PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Kenny Butler calls himself a “professional volunteer” at Martin Luther King Jr. School in Northeast Portland.
“I went to King Elementary School myself, yeah,” the 52-year-old told KOIN 6 News on Tuesday. “Whatever needs to be done I’m always involved.”
Matt Newell-Ching got to know Butler through the PTA. He said, “Kenny’s just a great human being. … For a lot of kids in the neighborhood, he’s almost like an honorary uncle, he’s almost kind of a godfather to the community in a lot of ways.”
That community rallied around Butler in the days following November 2. On that day he helped save as many as 19 people from an apartment fire on NE Killingsworth
Around 4 a.m. he said he heard popping, “like windows cracking.” He recognized there was a fire and got his family — his 72-year-old mother, his niece and 2 nephews — out first.
“Then, from there, I ran to all the other doors to get everybody else out because it was spreading,” Butler said. “He started the fire in Number 5. We live in Number 4, so everything was damaged.”
Louis Duncan, 34, was booked into jail hours after the fire and charged with first-degree arson.
Butler is in temporary housing now and working with local agencies to get into permanent housing, hopefully by the beginning of December.
Newell-Ching said Butler has always been there for their community. “We asked ourselves, what can we do? So somebody suggested we start the GoFundMe page.”
“This was our time to be supportive of him.”
The outpouring for the man kids at MLK Elementary call “Mr. Kenny” has been heartwarming.
“You know, Kenny and Kenny’s mom, they deserve a fresh start,” Newell-Ching said.
He added it was not surprising Butler was the first one to run and save people.
“It’s both amazing and completely unsurprising that he would go and do that and put himself at some risk to make sure the families and kids at the apartments got out,” Newell-Ching said.
“Well,” Butler said, “I’m doing fine. I mean just a little shaken up and just a little confused on how somebody (an arsonist) can do that to another human being.”
Butler is keeping a positive attitude.
“It’s nice to know that I have people there for me,” he said. “I mean, you’re loved, and I think this is one of the things that help you get through stuff like this.”