Tuesday, July 15, 2008

More pictures

I had quite a few pictures from the last day that had not been uploaded until last night. They are now online here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I don't have permission to post this, but...

"I looked at your blog and pictures a few minutes ago. The pictures bring back the memories I have of the flood of 1972 here in WNY. It may be hard for the great people of Iowa to know that one day their lives WILL return to normal, but they will indeed return to normal. They have been tested and are passing the test. ......[the] BonaResponders sense of service is becoming the stuff of legend!

Keep up the great work, you guys are truly amazing. I am there in spirit!


will leave the author's name off since I do not have her/his permission to use it.

HODR extension

Hands On Disaster Response (HODR) announced minutes ago that they will stay working in Cedar Rapids until October 25th. This opens the door for a possible fall break trip! the problem will be distance, but we can figure out a way around that.

Flooded Cedar Rapids homeowners face complicated decisions | GazetteOnline.com - Cedar Rapids, Iowa City

Flooded Cedar Rapids homeowners face complicated decisions | GazetteOnline.com - Cedar Rapids, Iowa City:
"But as the temperature and humidity neared sweltering last week, Wentzel and a team of volunteers from St. Bonaventure University in Olean, N.Y., were the only ones stirring along his street in Czech Village."
TJ and I have our picture in as well.

Monday Morning Malaise (Post trip gloom)

No matter how many relief trips I make, I am always sad when it is time to leave site and return home. This sadness does not last but is real and reoccurring

I have thought much about why this happens. Some of it assuredly is that I hate to leave any job undone. And the size and scope of these projects means that by definition there will be much work remaining.

There is also the natural let down when you leave friends (even ones you just made on the trip). Add to that the fact that upon leaving (and traveling) by the time home is reached, you have passed exhaustion. And of course there is the fact that when away, the world continued so you have a mailbox full of emails demanding answers and an already large backlog that has gotten even larger.

That said, I think the root cause is gloom is that the trip has made it abundantly clear that all is not well and that many people have it very tough path to travel down. How tough of path? Imagine losing your house and all of your possessions and in many cases your job. Now add to that sense of loss, your life itself is a jumble of insurance claims, waiting in lines, and errands to buy objects that only days before would have never crossed your mind. Can you imagine the feeling of despair and hopelessness? What makes that mental exercise more than just a mental game is that thousands of people are going through it right now.

Added together these items lead to a feeling of pessimism that briefly takes some of the luster off trip. However, in a short time the realization of that much good work was accomplished on the trip and that those same people whose losses helped cause the sense of loss in the first place, are now slightly better off because of you comes to dominate and the then upbeat volunteer will begin to think of ways to get back to help or minimally ways to help others at other sites but for now there is a short period of melancholy that must be worked through.

That and a large pile of dirty laundry. Off to the laundromat.

Great trip but too short

We are back! Got tons done but it was just too short of trip. The crew of volunteers (Tina, Heather, Sarah, Mike, TJ, Andy, Tim (yes even Tim), James, and Robert) were beyond my most optimistic expectations. To a person they worked incredibly hard! Definitely reaffirmed the BonaResponds' reputation of taking the worst jobs and getting them done the fastest.


There is an amazing amount of work left and the number of volunteers is dropping, so if there is any chance you can get out there to work, please do! See Hodr.org. (also stay tuned here, we have not ruled out another trip)

I will post pictures and other things later tonight, but back in the work world today. So it won;t be until late night probably.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Great Day!

BonaResponds had a great day today. 4 jobs completed! which deserves a WOW!

We are going to head back tonight, but will probably stop part way.

Video compilation on gutting

Flip has a ridiculously easy to use movie maker...so I threw a few short video clips into the mixer and out comes this movie of what it is like to gut a house. (Fortunately for you, the smell was not included.)

Indiana volunteers help restore Palo | GazetteOnline.com - Cedar Rapids, Iowa City

Indiana volunteers help restore Palo | GazetteOnline.com - Cedar Rapids, Iowa City:
"'It's a tremendous amount of work,' said Kent Ringger, one of the church's 700 members.

'Some of the mucking — we were down in Mississippi three times, and this is some of the most difficult we've seen.'

Of the 423 homes in Palo, all but 10 were affected by the surging Cedar River and its tributaries"
This is one of the groups we have worked with through HODR.

Friday, July 11, 2008

News bites

Miscellaneous items:
  • We all took Tina to the airport to start the day. She was already missed today as we could have used an extra set of hands on the job.
  • Warm and muggy today. We all were totally soaked with sweat. So much so we took a popscicle/Fudgesicle break mid afternoon.
  • Maybe the most surprising thing to me is how wet everything still is. Water in all drawers, cabinets, lights, today above all ceilings, etc. And MAN did it smell. In fact (and I realize many Katrina veterans will disagree) the smell of some of these homes rivals anything I smelled there. Or at least I think it does. Maybe I forget how bad Biloxi really smelled.
  • Tomorrow BonaResponds (fortified with three new volunteers) will attempt to tackle three jobs. Stay tuned.
  • A large St. Joseph's University group arrived today. Making the Atlantic-10 the #1 conference in terms of volunteering here.
  • I ate way too much today. Went to Hyvee with the volunteers and home owner today. Got a great salad and OJ to eat on site, then we had pizza for dinner. Wil have to hit the bike and pool more when get home. Running here is arguably the best of any relief trip I have been on (with POSSIBLE exception of Neosho (HODR Newton County).
  • Our GPS system (Sally) is a bit suspect. Definitely favors highways to all else, even if it means driving twice as far.
  • T-shirts will not be in before we leave :(
  • Among the Biloxi alum from Handson here now are Richard (I called him Rick in the blog article then) and Monkey Mike. Both of whom played key roles in the formation of BonaResponds. Richard was our first site leader and showed us how to gut homes (in fact we talked today about gutting the apartment on Nixon Street). He is also one of the many volunteers who gave us the confidence to try bigger things and BonaResponds is one result.
  • We plan on leaving tomorrow after the nightly meeting. Since we only have one driver we will probably stop mid way and get at least a nap.
  • Spoke on several occasions with Randy May of Randy's Rangers. He will probably be setting up camp somewhere in the area to help with recovery efforts.
  • New pictures are online at our flickr page


uh, with apologies to Peter Gabriel, I give you three sledgehammer videos...

First Mike's

Then TJ's

and last and probably least, mine (Jim's)

What happens to the debris?

Watch how quickly a debris pile can be picked up.

Interestingly, in this case it might have gone too fast as the operator hit an electric wire. All were fine.

Catching up with BonaResponds

A few random topics:

* I was speaking to Andy (an original founder of BonaResponds) and James (the leader of BonaResponds in the important second year (2006-2007) that assured a future for the group. In each conversation I had almost the exact same comment:

"What a great group. I did not know then before they came, but wow is the group we broght hard working!

We may have brought bigger trips to sites on other trips, but never any that worked harder. In that respect this group reminds me of the first Biloxi trip. The volunteers have been working that hard. (and that is really saying something).

* Tina and Heather leave tomorrow. Andy, Tim, and another volunteer get here tomorrow.

* TJ was interviewed by the local newspaper today. See GazetteOnline.com or watch this blog for when it arrives.

* New Pictures are online.

* HODR is considering making this a 4 month deployment. I hope they do. You can help them do so by donating and/or by volunteering!

"I don't know if i will make it back, but if I do,..."

"I don't know if i will make it back...."
I am sure many of my students hoped the above quote was from me, but it wasn't. It was from "Charlie" (not his real name). He is an elderly gentleman who retired from the construction business after over 50 years.

In an unfortunate change of fate however, his peaceful retirement was interrupted by about 12 feet of water in his house. And so Volunteers from BonaResponds and HODR spent the day gutting.

It was a tough day. Several minor knicks and bruises, multiple layers of thick (and in sometimes wet) drywall, and even cement backing on tiles. But all of this was soon forgotten with Charlie's complete quote:
"I don't know if i will make it back, but if I do, I will owe it to volunteers who have just done so much for me."
Priceless thanks like that is what makes all of this worthwhile. WHo can need more reasons to volunteer? So even after we are gone, contact HODR.org or if you are reading this after HODR is done, see Corridor Recovery. (additionally watch the blog for other opportunities as well, which is, as Paul Harvey used to say, telling you a bit more than I know.)

What the local residents are dealing with

While this does not have anything to do with BonaResponds, it does increase our understanding of what the flood victims are concerned about and what issues they are facing.

Public comments on flooding issues at Cedar Rapids city council meeting from GazetteOnline.com on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Kurt Warner visits flood-ravaged Cedar Rapids on Vimeo

Kurt Warner visits flood-ravaged Cedar Rapids on Vimeo:
"Kurt Warner, quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, visited his hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday, July 8, 2008, to visit flood relief workers and lend support to cleanup efforts. Warner says he hopes to do more to help Cedar Rapids recover from flooding."
He did not meet any of the BonaResponds' crew, but did meet other HODR volunteers

Many new pictures

Over 300 new pictures so far from Iowa.

You can also see past trips here.

Come to your senses: volunteer

Anyone who has met me for more than five minutes since Katrina probably has heard some version of my “you should come volunteer with BonaResponds” spiel. There are all kinds of reasons why everyone should volunteer. Want a list? Ok, top ten reasons:

1. You help others.
2. You would want someone to help you if you needed it.
3. Without your help, some will not recover. Many others will suffer permanent losses without your help.
4. You experience a great sense of accomplishment.
5. You learn new skills.
6. You meet great people
7. You learn more about yourself.
8. Everyone can contribute something to make the world a better place.
9. Making others feel better makes you feel better.
10. It is FUN!!!

But those are only a few of the reasons. For instance today volunteers got to explore their senses.

Smell. Today’s dominant sense was smell. The smell was almost indescribable. But if you really want to try to smell what the basement smelled like, take some eggs, leave out for a week or two, mix with my available mold, sour milk, and sewage and you might get it.

Touch. Touch was also at the forefront. From the slimy dirty water volunteers were sloshing around in, to the falling slats of wood that continually fell from the ceiling, to the grit and grime that each volunteer felt on every inch of skin, volunteers’ sense of touch was worked overtime today.

Hearing. Audio is often ignored when considering volunteers, but today the volunteers who were listening heard much. It began early as a group of volunteers decided to talk loudly at a time when even the roosters were still sleeping. On the job sites, the ears were inundated with leaking water, pounding hammers, running generators, music (both from the radio and from other volunteers singing along), to the thanks of local residents.

Taste: First let me say that there have been almost zero complaints on food. The food has been great. Much of it is being made and served by members of the church that is allowing us to stay in their building. That said, the work today was so smelly that you could literally taste it.

Sight. There was so much to see today that I almost don’t know where to start. From the huge and growing debris piles, to the before and after pictures, to the smiling faces of the home owners who stopped by to see the progress. But if there is one thing, I will take the cooler of water that was waiting for us when we arrived today. The homeowners had left us a thank-you of cold water and more masks to wear as a token of their appreciation.

So there you have it. All the senses. And another reason to volunteer. You get to come to your senses :)

Video of taking down a ceiling in Cedar Rapids

The water in this house was about 15 feet high, so the entire downstairs and part of the up stairs needed gutting. Here Mike and other BonaRespond volunteers take down the ceiling.


Arguably the smelliest job (definitely top three) I have ever been a part of.

News from Cedar Rapids

Things you learn while sitting in a laundromat in CEdar Rapids at 10PM

but First:
HODR has extended the deployment at least through the first of August.

Local News

* 232 million in losses at Univ of Iowa

* 330 classes are currently homeless for fall

* $20 million in debris clean up alone so far on campus

* The Iowa City Animal Shelter was relocated from Fair Grounds to another temporary shelter to allow the Fair to go on as planned.

* Cedar Rapids estimate $500 million in city property damage and a whopping $810 million is needed to prevent future floods.

* Estimates range from $3B to $8B in total losses in Cedar Rapids area alone.

* Local residents getting angry as some are not told yet if they can rebuild.

* Two Red Cross shelters closed today in the Cedar Rapids area

* There is a big volunteer push for local volunteers for this weekend.

Local TV (channel 2) KGAN.com

In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, water off their backs? - USATODAY.com

In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, water off their backs? - USATODAY.com:
"The aftermath of the June 12 flood is testing the resilience of many people here. The scope of the disaster, which left 7,198 flood-struck properties, including 5,390 houses, 30 churches, 27 government buildings, eight cultural sites and 1,322 businesses, is still unfolding as they tally the losses, contemplate the cost of rebuilding and battle stress.

Flooded communities in six Midwestern states — Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin — face similar challenges."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Good, tiring day in Iowa

After a 14 hour drive that included a stop at Notre Dame and a weather related stop (couldn't see the road due to the rain!) we made it in about 4AM which made today's 7:45 work schedule a tad challenging but it turned out to be a very good day.

The BonaResponds crew got their own house (with Robert and Heather being included in the deal). It was a house in Cedar Rapids that had had about 15 feet of water.

Lots of things impressed me today. All the hard work. The spirit of team work. The amount we got done etc. But possibly I was most impressed after our work day was done when a tremendous cloud burst hit.

Quickly the streets were flooded as many of the storm sewers did not work. As soon as the storm ceased, there were Mike, TJ, and Heather in the street cleaning up. (others may have too, and I missed anyone I apologize!). Think about that. Picking up a basketball, a tree branch, and other things, just to help. Yep, I was really happy to have them with us.

BonaResponds_HODR in Iowa

MUCH MUCH work in Cedar Rapids. Here Mike and TJ take plaster off a ceiling due to flood damage.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

HODR crew tearing walls off

Bill has posted many pictures of the work in Iowa. Take a look!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

BonaResponds Iowa Update

The following was just mailed to our entire mailing list.

There is still time to sign up to go help people who were impacted by the Midwest floods. We will be working with Hands on Disaster Response (Hodr.org) and laying the ground work for Randy’s Rangers who plan on a longer deployment in and around the Cedar Rapids and Palo Iowa.

The cost of the trip is $100 which includes transportation and food while working in Iowa. We will be leaving St. Bonaventure on the afternoon of July 7th and returning late on the 13th.

However, if you want to go before or after, HODR will gladly put you up if you can get there and back.

Additionally, you can meet us there (several volunteers and alumni are meeting us for various durations). There is one small group that would like to leave Olean on the 7th but has to be back on that Friday the 11th if anyone would like to join that group, they would appreciate it to hold down transportation costs.

Again, if you can not make it when we are going, HODR would love to have you out there. Please see their website for further information.



Remember if you can not go, we will be accepting donations to help defray transportation costs.