfield is now doing a lot less than he was. Or so he claims. “I’ve stepped down from the board,” says Butterfield, “but I’m still staying active with a couple of projects. One of the big ones I’m doing is helping to renovate a house in Osprey at the Osprey Junction trailhead. It’s going to be a visitors center when it’s done. It usually takes 5-6 years to do something like this, but we hope to pull it off within a year.”

Of course that’s not the ONLY thing he’s still doing. Of course not. He also remains an avid bike trail ambassador for the Friends of the Legacy Trail, a landscape volunteer at Potter Park in Palmer Ranch, where he lives, and a member of the Sarasota County Disaster Recovery Team, a group of volunteers whose monthly meetings are about making sure Sarasota is prepared for the next big thing, i.e. a hurricane. And, oh yeah, he also hopes to remain involved with the proposed northward extension of the Legacy Trail to Payne Park in downtown Sarasota. “The first phase could be open by 2020,” predicts Butterfield. “It’s absolutely going to happen.”

Still, Butterfield insists, he really, truly is cutting back. Really? “When I think about what I volunteer for,” he says, “I realize that it has been almost all parks and preserves. A lot of people volunteer at the library. I can’t see myself inside, doing that. … I’ve liked all the volunteer positions I’ve had. Most of them were outside and active. It will be kind of nice to not be in charge and have that stress. … I’m definitely going to tone it way back. My goal is to reduce it to a couple of afternoons a week. We’ll see. But I do get bored, so…”


Volunteer Biographer Gary Reinmuth spoke to the man behind the sunglasses.