Friday, April 10, 2009

The BonaResponds Local Service Weekend- April 24-26

The following is a class assignment from Laura Adams. (Laura will be volunteering with us on the 26th). It has been edited to include some more details)

Lauren Adams

BonaResponds Story

BonaResponds will be hosting its first local three-day service weekend April 24th through 26th. The weekend will be full of work to help the local community.

This is on of many local events that BonaResponds holds each year. Jobs that have done locally include helping to build two houses in Allegany County (Friendship and West Clarksville), painting and cleaning local parks, street clean ups, painting fire hydrants and street signs, helping elderly home owners, renovating after fires, working in local schools and much more.

The local work has become an important component in the BonaResponds objective. According to Jim Mahar, the head of BonaResponds “We got our start after Katrina, and definitely still responds to national disasters, but our local work is a very important part of what we do as well. Just because a story is not on the national news does not mean the people can’t use some help.”

Steve Gearhart, BonaResponds volunteer, appreciates this kind of program being offered at St. Bonaventure. “I think it’s awesome for the school that preaches Franciscan values to have a volunteer organization like BonaResponds,” Gearhart said in a telephone interview.

The April 24-26th local weekend will consist of providing a large group of activities from landscaping, painting, rebuilding and other volunteer services around Allegany, Olean, and the surrounding community. “All the seemingly small things we do really make a difference to so many people,” Mahar said. You just never know the impact but helping a food pantry or other local organization allows many others to get assistance.

Rob Ryer, BonaResponds volunteer, remembers why he got involved with BonaResponds. “When we pulled up to the house and got out of the car and saw the man we were helping, I knew that whatever we were going to do would brighten his day,” Ryer said.

The local weekend begins on Friday morning, when Liberty Partners, a group of about 50 at-risk students from the local area will be visiting St. Bonaventure to experience life on a college campus. BonaResponds volunteers will be assisting the students by giving tours of the campus and introducing them to the college lifestyle.

Gearhart is excited about the new angle BonaResponds is taking in helping the community. “I think it’s good we’re open to trying other things and we’re not just strictly physical volunteer work,” he said. “It’s good to help out however we can.”

The High School students will also participate in a project modeled after the national No Child Left Inside program which is designed to get people outside. There will be activities like hiking, kickball, volleyball and other pick-up sports games. "There is a national obesity problem and many of us do not get out and exercise enough. If Friday's events help spur a better appreciation of what is available, both in college and outside, then it will have been a success. Mahar said.

Also on Friday there will be a clean up on Mt. Hermans and other areas in conjunction with the Olean Hiking Group.

The main workdays of the weekend will be Saturday and Sunday. Each will begin with a short meeting in Murphy where volunteers will be given a simple lunch to take with them as they break up and go to any of 20-25 local work sites.

"It is a full day of work. No matter what site you are at, you will get to make a difference. We will work until about 5:00 and then come back for a all-hands meeting and a BBQ" said Mahar.

BonaResponds is open to any volunteer. Mahar stressed that even if the volunteer can only donate a few hours, they can make a big impact. “Picking up trash, or painting a wall for three hours may not seem like much, but if everyone chips in, an amazing amount of work will get done.

Ryer also knows that any amount of time makes a big difference. “These people have so much to deal with and think about day-to-day, When we are there for even just a few hours, it gives them a chance to move forward with their lives and escape the hardships they must deal with.”

In the past, volunteers for BonaResponds have traveled to ten states (Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, NY, Missouri, Ohio, Texas, Iowa, Alabama and Texas to help pick up and rebuild after natural disasters, according to While the trips are a highlight and will always remain an integral part of BonaResponds, “the local service days show that we don’t have to travel 2,600 miles to make a difference,” Mahar said. “There are plenty of opportunities to change lives around here.”

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