This is the first of a series of somewhat reflective pieces on the work in Gowanda. They are not so much about the actual work, but the lessons learned and the good that came out of the storm.
As leader of BonaResponds I have seen many too many natural disasters--From Katrina to Ike, from the Buffalo Ice Storm to Tornadoes and floods across much of the Eastern half of the US. In responding to these disasters, I have learned so much. I have learned to push my limits, I have to learned that the world is full of people who are willing to help when the need arises. This learning process does not end, so at the risk of sounding too much life a university professor (I teach finance at St. Bonaventure University as my day job), this is the first of a series of semi-reflective pieces that will center on Gowanda, but go much further than that. I hope you enjoy.
We all know leadership is more than a title. Management gurus and books preach that you have to lead by example. The first of our lessons will deal with that and it is an example that speaks volumes without saying a word.
1. Leadership by example:
The first lesson has on Philadelphia Street. Philadelphia Street (Route 62) was one of the worst hit areas in Gowanda. Water rushed down the hill and flooded most of the basements. We got this job by asking some neighbors who said that the elderly woman who lived there could use some help emptying out years of memories (to say nothing of water and mud) from here basement.
When we arrived, much of the work in the front two rooms had already been done by family, neighbors, and Mike and Wendy two volunteers from Springville. But that is not to say there was no work. There were still many damaged personal items and a washer and dryer to remove and take to the curb. Additionally there was still some water in the furnace room and the rooms had to be washed down..
For efficiency reasons and because of the stairway (basements are a pain) we decided to do an assembly line/bucket brigade where the items would be handed up to the outside.
With the line there are places where you want to be and where you don't want to be. For instance, standing outside in the sun and fresh air is much preferred to standing on the steps, or worse at the very start of the line. It is at the start where you are still standing in water, where you you to pick up each of the the wet dirty items, and weigh the costs of salvage vs the memories lost before deciding to throw the item out or set it aside to save.
In this position, at the very front of the line was Sr. Margaret Carney, the president of St. Bonaventure University. The single person on campus who has more time demands than anyone else. The person whose time is more valuable than anyone else. The person who had to be in Pittsburgh PA later than evening. She had set aside all of the excuses and came with BonaResponds to help. She was there without press releases, without cameras (well except ours), and without any hint of being above the work. Working side by side with students, flood victims, and volunteers off the streets. She was there to help.