Friday, June 29, 2007

Responding to a thunderstorm

Every BonaResponds' response need not be huge. Today a thunderstorm knocked down a large (~100 year old) oak across the Alleghany River Trail and BonaResponds worked with the Town of Allegany to get it cleared. (more pics here )

Thursday, June 28, 2007

So what is going on in the Gulf?

Over the next week or so I will focus on what is going on in the Gulf right now. I hope to have some interviews as well as some reports from volunteers in the region.

While this particular article has no tie to BonaResponds, I think it is a good place to start:

Edwardsville Journal - Life & Style:
"Kirbach said helping with the effort 'was definitely a life-changing event.'

'It was amazing to see the destruction,' he said. 'Everything was destroyed (by the storm).'

The majority of houses in the path of the hurricane's destruction have not been rebuilt, although some casinos and restaurants have, he said.

'You can see the foundations and concrete pillars where there used to be houses,' he said. 'It gives you a better appreciation for the work that we are doing.'

Habitat has no plans to rebuild houses in the area of destruction. All of the houses are being built north of the area that was hit by the hurricane."

Monday, June 25, 2007

Study links hurricanes to teen smokers - Yahoo! News

Study links hurricanes to teen smokers - Yahoo! News:
"The physical damage was easy to see, but the psychological damage from the hurricanes was pretty well hidden,' said Alfred L. McAlister, a behavioral scientist and an author of the study. 'The hurricanes had an emotional impact on the youth and we need to recognize that and give them the help they need. Otherwise, they use tobacco as a crutch and then they become addicted.'"

Common Ground

Sean just forwarded this: Notice where the donations go!

Official Ticketmaster site. Steve Vai tickets Hammerstein Ballroom New York, NY, Directions, seating chart.: "Optional Charitable Donation: Steve Vai would like to give you the option of donating $1.00 to Common Ground Collective to aid Hurricane Katrina survivors ( They still need our help. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.

For those of you who do not know, CommonGround is one of the groups we worked with in 2006. :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What a BonaResponds trip means to the volunteers

Charlie sent along the following. Over the next few weeks we will be running a series of "reflection" pieces. So if you would like to be included, PLEASE write something up and send it along.

From Charlie:
"My first BonaResponds trip was one of the best experiences of my life, bar-none. I really did not know what to expect going in, mainly because I did not know many other people that were going. Also, I was a bit jealous of all my friends who were off to the Bahamas for Spring Break. I had made a commitment to go, though, and I was going to follow through.

The bus ride down was the first bonding experience between myself and my fellow Bonaventure students and community members. I met quite a few people I had not previously known, and by the end of that 22 hour trek, I was not ready to see two thirds of them leave to go to other sites.

It turned out that we were called upon to make a "detour" on recently ravaged Enterprise, Alabama, a small town in southern Alabama that had been rocked by a tornado. We literally walked house-to-house, walked into people's houses, and helped them clean out their bedrooms and such. In some houses, there was no roof, no windows, no doors, and this was a mere 2 days after the tornado hit.

It seemed so weird walking into people's bedrooms. In one house that was not damaged too badly, we removed t-shirts from a dresser. This really humanized the situation and made me realize for the first time that this was not just a disaster site, but someone's home-or what used to be someone's home.

At the end of the day, it made you realize how fortunate you were to never have to experience things like this. These days, people complain about everything from traffic to cold coffee-this was something that truly gave perspective to our lives.

Best of all, the people of Enterprise were so greatful to have us helping them. They were just flabbergasted that we would come all the way from New York State to help them, but we thought nothing of it. I explained to them that that is what the Bonaventure Franciscan spirit is all about- helping your brothers and sisters when they need it most.

From there we traveled to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, where the trip took on an even greater meaning. While the devastation of the area was already 2 years old, it was still shoking to see how Katrina had wrecked the entire shoreline and neighborhoods and towns for miles. Concrete slabs stood in the place of houses. FEMA sight that really trailers were all over. One sight that really caught me and described the absolute need for help down in the Gulf Coast was when we were riding in the back of a pickup delivering shingles to a job site. As we drove down the street, one man was single-handedly peeling siding (one-by-one) off his house (that was for sale), with no help at all. When we passed the man again, he had tired out and was resting in a plastic chair. This described the Gulf Coast in a nutshell- so much damage, so much to be done, and so little people to help.

On the other hand, we met a man who had moved his residence to the Gulf Coast just to be come a full-time volunteer. He had quit his job, sold his bike shop, and along with the younger (and just as enthusiastic) volunteers, he really made a difference. The whole volunteer experience is really chipping away at a huge project, but at the end of the day, especially when you work on a house that someone is living in, it is nice to know that you made even a little difference.

On the last day of the trip, as we took a tour of New Orleans, when we drove into the city, our excited buss chocked full of volunteers saw the abandoned Ninth Ward, a totally barren and desolate area of the city. The place had been under water for months, and work hadn't even begun on the project. The bus grew quiet, as we saw just how much still must be done to revive the Gulf Coast. This summed up much of the area's situation- abandoned area, an afterthought, and a group of dedicated, caring, and enthusiastic volunteers who are willing and able to make a difference.
As we rode home from Mississippi, I couldn't believe the impact the trip had had on me. While we did help many people out, I felt that the experience benefited me in almost as many ways. I had gained a new family made up of great, fun-loving, and motivated friends. The experiences I gained on my first BonaResponds trip were amongst the best in my life, something that I will always cherish and always use as a reminder of what good can be pulled from what many have deemed a hopeless situation. It was, quite simply, the best Spring Break of my life."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Not BonaResponds, but such a good cause...

Roswell Park Alliance Foundation:

Ok, so it is not a hurricane or tornado, but more people die from cancer than all the hurricanes and tornadoes combined! We can help make a small dent in this by helping the Cancer society. Money will be used to find a cure and to help those with cancer.

Here's the deal: I will ride 100k (62+ miles) if you donate!

It is this week however, so do it now. Donate here.


Cross listed on

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hands On Disaster Response » Bill Driscoll Jr. Joins HODR as Operations Director

Hands On Disaster Response » Bill Driscoll Jr. Joins HODR as Operations Director:
"Hands On Disaster Response (HODR) is proud to welcome aboard Bill Driscoll Jr. to its Operations Staff, to focus on domestic responses. As founder of Persevere Disaster Relief, Inc., Driscoll brings with him two years of experience in disaster relief management."
I had the great pleasure of meeting Bill on my first trip to Biloxi and there are few harder workers. I have worked with him in Biloxi, Pass Christian, and in Enterprise Alabama and I am sure he will do a great job!

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Over the past week I have had a few people ask what we are doing in Buffalo and when we will be going back? Just something to think about. Some ideas (of course these may all go out the window if there is another disaster to respond to!)
  • Help replant trees (much is going on now and was in the spring, but still much remains)
  • Work with Americorps
  • Find poor school, community shelter etc in Buffalo that needs some repairs or maintenance
  • Contact Erie County Dept of Aging
just floating out ideas...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Miracle of the Loaves? Or a miracle of talents?

I have been meaning to write this up for over a year and keep putting if off, mainly because I do not want to make BonaResponds a religious organization, but since it has been on my "to-do list" for so long, I will at least make an attempt at things.

This is largely from the late Fr. Bob Stewart. (the Bob of Bob's Woods). It is from a sermon he gave at St. Bonas (Little Bonas) in Allegany only a couple of months before his death from cancer in 2001. He was talking about the Miracle of the Loaves (or fishes if you so desire).

Rather than talking about the arithmetic needed to feed several thousand people with only a handful of fish and bread, or the physical miracle of making the fish and loaves REALLY big, he suggested the real miracle was one of cooperation: all of the people who were there suddenly became willing to share what they had with others and as a result there was enough food for everyone. Thus the little food that each of the thousand of people had (in many cases hidden) grew into a feast of biblical proportions (literally!).

While BY NO MEANS a bible scholar, I doubt very much that the gospel writers were talking about only food in mind when they wrote this parable. The same idea can be applied to many things, but most importantly for us, volunteering. We all have talents that can be shared with others.

And while volunteering to use these talents may not make as exciting of story as multiplying fish, it is definitely something we can all do. Be it in the Gulf, in the next disaster zone, or in our own neighborhoods, helping others can be miraculous!

Update from Enterprise AL

Heard from Bill today. He is shutting up camp in Pass Christian. He had a great run! From late September 2005 in Biloxi to now. Wow.

He stopped today in Enterprise to see how the recovery efforts were coming. Not surprisingly in the richer sections (around High School etc), things were coming along. Not done by ANY stretch, but better than in the poor sections.

Overall he said things were still further behind than he had expected/hoped/imagined.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The trail on the East side of campus.

Just wanted to update everyone on the trail through Bob's Woods (between campus and Gargoyle park).

I have been out most mornings this week working on it and it really is taking shape! I would guess one more day with the chain saw, and a few days with shovels and clippers and it will be usable by all.

As you may know, trail cutting began in earnest on our local service day (April 21). While the trails are not done yet (need to make few more cuts and fill in some holes etc), much improvement has been accomplished!

Current plans have us putting finishing touches on it (signs etc) on our local service day (September 8) and then have a Public opening during Francis Week (First week of October).

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Is killer storm still taking a toll? - Yahoo! News

Is killer storm still taking a toll? - Yahoo! News:
"The bodies are no longer being dragged from houses and buildings toppled by Hurricane Katrina, but nearly two years later many in the medical community think the storm is still killing....Storm survivors are dying from the effects of both psychological and physical stress, from the dust and mold still in dwellings to financial problems to fear of crime, health experts and officials say."
Crosslisted on Randomtopics2.

Friday, June 01, 2007

From Bay St. Louis

Have some free time? Why not head down?

From Jennifer Feltner:
" However, nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina passed through Bay St. Louis Mississippi, the need for help is still great - many residents remain in FEMA trailers and many of the homes damaged and destroyed by the storm are still uninhabitable. Unfortunately, as time has passed the number of volunteers, particularly those skilled volunteers who can really make a difference, are also dwindling. Our team of long term volunteers is doing a great job, but we cannot do it alone.

This summer, and into the fall, we have several major rebuilding projects lined up to tackle:

-3 Complete Rebuilds: We are building three houses from the ground up that must be completed by the end of September.

-5 Major Rehabs: We are taking five homes that are "dried in" and completing the electrical, plumbing, HVAC, insulation, drywall, painting, cabinets, doors, trim and flooring.

-12 Small Remodels: We're helping 12 families with the finishing touches on their homes. Work ranges from installing flooring and cabinets, fixing minor plumbing or electrical problems.

We need your help!! If you are skilled in construction and would like to volunteer for a week or more, please contact St. Rose's Volunteer Coordinator, Jennifer Feltner at 228-239-2477 or"