A downtown difference

Ed Butler

Photo by Vic Cantu

Everybody loves a story of someone who gives back to the Chico community, and Ed Butler is a perfect example. He grew up in Southern California, graduated from Chico State in 1979 and moved away for 30 years to pursue a business career. Returning five years ago, the divorced father of two joined the Bidwell Park Watch program, and was one of the first people to join Chico's Downtown Ambassadors (DTA) program. The ambassadors are volunteers who walk around downtown, greeting people, giving helpful information to those in need and answering questions. In July, he became the DTA program coordinator and hopes to enlist more Chico State students and long-term residents. Contact Butler by phone at 636-2516, email ed.butler.dta@gmail.com or log onto www.ChicoAmbassadors.com.

What are the ambassadors’ main duties?

We are a positive, helpful influence. We engage anyone we choose, like students, the homeless, visitors or business owners. We're a major source of info, which is why we wear the bright yellow T-shirts or god-awful, reflective orange vests to stand out.

What is your top goal as the program coordinator?

Primarily to recruit new downtown ambassadors for once-a-weekday, two-hour morning or afternoon shifts. I'm looking to fill 25 slots now.

Are you looking to recruit students?

Yes, it's a great way for them to get more involved in Chico than simply going to school and leaving each summer. Today, I met with students at Chico State and we're crafting a plan to sign them up on a rotating basis. But we really want people from all walks of life, since everyone uses the downtown.

Why did you join the Chico Ambassadors?

I loved my time at Chico State, especially the downtown and Bidwell Park. When I moved back here I thought how cool it would be to hang out there again. I have flexible work hours and considered it a miracle that two organizations, the Downtown Ambassadors and Bidwell Park Watch, let me get back to and enhance my sweet spots!

Do the ambassadors have to intervene in conflicts?

No, we don't police or do social work. If needed we can call the police, but we defer to people who are better trained. It's very safe, as we always walk in pairs, and one of them is a “senior ambassador” who has extensive, tactical training.

What are downtown’s best draws and challenges?

Downtown Chico is a treasure with its locally owned shops, and easy to get to compared with bigger cities. The main drawback is the large homeless population, which is a very, very difficult problem for many communities.