Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bills' George Wilson passionate about community service - USATODAY.com

Bills' George Wilson passionate about community service - USATODAY.com:
"His newly established George Wilson S.A.F.E.T.Y. Foundation (Saving Adolescents from Everyday Trials of Youth) is a commitment of time, money and selflessness.

'Community service is a passion I have,' he says.

His timing could not be better.

A study released this month by the Schott Foundation for Public Education re-emphasized the glaring need for more intervention nationwide on behalf of African-American males, even as economic resources for public schools shrivel.

Worse for Buffalonians, only three school districts in the nation (Cleveland, Detroit and Dade County, Florida) posted lower results for African-American males than the city's 25% public high school graduation rate."

Too bad he works weekends. Maybe can get him out for International Service Day (March 26, 2011).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

THANKS A MILLION! - Featured Story - SunHerald.com

THANKS A MILLION! - Featured Story - SunHerald.com:
"Students from St. Bonaventure College in New York state spent their spring break in South Mississippi in March 2006 volunteering their time by renovating a house on Lee Street in Biloxi. The Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service estimates that almost one million volunteers have been to the state since the storm.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Thursday, August 26, 2010

St. Bonaventure University freshmen to lend a hand to area agencies during Aug. 28 Day of Service

St. Bonaventure University freshmen to lend a hand to area agencies during Aug. 28 Day of Service:
"SBU’s class of 2014 will be introduced to the Olean-area community during an Aug. 28 Day of Service. The students’ 1,000 helping hands will be installing steps at the house of a World War II veteran, painting at Cattaraugus Community Action, washing cars for a Haiti fundraiser and cleaning a youth center. Other community service sites include Mt. Irenaeus, Pfeiffer Nature Center, Genesis House, SPCA in Cattaraugus County, Canticle Farm and the Allegheny River Valley Trail.

“We will be sending students off campus as well as assigning some students to engage in service right on campus,” said Abby Cohen, assistant director of St. Bonaventure’s First-Year Experience program, which is collaborating with the campus’s Center for Community Engagement and BonaResponds for the project.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

From the BonaResponds Newsletter

From The late Summer BonaResponds Newsletter:

On August 28th, as part of Welcome Days various service groups (The Warming House, Center for Community Engagement, BonaBuddies, and others on the St. Bonaventure Campus)  will be working in the local community to make a difference. It is a great opportunity to see what college is like while meeting new friends in a safe, fun environment. But more importantly it is a chance to make the world just a bit better.

We need volunteers and drivers.  Even if you can only drive for a couple of hours (all local), we'd really appreciate it. 

This year will almost assuredly be the largest ever with a high degree of participation expected (400 volunteers for some part of the day would not be surprising.).

We currently have about twenty jobs lined up in the Olean/Allegany area. That part is similar to most of our service weekends.

How can you help? We'd LOVE to have you volunteer. Rarely in life is does such a golden opportunity to be a role model and make a positive difference present itself. Not only can you help the local community by painting, cleaning, etc, but just by coming out you are setting an example for new students and showing that helping others is what we do at St. Bonaventure.

For more information and to sign up see Welcome Day posts on our blog.

Why BonaResponds is...

I confess that sometimes I get so fed up with administrative and managerial things associated with BonaResponds, the marketing to get volunteers, and the constant emails and (much worse) meetings dealing with SBU politics, policies, and who knows what else, that I am tempted to forget why we do all of it and to think of it as a chore.

Then I get an email like the following which I received less than an hour ago:

3 weeks ago, there was a wind storm here in the trailer court that our trailer is located in. A big branch broke off the tree and fell on our back room, the damage was extensive. I just went on disability from work with a lung disease. My girlfriend only works 10 hours a week at an elementary school during school season.

I went to the Red Cross last Friday and asked them if there was anything that they could do. They gave me your e-mail address, so I write you now. We have go out of town for 1 week, due a terminally ill cancer family member. I am not sure if you are able to help us, but if you can it would be greatly appreciated. If not, I do understand. Thanks for taking the time to read this."

I just spoke with him.  He literally has a hole in his trailer.  The family lives less than a mile from SBU.  It has been almost a month since the storm.  They can not help themselves and have fallen through the cracks.

Of course we are going to help.  I am not sure how yet, but when I said I would stop by, he was VERY relieved. 
I know sometimes we try to do too much and have too many events going on.  I know some of you are worried about money issues (will we have enough?), about whether enough volunteers will show up, etc.  or whatever else is the issue today, and they are all very valid concerns, but I personally (not from BonaResponds, but from me) want to remind you all why BonaResponds is around and not to worry too much about petty side issues that take valuable time.

If we stay true to the idea of helping others (whether near or far), BonaResponds will be fine.   And if we have 1 volunteer or 1000 volunteers we can and do make a difference. 

So thank you.  You are the volunteers and the leaders of.  Thank you for letting me say "Yes, we can help you" when asked.

Thank you!!!

Every donation is deeply cherished and helps us do what we do, but I particularly want to single out one very generous donation from Persevere Volunteers and the Driscolls that allowed us to buy a used van.

It is a 2000 GMC Savana Extended Van that will fit our needs perfectly.  It has a trailer hitch and a ladder rack on it that will allow us to respond more conveniently both near and far. 

We are still looking for a small trailer for it, so if you know of one that is cheap or would like to donate one to us, please let Jim know.

To read the entire newsletter (and see the pictures)  click here!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Villa Maria is in, How about you!?

From VillaVolunteers:

Hello all!!
On Saturday, September 11, we will be working with BonaResponds at the Food For Haiti Now Food Packaging Day. On that day, we will be packing 100,000 meals that will be shipped to Haiti. WE NEED VOLUNTEERS!!!

We will be getting a bus to transport volunteers from Villa to St. Bonaventure University. Times are not definite yet, but early planning looks like leaving Villa at 9:30am and returning approximately 6:00 pm.

For current Villa students, faculty, staff- there will be a sign up sheet posted outside Campus Ministry next week. For anyone else, just email me at kkotz@villa.edu if you can join us.

Watch for more messages and information about this and other Villa Volunteers projects!!!

September 11th Food Packing Day Information

On Saturday September 11th we will be hosting a large food packing event on the campus of St. Bonaventure.  It is open to any volunteer.

 We will be having 4 shifts of about 100 people each on the floor of the Reilly Center on the campus of St. Bonaventure University.   It will be fun with music playing, you and your friends (both new and old) working for a great cause.
The shifts are at 9, 11:30, 2:00, and 4:30 and include a short orientation.
here are a few starting points:

FoodForHaitiNow is a group of schools, clubs, and church  groups that have come together to help.  Led by BonaResponds and Villa Volunteers, the group has had numerous fund raisers and collections since the January earthquake. 

The basic idea of the day is that volunteers will be taking giant bales of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables, and flavoring that can weigh up to 2000 pounds each, and processing them into smaller bags that can be used.

The work is not hard (volunteers can be as young as Kindergarten with an accompanying adult).  We also need photographers!

On the FoodforHairtiNow website you can sign up for shifts and see videos of past food packing events that FeedMyStarvingChildren have put on which will allow you to get a better idea of what volunteers will be doing.

You can also find more information about Feed My Starving Children and the food on their website.

 How can you help?

  1. Volunteer!  We need about 400 volunteers.  This is going to be no small feat.  We'd love to have your class, club, etc get involved.  The shifts are short (you can be done by 11:00!) and fun.  
  2. Donate.  We are still short of our goal.  The food itself will cost over $17,000 plus we have to rent tables, forklifts, etc.  So we are still in need of more funds.  
  3. Lend us a forklift or sound system.
  4. Tell others.  Word of mouth advertising is the best kind of promotion there is!  So tell a friend, tell your pastor, your family, tweet it, blog it, hang flyers,  share it on Facebook, or just scream it at the top of your lungs (ok, people may look at you funny on the last one, but it is worth it ;) )

  1. Where?  We will be working on the floor of the Reilly Center (the large circled building on the map below).

         2. Who?  Anyone over the age of kindergarten can volunteer. if they are accompanied by an adult.
·                 Kindergarten – 3rd grade: 1 student to 1 adult
·                 3-6 grade: 3 students to 1 adult
·                 7-9 grade: 4 students to 1 adult
·              10-12 grade: 5 students to 1 adult

3. When is it?

      Saturday September 11, 2010

4.  When and how long are the shifts?

        9-11, 11:30-1:30, 2:00 -4:00,  4:30 to 7:00

We will also need volunteers to set up on the Friday before and to then take down and clean up  after the event!
        5. Can you volunteer for more than one shift?

              In fact we will be needing leaders to do just that so that there is continuity throughout the day.

       6.  Can I get my (Class, Club, Team, Business) involved?

YES!!  Absolutely.  It will be more fun in fact if you do, and it is a great way to build team cohesion.

It is also a GREAT way for students to step outside of Western NY/Northwestern PA and see that their actions can help others all around the world.

If you are a teacher and want more information, do not hesitate to ask.

       7. If I bring my class, can we park a bus on campus?

             Yes!  We already discussed this with campus officials. 

       8.  If we want to volunteer for multiple shifts will there be any food for us to eat?

Sure.  We can have simple sandwiches and some fruit etc for you.  (if any pizza place etc wants to donate, just let us know!)

        9.  Is it too late to donate to this?

Absolutely NOT.  We are still short several thousand dollars.  In the event that we do not reach the necessary amount, BonaResponds will have to make a donation which will could impact future work that we do.  So we really do not want to do tat.  We will be having some fundraisers in advance (August 28th at the Living Waters Church on West State St being the next) but money is going to be tight.

You can donate by sending a check to BonaResponds, PO Box BY, St. Bonaventure NY 14778 (please include a note in the envelope that you want the money to go to this) or you can donate online through the FeedmyStarvingChildren Website,

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What BonaResponds Board members are talking about

Earlier this week I sent a summer report to the BonaResponds Advisory Board. In it I laid out what we have been doing as well as what we have planned for the coming school year.

The report set off a plethora of calls and follow-up emails on various topics. I thought you, the volunteers, might like to see some of the topics.

  1. Van-- A couple of board members suggested we get a "better" van than we planned. One suggested using our recent donation as seed money for a nicer van. In the end it was decided that since we use the van in a very hard manner (mud, chain saws, tools, lumber, etc) and the vast majority of our events are reasonably local (within 100 miles), we would be better off getting a cheaper, older, van.
  2. Shipping to Haiti--this is still a concern. We THINK we have it solved, but was reminded of the difficulty of getting things through customs.
  3. Fund raising. A few were worried (as I am) that we still are short many thousands of dollars on our fund raising to feed 100,000 people in Haiti. (See FoodforHaitiNow.org) We hope the August 28th Car wash and Clothing Sale makes a big impact. Other ideas are being accepted. So if you have any ideas, let us know!
  4. Welcome Days (August 28th) and our Fall Service Weekend (Sept 10-12) were discussed. These will be two of the largest events we have ever run. Concern over whether 400 volunteers would turn out. I said yes. So PLEASE volunteer!
  5. Several board members expressed concern with low participation of faculty and staff on campus. We have agreed to try to get this up but I confess I am not sure what else to do. Students, tell your teachers how fun it it and invite them out!
  6. A more prompt payment system is needed. Hopefully the new administrative assistant that we will have a few hours access to each week will help in this regard. Too many checks are not getting paid on time and we do not have current financial data as we should.
  7. Drinking was again addressed by several of the board members. We all think this is a big problem. All too often people (when sober and rational) sign up to come volunteer but then fail to show up after a night of drinking. We all agreed this is a big risk for BonaResponds. When you can not depend on people showing up, it makes planning very difficult. Unlike on a post disaster trip, we cannot just "send the person home." We are VERY open to any and all ideas on this one. We did think that more faculty and community participation in these events would give the students better role models and show them that "Drinking" does not mean "getting plastered".
  8. A couple of board members want to start a conference call every couple of months to better keep in touch. A meeting is probably too expensive as we have board members spread all over the world.
  9. The one thing that every board member did stress was what a great job the volunteers are doing. They are very proud of the work you all do be it locally, nationally, or internationally! Many of them said they missed you and to say hi to everyone!

BonaResponds needs drivers and role models for August 28th

BonaResponds meets Mayor Mike Bona_Responds via FlickrAs part of Welcome Days BonaResponds, the First Year Experience, and the Center for Community Engagement are putting on a the annual service day for incoming students. It is a great opportunity for them to meet others while doing good deeds in the local community.

This year will almost assuredly be the largest ever with a high degree of participation expected (400 volunteers for some part of the day would not be surprising.).

We currently have about twenty jobs lined up in the Olean/Allegany area. That part is similar to most of our service weekends. What makes this one extra important is that the incoming students do not have patterns learned yet and thereby are more impressionable. You can make a good first impression for them!

How can you help? We'd LOVE to have you volunteer. Rarely in life is does such a golden opportunity to be a role model and make a positive difference present itself. Not only can you help the local community by painting, cleaning, etc, but just by coming out you are setting an example for new students that helping others is what we do at St. Bonaventure.

Additionally, since it will be the first real volunteer day for many of the students, they need leaders to help show how to act, paint, etc. You really will make a lasting impact on the students if you come out, one that could change people's lives not only for a day, but for their entire life.

But even if you do not know how to paint etc, we can still really use your help. We are very short on drivers! Or bake brownies/cookies, or even peanut butter sandwiches for the volunteers (a great recipe for PB sandwiches: put peanut butter and jelly on bread, serve).

As you can imagine moving 400 volunteers to about 20 different jobs can be a logistical challenge. It is made worse since most of other students (upper class) will be busy moving in and not available to drive. So we really need drivers. If you are over 21 and have a clean driving record, please contact Abby Cohen (acohen@sbu.edu) to help arrange get SBU approval to drive.

Thank you very much. Remember you really can be the difference in someone's college experience and set them on the right path for years to come, all while helping in the local community. What more can you ask for?

No matter who you are, you are a role model and Saturday August 28th is a day when the new students will be watching and learning. Please come out and help.
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Dalia Lama: Secular Approach to Compassion

YouTube - Secular Approach to Compassion - The Dalai Lama:

Well said! The first 1:04 is VERY worth watching! If you can't watch it essentially he says that by being compassionate, the volunteer is also getting something.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Rebuilding homes, rebuilding lives - The Buffalo News

Rebuilding homes, rebuilding lives - The Buffalo News:
"It has been one year since torrential rains led to flash flooding that ripped through communities along Cattaraugus Creek in southern Erie and northern Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.

The National Guard troops and firefighters are gone, the Red Cross centers have closed and the mud and debris are cleared from homes and roads. But the storm's imprint remains.

'Everybody uses the flood as a reference now. There's stuff before the flood and stuff after the flood,' said Fred Johnson, director of Love Inc...

Here is a photo set of our adventures after the storm and here are all the blog entries tagged for Gowanda
which proved remarkably interesting to look back at and remember.

7 months after the earthquake and the pain and suffering continue

Delmas 60
Delmas 60,
originally uploaded by melindayiti.
Yes it is 7 months after the quake.

Yes Haiti's government, infrastructure, and custom's office are all nightmares to deal with.

Yes there are plenty of dangers.

And Yes, undoubtedly the Haitian people need to be freed from the NGOs that fight amongst themselves, hoard resources, and may have a vested interest in keeping the people poor and in need.

But fours yeses do not equal a single Know: as in we know they need help and to say no would be and is wrong.   As pictures like these from Melidayiti and stories like the one from Mark Schuller  remind us all to not forget Haiti and why I believe it should remain BonaResponds' top priority for the upcoming semester.

From the Schuller piece:
"For example, in Bobin, a camp where 2775 people live, in a ravine outside of Petion-Ville, there is only one latrine. Words don't do justice to the odor. Some residents prefer to use plastic bags. In addition, there is no access to treated drinking water. A single PVC pipe that had cracked offers some people a couple of buckets whenever the government turns on the tap for paying clients. Many people use the rainwater in the trash-filled ravine. Residents mentioned that NGOs had talked about installing a water system but up to now, almost seven months after the earthquake, it's still not here"
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On the 65th anniversary of the Bombing of Hiroshima

Cover of "The Last Train from Hiroshima: ...
Recently the world marked the  65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.  Coincidentally I had just finished ristening to "The Last Train from Hiroshima" by Charles Pellegrino.

Yes, I know.  There is controversy about it and some of the "facts" in the book and that the movie that was to be made based on the book may be canceled and the publisher as ceased publication of the 'non fiction" book.  And the author may or may not have a PHD.  All of that is quite aside from the book.  And whether is is "fiction" or "non-fiction" is a fairly immaterial to me.  I enjoyed the book and learned a great deal from it.

( I would encourage you to read Pellegrino's side of things before jumping to too many conclusions on the book.)

The book describes in detail (in some cases millisecond by millisecond) the time after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  It tells of the firestorms, the destruction, and the deaths.  The main reason (besides historical curiosity) that I bought the books was to see how BonaResponds can help after disasters.  And sure enough there are many many similarities: 

  1. The survivors feel simultaneously both lucky and cursed. 
  2. There are amazing stories of survival and harrowing stories of death and injury which appear to largely random in both cases.
  3. Survivors often feel totally lost and forgotten and NGOs and Governments get blamed for a lack of swift response with food or water.  
  4. The post traumatic stress can be as bad as the disaster itself breaking up families, leading to suicides, and untold other problems.   
  5. Rumors spread, while important (and sometimes life saving) information fails to filter up the chain of command. 
  6. How those going to help are often told not to go as it is too dangerous (ironically in the book the person left Nagasaki to go to Hiroshima and thus missed the bombing there).
  7. How the survivors are often seen as to blame (Including one scene that was eerily reminiscent to New Orleans residents not being able to cross bridges into Gretna after Katrina)

But what struck me as much as these stories, were the stories of how some of the survivors used the disaster as a life changing event who overcame their problems and went on to bigger and better things.  Most famous among these are the so-called peace advocates.

While not speaking of war or peace here, their message is so strong that it deserves to be heard by all.  And since the book is now out of publication.   Each of which is as meaningful to a BonaResponds volunteer now as they were to St. Francis eight centuries ago,  Jesus twenty centuries ago, or to our ancestors thousands and thousands of years ago:

In the months after the bombings, Dr. (Paul) Takashi Nagai went on to do much charity work and later speak on the need for peace.  Here from page 271,  where he was speaking about the site he established for survivors to come and get help (Incidentally I imagine his camp like the Rangers original camp in Pass Christian MS after Katrina).

"I have named this place Nyokodo because the ancient prophets-Budah and Jesus, Hille; and Mohammad--each near the ends of their human journeys, said essentially the same thing: "love others as you love yourself'"

Later on Page 298, Pellegrino writes about a young victim of the bombing who was suffering from various blood disorders brought about by the radiation of the bombs.   
 "For Sadako, the lesson became Omoiyari, which meant:' in your heart, always think of the other person before yourself."

This helping others is the BonaResponds' message.  Indeed it is the unviersal message.  Go make the world a better place.  It need not be after a disaster it can be an every day event.  It need not be a trip around the world, it can be a trip to the local grocery store for an sick or elderly neighbor.

You can do it alone, or with others.  But please do it.  There are people who need the help. And the great thing is, it will make you happier as well!  
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Friday, August 06, 2010

Secret Altruistic Agent Reveals Her Identity

Secret Altruistic Agent Reveals Her Identity:
"Secret Agent L -- aka Laura Miller -- specializes in subterfuge of the friendliest sort: She leaves small treats around Pittsburgh for people to find. Just to be nice."
We should start this! GREAT story. Click through to it.