Monday, July 12, 2010

Catching up with Steve Gearhart

As almost all of the BonaResponds volunteers have either gone away or been too busy to be doing things locally.  That said most of the leaders of BonaResponds have remained very busy.  For instance Phil traveled to Ohio with us and helped organize a Community Work day with Wegmans.  Emily traveled back to Olean and has participated with several volunteer events (dunk tank etc) in the Rochester area.   Rob helped organize a fund raiser for a ranch in the Buffalo area that allows challenged children to ride horses. 

But the student leader who has done the most is Steve.  I asked him to write up some of what he did, so without further adieu here you go:

I decided to make the most of my summer with no job and no summer classes to go down to Nashville, Tennessee to help out with the flood relief work.  As you probably know, Nashville got hit badly by a flood in early May.  I knew Hands on Disaster Response (HODR) was going down there but only for coordination efforts.  I contacted them and they got me hooked up with Nechama, a Jewish based disaster relief volunteer organization.  They eagerly accepted me and I booked a trip to head down there from June 10th – 30th.  I knew next to nothing about Nechama and was a little nervous heading down there alone after previous experiences with some religious groups that emphasize their religion more than their ability to help others.
                  Boy was I wrong.  Nechama was awesome.   We were put up in an office/house from a local United Methodist church called The Upper Room.  Along with Nechama there was another volunteer group there called ICNA, an Islamic volunteer organization.  They came and went, with the average group of three or four staying about three days.  Yea, Jews and Muslims living under the same roof owned by Christians.  If only the rest of the world could get along so well!
                  I quickly realized that there were several other groups who we would be working with most notably the Jewish Disaster Response Corps (JDRC - and two groups of AmeriCorps.  Apparently there had been about ten total groups of AmeriCorps working in Nashville; I only got to work with two of them.  I don’t know which group; one was NCCC only because I saw it on their shirts.  They were from Sacramento and there was the Fire Four team based out of Denver.  All the groups were really good to work with.
                  The work was consistent with regular flood relief work.  Gut houses, remove debris, sanitize.  The only thing that changed was what had to be gutted or removed.  Nechama had two trailers full of any tool you possibly might need; including two Big Bertha crowbars so I was happy. 
We were removing the duct work in a crawlspace under a house one day.  We were almost done and clearing out the tarps that a lot of the houses had under their houses.  We were taking it out when we realized just what all those little holes in the tarp were from.  Snakes.  Luckily I never saw one, but someone had a scare with a baby one and never went underneath a house for the rest of the time he was there.  Lucky again, one of the teams of AmeriCorps people had a couple members who enjoyed going under; I have to admit it was cooler down there so it’s not totally crazy to crawl around with snakes.
             It was really hot (high 90s with high humidity, everyday) but I guess that was abnormal.  I got down there during CMA fest so that was very cool to see.  I didn’t go out much at all.  Without a car it was hard to meet up with the other teams that were over a 20 minute drive away (and AmeriCorps cars need to be grounded at midnight).  I went out enough to enjoy the city and there were plenty of bars around to keep up with the World Cup on our day off (Saturday).  Another plus for being with a Jewish group is that we had access to a JCC for free, a Jewish Community Center.  Basically it was a YMCA and we went to the pool a couple times after a hard/hot day of work. 
                  All in all it was a great trip.  Got lots of work done, met some great people, and made some new connections.  The RCC coordination thing that HODR setup worked spectacularly, Vanderbilt has a beautiful campus, and people down there were generally friendlier than elsewhere I’ve been.  I’d go down there again; just hopefully it won’t be for a disaster next time."

No comments: