Tuesday, July 31, 2007
From now through September 8th. BonaResponds will be accepting tools (new or used) that can be used to help others.
We are looking for pretty much everything!
Drills, hammers, chain saws, saws, work gloves, safety glasses, screwdrivers, clippers, rope, step ladders, paint brushes, rollers, rakes, shovels, etc.
Also while not tools, we have a great need for first aid kits.
If you have a trailer to donate you will really be appreciated!!
Email BonaResponds to arrange pick-ups!
(BTW note to students: when you come back to school, it would be great if you could bring some of these things with you-so ask your neighbors and family now.)
Monday, July 30, 2007
Consequently, the children of high school dropouts tend to grow up in poor households. Coupled with a mindset that does not value education they are more apt to follow in their parents’ footsteps. The victims (whether they brought it on themselves or not, they are still victims) of this so-called “generational poverty” often adopt a short-term “have it now” approach to life which often leads to drug use, poor nutrition, no savings, and overall poor decision making. Of course this feeds the cycle and soon another generation is caught in the downward spiral.
Dealing with the problem is difficult to say the least. Many of the people in the situation do not realize their own conditions or the causes of their position. Rather than admit dropping out was a mistake, they blame their employer, bad luck, or any of a million other things. Moreover, like a sports team on a losing streak, they generally lack the confidence to invest in the future (and yes education is an investment), and over time often develop the mindset that the world is against them.
And even if these substantial hurdles are somehow overcome, there are practical barriers as well. For instance, how can the dropout go back to school with a full time job? Or if the parent has children that need childcare?
The Olean Community Schools Even Start Program is designed to deal with these problems. Funded through a hodge-podge of Federal, State, and Local sources, the program works with about 100 local families on everything from Basic Living skills to GED preparation, to English as Second Language classes, to preparing to enter the workforce. (Technically Even Start is only one portion of the Community Schools program, but they operate so seamlessly that to an outsider they appear to be one).
However, things are far from perfect. Space limitations have forced the program to be spread throughout the district. Thus, the classes rotate from site to site and child care can be at another location altogether. This would be inefficient under the best circumstances, but when you add the fact that many of the parents do not have cars it is easy to see that this limits program participation.
A solution to this is to have a single location that could serve for program.
While the entire job is probably a bit much for purely volunteer labor, there was much that BonaResponds could do, so in characteristic fashion, BonaResponds responded.
In April on the Spring Local Service day, a team of volunteers worked with
It is important to measure things in quantifiable terms. But when asked what BonaResponds accomplished at the
Slowly and surely, the new layout of the facility began to take shape. From what was a dreary old office, classroom and child care rooms appeared. People can visualize what previously had only been an idea on a piece of paper. This visualization is important not only for the Community Schools staff who must often be tempted to lose their hope, but also to the program participants who can see that people care and that there is at least hope for a better future.
Oh sure there is still work to be done. Community Schools is waiting on a grant to pay for the windows, bathrooms need to be converted and made handicap accessible, and a kitchen area just be created, but it is coming. The dream is now attainable. There is hope.
So when someone asks what was accomplished through BonaResponds Local service days, tell them a downward spiral was halted. And a new spiral—an upward one—was started!
Sunday, July 29, 2007
It is 6:00 PM on Saturday July 28 and as I sit to type this I am just out of a long hot (global warming inducing hot) shower. While the layers of dirt were washed away and I no longer smell of mold, sweat, cat urine, and dirt, the shower was only partially successful. Why only a partial success? Because I still feel dirty. Because on demand I can conjure up the smell, and recall in vivid detail the squalor and the unspeakable living conditions that “John” is still living in.
You see, today was a BonaResponds’ Local Service day. Some volunteers painted, others fixed walls for new classrooms, I worked at John’s house.
His house is as bad as many of those BonaResponds worked on in the months immediately following Katrina. The difference was that John lives in
I knew it was going to be bad. We had received many emails from his guardian angels (two local residents who have been looking out for John). I had seen the yard and the outside of the house. I knew it was going to be bad. I really did. I knew it was going to smell inside. I knew it was going to be a lot of work. But like in Gulf after the Katrina, knowing what the conditions and experiencing them are two totally different things.
Arriving at John’s house the size and scope of the job hit me hard. A team four times our size would be needed to finish the job. I was overwhelmed. I was discouraged. How can we get this much done? Just the work outside would take a much larger team days to complete in the best of conditions. We had ten volunteers on this site and today.
But the longest journey begins with a single step, so we started. Some volunteers began on cutting back the bushes that were blocking much of the driveway. Others began the long process of picking up the pieces of the front porch that had collapsed and were strewn about ten feet below the front door. Others worked on the side of the house, removing a broken fence, a dangerous entrance way, and cutting back the tree that hung on the roof.
Guardian angel Greg however took the most challenging job. He went inside and began working with John on removing some of the accumulated piles that covered every inch of the house. As the only reasonably safe entrance was to the basement, the work began there. It was slow. There was standing water on the floor. It was quite dark. The ceiling was low with cobwebs hanging from many support beams. There was stuff everywhere: an old sofa covered in bugs and mold, food whose “use by” date was a decade ago, and scores of plastic garbage bags that held everything imaginable (indeed, a moment that absolutely floored me was as I picked up a bag to haul to the dumpster only to be severely reprimanded by John as it was not garbage but his laundry). Oh and it smelled. Oh did it smell.
I cheated and went back outside and worked with the other volunteers. The work was hard, dirty, and even a bit daunting (there was so much to do). But it was better than the being inside.
As the hours clicked past, significant improvement was made. Lynn and Mike had cleared the driveway. Larry, Mike, and Paul had cleared the side yard including the dangerous entrance way and hauled the metal fence away for recycling. Joann had helped everywhere and dealt with a neighbor who was upset about the dumpster placement.
But the real star of the day was still inside. Greg, who if the
As the time approached to leave, group photos were taken and good bye’s exchanged. There was still almost an unimaginable amount of work to be done. But we had made a dent. The house still did not have properly working indoor plumbing. It was still an absolute mess. But it was better. It was cleaner. It was safer. John would be able to get along that much better. BonaResponds had made a positive contribution.
But back at home and fresh from the shower, the success is not on my mind. I am thinking that I was in his house for about an hour and yet even now miles away and after a long hot shower, I could not shake the smell or the vision of the deplorable living conditions. John, on the other hand, was living in the conditions day after day without the luxury of a shower.
Thus I was very glad that before leaving John’s I had spoken with his guardian angels about making his home part of our next local service day as well. It will give us another opportunity to help out a neighbor in need. We will never be able to make things perfect. But “better” we can do. We made things better today and will make them even better at our next local service day on September 8th.
Won't you join us?
I will give a longer update soon, but wanted everyone to know it has a big success. This is a photo of the group that worked at "John's" house.
It was much work (as much as many Gulf Coast sites!). While we got tons (literally) done, there is much more to do. If not before, I am sure we will be back on our next local service day on Septemb
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
The BonaResponds' local service day will be this Saturday! from 9 to about 2. Our base of operations will be the Old Nabisco Building (Olean School District's Central receiving). Get directions here.
There will be coffee and some basic refreshments there, but please bring a lunch.
Some volunteers will be staying at the site to paint and ready the building for classes (they still need some windows and other work for which they are awaiting funding). Others will go to "John's" house to work there.
If we get enough volunteers we will also be working on a few beautification projects with the City of Olean.
If you are under 18, a parent will have to sign this form. If you are under 16, you must be accompanied by a parent/guardian.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Why have a local service day? Here is one reason!
I recently received the following email. The names have been changed and a very few details so as to retain anonymity.
I would like to suggest a job for the BonaResponds’ local service day. It may not have the excitement of some of your trips, but your impact will be very great.
I have been working with a local resident who I will call “John” who has special needs. He is a very intelligent but also a very "unusual" person. He has lived in the same home his whole life, a home his father built. Up until 2 years ago, he lived there with his mother. She passed away from cancer. She was very reclusive and refused to go out of the area for medical treatment.
I actually met John as a result of his mother’s illness. I worked at Red Cross at the time, and he came in wanting me to help him talk specialists into coming to
Oleanto treat her since she wouldn't go to Buffaloor . It was a major accomplishment to get her to go to Olean General. I then also assisted him with utility bills and referrals to local social service agencies. I believe there are some mental health issues though I would not be able to give an accurate diagnosis. His only income is Social Security Disability. He is a very social person who walks into town every day to meet with his friends (older retired people who get together at local coffee shops) and he also visits many of the businesses in the area as well. Rochester
He has some lifeskills issues that have always needed to be addressed, such as personal hygiene, cleaning clothes, etc. As I have gotten to know him and his mother through the years, he has grown to trust me. He also trusts a friend of mine, Robert, who works at one of the businesses that he visits regularly. For years, John has gone there every Friday to take Robert's paycheck to the bank for him, Robert in turn gives him a few dollars for "helping" him. John has been very devoted and trustworthy with this job and is very proud of the fact that he helps Robert.
Robert and I and one of his cousins from out of town have been in the home, I don't know about any others who he has allowed in. I think he realizes that his living conditions are bad and doesn't want others to know. It is also such a daunting task. It is hard to know where to begin. As we have worked with him through these years it became obvious that one of the reasons for the poor hygiene is that he doesn't have running water in the home.
So, as mentioned in a previous email, his family pooled money and paid to have a septic system put in as well as indoor plumbing replaced.
The septic system was installed last month and it is now essential that the house be cleared out so that and the plumber that he is bringing in can get to the work area. (Just an idea but perhaps another job that you and yours may be interested in is bringing in some topsoil to plant grass or perhaps a garden and/or flowers where the bulldozer has cleared the area around his house)
I talked with Robert yesterday after hearing from you and asked him about helping to coordinate work so that when your group comes jobs would be lined up. He is going to put together a list of jobs that need to be done. He actually mentioned that it would be helpful to have a dumptser and just empty the house in one fell swoop instead of countless trips with his truck. John will most likely become stressed about having all of the junk removed but he also realizes that it needs to be done. Therefore it would be ideal to get this job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. I think if we have Robert and John's cousin there as "team leaders" John will be able to handle to help a lot better since he trusts them both.
It won't be an easy job, the house is a mess but if we can get it cleared out quickly and get the plumbing installed so that he can actually take a shower, wash dishes, use a toilet, obviously his life will be drastically improved. I am working on getting him involved with Directions In Independent Living for help with some of the lifeskills training I would be happy to come and talk with the volunteers to answer any questions, as would Robert, and his cousin.
I noticed on the website that you have a smaller work day scheduled at the end of July, would you be able to have volunteers come then as well?
I hope I haven't scared you away from this mission of mercy. When I emailed his cousin to tell her there may be help coming from your group, she replied saying she read my email through her tears and that this was an answer to her prayers since she didn't know how just the three of us could get this job done alone.
The happy ending to John's story is that a group like yours saves the day by helping to make the only home he has ever known livable. If we can do that I am sure your volunteers will feel the joy of a job well done for years to come for they would have helped a proud and pious man maintain his independence and GREATLY improve his quality of life.
I am also sure that as John gets to know some of the volunteers and realizes that they are there to help him, he will open up to them and allow them to get to know him. He can really carry on some very intelligent conversations about politics, satellite systems, computers (he does email and loves to communicate that way so that could be another way people could get to know him)
I look forward to talking with you and your volunteers soon, and am so grateful that you have been guided into this situation. Everything happens for a reason, and "meeting" you through Mary DiRisio is a Godsend. Thanks for all that you do.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Especially needed is anyone with medical or psychological expertise.
And if you could forward his request to those who do have the skills, someone down there will be very grateful! So forward this to doctors, nurses, psychologists, and even priests etc who provide social services.
BTW IF you don't have these skills, there is still much work for you as well. We'll be talking about that soon.
The first 10 seconds are sort of messed up. Sorry. After that it sounds ok.
Some of you no doubt remember Chris from Handson-Biloxi. He wrote a report on the recovery in the Gulf. Definitely recommend you read it! (in fact i will cross list it on RandomTopics2 and BonaResponds' blog)
One look in:
"...this presentation, which is about keeping volunteers engaged in long-term recovery is an opportunity to raise the awareness at a national level about the needs of the post-Katrina Gulf Coast, provides me an excuse to work late and spend a lot of time reading documents about the state of recovery.Read Chris' blog entry here.
One interesting report I found...provides a broad overview of recovery, now 18 months underway, across Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Some areas have experienced explosive growth, while others whither under poor management and staggering losses."
Monday, July 16, 2007
"As the 2007 hurricane season begins, Julie Martin visits New Orleans to see how the city is recovering from Hurricane Katrina."Also if you get a chance, the Strom Stories on Springfield Illinois tornado looks eerily like the days after Enterprise's tornado. They even speak to some of the volunteers.
While we were not there, it again reaffirms the need for volunteers following major storms.
Friday, July 13, 2007
- No matter how big and powerful government gets, and the many services it provides, it can never take the place of volunteers. --Ronald Reagan
- Throughout my life, I've seen the difference that volunteering efforts can make in people's lives. I know the personal value of service as a local volunteer. --Jimmy Carter
Friday, July 06, 2007
Lesson learned: slow and steady progress does get much done!
This was in west Enterprise
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Often words cannot fully describe a person’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This is certainly the case with BonaResponds and to try to describe the last two years of my life as a leader in the group is almost impossible. I don’t mention that I was a leader in the group because I am looking for any special recognition (I will leave that for James…if you have ever been involved in the group then you know who I am writing about). Rather, I mention my leadership role because it was the jobs that I did behind the scenes as a leader in BonaResponds that made the experience so rewarding for me.
First off, working with James Kane, the same James listed above, and Jim Mahar, the founder of the group, is an experience in and of itself. They are both big picture kind of people and I am without question a details person. Jim liked to say, “We’re not building watches,” when I would get too worried about the details. I didn’t really listen to him and kept “building watches” because who else was going to spend four or five hours at a time updating the contact information in our volunteers database. However, to call the jobs I did with them (or more like for them because there was a lot of stuff they just did not want to do) as work is a bit of an exaggeration. Yes, being a leader in the group kept me busy but more than anything, it was a whole lot of fun.
Going to Home Depot with James to buy supplies/tools for BonaResponds projects was always a great time. Somehow, I always knew that we would be in the store for at least an hour even if it should have only taken around ten minutes. I can’t begin to count the number of times that he would stop and show me the hammer that he thought I should buy. Why he thought this information was important to me I really don’t know but he did. James really loves that store and I don’t think he ever left there without buying at least one tool that only he would think is necessary. I could go on and tell more stories at James and Jim’s expense because there are a lot of stories but I will simply say that some of my favorite memories from college involve these two individuals and I will probably stay in contact with them for the rest of my life (but not by text messaging).
Obviously, only three people do not run BonaResponds. There have been many other leaders in the group and they have all had an important role in making BonaResponds what is. Some have been involved in planning and executing almost every event while others have had less crucial roles and helped out when it was possible for them to do so. People help define their own role in the group and that is one of the most exciting things about BonaResponds. I would mention all of these people by name but there are simply too many. They know who they are.
I know that I haven’t mentioned any of the service trips or local service days yet but I think I will have to save that for another day. For now, I just wanted to give an idea of what BonaResponds is like when not on the trips or volunteering in the community. Most people rarely see this side of BonaResponds even if, in my opinion, it is as much fun as the trips themselves. I hope everyone will give BonaResponds a try at least once no matter how big or small of a role a person wants to play. I understand volunteering is not for everyone but in the end you can help a lot of people and maybe make the world a little bit better. There really is no down side to seeing if it something that you want to be involved in. Moreover, for the people that do decide to be leaders I just want to say check your email…frequently.
This is actually only a small part. Multiply the video by about 5 times and you get a picture of how much work BonaRespond volunteers were doing at that time!
I may never have been more proud of the group.
This is from January but since things take so long to change I thought it was worth uploading.
It was the hardest "tree day" I had ever done. Harder than any I did in Biloxi, Pass Christian, or Buffalo. A few of the trees were over 200 years old!
Very nice family who have had nothing but bad luck.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Here is Carrie's
"For me and several other members of the St. Bonaventure community, BonaResponds (BR) has evolved from a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to an "everyday" activity. My first involvement with BR came during the Spring semester of 2006. I didn't feel like going home for spring break, but I had nothing planned. Jim Mahar was my Intro. to Corporate Finance professor at the time, and he persuaded me to co-coordinate a little league drive that would collect equipment and monetary donations for and deliver to little leagues devastated by Hurricane Katrina. I'd never visited the Gulf Coast, and this seemed like an amazing opportunity to help out.
I accepted the invitation/challenge, and have never regretted it. Since that first trip, I've returned to the Gulf Coast two more times, helped organize and participate in multiple local service days, volunteered in Buffalo during the "Surprise Snowstorm" several days, and there may be more that I'm forgetting.
BonaResponds has enabled me to meet and build strong relationships with students, faculty, and community members that I never would have otherwise. It offers a break from the ordinary, and adds to the beauty of St. Bonaventure.
The smiles you create, and the thanks you receive are immeasurably phenomenal."
"The New Student Orientation Organizational Fair will take place on the second day of each orientation session (July 9, 14, 16, and 20). The fair will take place in Butler Gym, and will run from 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 for parents, and from 11:00 a.m. -12:00 p.m. for students. Thank you."
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Video of Randy May of Randy's Rangers--January 2007
We will start off with James Kane's comments. James as most of you know was the student leader for much of the past year and while I can say much bad about him (some of it is even true!), he will be very hard to replace and all of us in BonaResponds will have to step up.
"BonaResponds defined my college career. It was through BonaResponds
that I developed many close friends and had several memorable moments,
such as any time Jim Mahar did something foolish.
I wish BonaResponds was around when I was a freshman at St. Bonaventure. BonaResponds provides an opportunity for people to serve communities, whether near or far, at their convenience. People who could only commit one day or an entire semester joined BonaResponds.
BonaResponds is constantly known as the group that did the "hurricane trip." It is known that BonaResponds sent nearly 300 people to the Gulf, which is the 2nd largest collegiate service trip I've ever heard of.
What a lot of people do not realize is, BonaResponds is much more than hurricane relief. They have sponsored several local service days and even responded to Buffalo after the devastating that struck on October 13, 2006.
It was through BonaResponds that I developed skills such as leadership, which define the person that I am today. BonaResponds made me a better person."
Monday, July 02, 2007
"After Hurricane Katrina hit the
, last year, St. Bonaventure University responded: Bonaresponds. Three hundred students participated in this relief effort. We were divided into 5 sites in Gulf Coast Louisianaand . I was the leader in the Bay St. Louis, Mississippi group. Mississippi
We cleaned, gutted homes, and roofed. We laughed, cried, and comforted those who were devastated by the natural disaster. This was an unparallel experience that I will never forget. We received unsurpassed radiance, gratitude, and hospitality from the victims whom we assisted. The most amazing part of this experience was receiving hugs that were made of gold; seeing priceless smiles; and turning the feeling of tragedy into triumph.
Bonaresponds enabled my peers and I to extend a helping hand to our afflicted brothers and sisters in a distant community. We touched many people and gave them hope. We were called heroes. It felt unbelievably good. I couldn't imagine spending a more constructive and rewarding Spring Break. I was able to do what I love most, helping others. Going down to the
was an amazing outlet that enabled me to contribute to my national community. Gulf Coast
When the Gulf cried for help, God sent Bonas to the rescue. Bonaresponds went back to the
this year as well. It was our spring break during the first week of March. It was just as amazing as the first trip, if not more amazing. On way down to Gulf Coast Mississippiwe made a detour stop to to help out the school that was struck by a tornado. We were the answer to prayers; we are like the guardian angels people call for when they are struggling and in need of help. We hauled branches and trees off homes, collected the scattered property of those whose homes were affected, and we talked to the victims and gave them our ears to share their devastating stories. Enterprise, Alabama
Since our visits to the
, Bonaresponds has expanded beyond reaching to those in the national community but to lending a hand in our local community, as well. We volunteered at Gulf Coast when they were hit with a horrific snow storm every weekend for 5 weeks. We helped renovate a local school. We express the extra tender, loving, care people do not find in others nowadays. It is my great honor working and volunteering with Bonaresponds. " Buffalo
"Construction Scaffolding On Bridge Collapses, Sending 9 Workers Into Water
POSTED: 1:43 pm CDT June 14, 2007
UPDATED: 3:44 am CDT June 15, 2007
BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- Rescue crews said one worker died and another is missing after their scaffolding collapsed on the U.S. 90 bridge over the Bay of St. Louis"