Bag lady gives back

Rebecca Butler helps folks in the community who have the kinds of needs she knows so well.

Life hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Rebecca Butler, who grew up in Southwest Harbor and now lives in Tremont. She has needed help from family and friends to get through some of the roughest spots.

Now, she is giving back by giving to others. And she is doing it in a novel way.

Since the start of the year, she has been making tote bags out of old sails and decorating them with colorful cutouts of lobsters, porpoises, seahorses and the like. People learn about her Island Life Sail Bags, which sell for up to $150, by word of mouth and on her Facebook page.

Butler uses the profits to help folks in the community who are going through the same kinds of tough times she has experienced.

In 2002, Butler’s 2-year-old son, Colby, had his first epileptic seizure. It lasted four hours and was nearly fatal. The doctors weren’t sure what was triggering Colby’s seizures, but they advised keeping him away from people who could pass along a cold or fever.

“At the time, I did day care, so I had to give that up,” Butler said. “My husband could not handle the pressure, so I went through a divorce. I lost my house. I lost everything.

“If it wasn’t for my parents and my sister and a lot of other people stepping in to make sure my needs and my kids’ needs were met, I don’t know what I would have done.”

Colby’s epilepsy is now well controlled.

For several years now, Butler has done what she could for others in the community, both as a member of the Lioness Club and on her own. For example, she makes quilts for children at MDI Hospital.

A while back, she decided she would like to make tote bags out of sails. Requests have been pouring in.

{gallery}bag lady{/gallery}“I have a disgusting amount of orders,” Butler said with a laugh. But that’s good, because the more totes she sells, the more help she can give others.

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Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]