Monday, September 24, 2012

Sign up for our Camden NJ Fall Break trip

Camden NJ is the destination for the 2012 Fall Break trip for BonaResponds.  The trips are always highlights of what we do and we'd love to have you with us!  It will be fun!

You get a t-shirt, food when at the site, transportation, and a place to stay.  And you get the chance to help make other people a bit better off.   At least one night we will go to sightseeing in Philadelphia. 

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Camden named most impoverished | Courier-Post |

As announced this AM, BonaResponds will be going to Camden for fall Break (Leaving late on Friday Oct 5, returning evening of Oct 9), come with us!

Camden named most impoverished | Courier-Post |

Why?  There is a huge need: from today's news:

"New statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau show that Camden has the dubious distinction of being the country’s most-impoverished city.

The Bureau estimates that 42.5 percent of the people live below the poverty line in Camden, based on 2011 figures...."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

September 29th is coming soon! Get involved

We now have over 70 volunteers signed up, but need more!  Sign up at

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pictures from this weekend

Here are some pictures from this weekend: 

Saturday in Wellsville:

Sunday in Arcade:

Making a difference, that is what is fun. A metaphor from walking Bonnie this AM

 The idea that BonaResponds is a "weekend job" annoys me.  Yeah the idea of a "job" sort of annoys me, but what is really bugging me is the term "weekend".

Indeed clocks and calendars annoy me in general.  For instance, if I am a finance student from 2:30 to 3:45, does that mean I don't learn at 10:15?  Or if I go to yoga class and learn to be at peace at 6 PM, does it not mean that same peacefulness shouldn't be there at 11:30 on a Wednesday?  Of course not.  Facebook status updates of "only 5 more days til the weekend" etc grate at me. They suggest that the poster can only be happy on the "weekend". 

The same is true with BonaResponds.  Yes BonaResponds is an organization (and a great one at that!) that works almost every weekend, but it is more than that, it is a mindset and a way of life:

A mindset that says

 "I will make the world a bit better not because it is my job, or I get pecuniary benefits, but simply because I can and I get personal enjoyment out of it."

Thus, it is thrilling and rewarding to hear of BonaResponds leaders telling how they help local blood drives, or organize recycling activities, or a beach clean up, or tutor in an after school program on a "weekday".  (Infinitely more thrilling than hearing how they are only coming to volunteer because it is a class requirement).

At any given point of time,  I often have no idea what day it is.  Seriously.  What difference does it make?  Life is pretty simple: Wake up, work/play, eat, sleep.

From this prospective work and play are pretty much the same thing.

Need collaborating evidence?  Jenn who worked on the ramp we helped build in Wellsville this past weekend commented on the picture from the day:  "Fun, fun, fun day".   Is that describing work?  Play?   

Making a difference.  That is what is fun.

 It is true for anything.  Be it teaching the Black-Scholes Option Pricing model, working at the Allegany Park and Shop, or climbing through a flooded basement, I love doing each of them, but only when making a positive difference.  

It is how I TRY to live.  You can come at this via religion ( "Love thy neighbor") or finance (create positive economic value) or psychology (Oxytocin, which is released when helping others, improves personal well being).

This is not some great new break through.  It has been around for thousands of years.  Indeed it is in the bible which was written even before I first learned of the concept of EVA (Economic Value Added) in college.  As in all roads lead to Rome, whatever path you take, you will likely come to the same conclusion:

 Live in a way that you are on net a giver/contributor.  Definite yourself as a positive Net Present Value project and have a positive Economic Value Added.  

This goal is removed from any organization.  Indeed, it holds for all situations.  If as an employee I am earning $10 an hour, I should strive to make $11 an hour for the company.  If a volunteer, I want to make the world better for the person being helped at a rate more than the combined cost of services and opportunity cost of my time to volunteer.

And before I hear from an angry reader who says there is more to life than dollars and cents, let me make myself clear that properly understood economics is about much more than dollars and cents.  You want to be a net contributor to, rather than a draw from, society. 

Which brings us to this morning's walk.  One of the "weekend jobs" BonaResponds frequently does is to do street clean ups.  Thus, I have taken to picking up garbage while out walking Bonnie.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a "morning person" so when we left the house I had not planned to pick up garbage (and hence had not grabbed a garbage bag).  But early in the walk when I saw a bottle on the curb I picked it up, and then another, and soon my hands were full and there was still quite a walk to do.

As we got a bit further there was a bag in the street.  YES!  I could pick up more garbage. 

Pretty soon the bag was filled to over heaping (it was a small bag).

Oh well, "Better not perfect" (a common BonaResponds mantra) went through my mind.  But wait, just as Bonnie and I turned to finish the walk, a larger bag presented itself wrapped around a bush.

It was a good walk. 


Take what you want from the story, but my three "take-aways" are:

  1. BonaResponds is more than an organization, it is a mindset and a way of life.  
  2. When you want to do something good, start out even if you don't know how you will accomplish it.  Usually what you need just sort of appears as you need it.   
  3. When you are making a difference, even picking up garbage can be fun.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jim's 9-11-12 Message

I wrote the following on Facebook today.  But as there were some typos and I wanted to share it with a greater community, I am also going to post it here.  
Never forgotten. <3
"So many, lost so much on that Tuesday morning. Many of us lost friends or family. Others lost a co-worker, a role model, or even just someone they saw on the subway. The casualty lists document the lives lost, but miss those many many more who were injured (both physically and mentally).

Over the next few days the world came together and grieved but a form of innocence (along with many freedoms) had been lost. In many ways, both tangible as well as intangible, we are all still feeling the affects of the four planes so cowardly turned into guided missiles. I encourage you all to not forget those who died that fateful day in NYC,, Washington, and aboard Flight 93, and also all those many thousands who lost in other ways here at home and in far away places in the eleven years following the terrorist attacks. The suicide victim, the first responder who succumbed to cancer, soldiers in harm's way, as well as the innocent bystanders of a drone attack are no less victims just because their deaths happened in a time and place distant from the initial attacks.

We can't bring the people back, but we can honor their memory. Doing so entails more than sharing a cool picture or a quote via social media, it means being social to all people, it means making the world a little bit better.

All the talk in the world will only go so far.. Prayers and good intentions are nice but generally won't solve the problems so many are facing. Be the best person you can be: go do something tangible to make the world better for it is in doing so, we will really be honoring those affected by September 11, 2001.

Amy O'Doherty, Mychal Judge, Rob Peraza and the many many others, I have no idea if you can see it or not, but there will be one block cleaned of garbage and broken bottles behind the old Boardmanville Elementary School today. It's not much, but it is my small contribution to your legacy."

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

What can we (you) do to help the SPCA

A punch in the stomach.  That is what it felt like yesterday morning when I read the Niagara Falls Reporter story on the Cattaraugus  County SPCA.

It felt so for several reasons.  First, and most importantly, because I hate to see animals suffer.  And if the story is true, it is too much to stomach.

The second reason for the instant stomach ache was that BonaResponds has worked there many many times and I know and like many of the people and the animals there.  I don't want them to be hurt.  The workers all care greatly about animals and do a thankless job.

Having been there many times, I should first say that I have not seen anything as bad as was reported by the Niagara Falls Reporter.

  (Warning: you seriously do not want to click through.  It was that bad.)

The video that accompanies the article is here:

Slow Kill at Cattaraugus County SPCA (Olean, New York). THIS IS NOT NO KILL - YouTube

Immediately upon reading the article, we (Jim) emailed the SPCA laying out some steps that we can do to help.  However, and this is a HUGE however, we can only help if we get volunteers.


"I was very sorry to see the article from Niagara Falls Reporter this AM. If you have not seen it I apologize for being the bearer of bad news.  It is a horrible story. Indeed it turned my stomach.

Although the below suggestions may appear to be critical, it is truly not my intention.  I am looking at the SPCA through the eyes of someone who cares about animals, sees things as a business person, and has been to the SPCA often, so please trust me that I am not trying to be critical, just trying to help. 

The article is troubling on many levels and I am sure they were looking for the worst and it only takes one "source" to have things blown up.  That said, there appears to be problems (size of facility etc) [and many of these things we have discussed before].  But I will also ask, how can BonaResponds help? 

It is such a huge task and you are doing great work, but constantly getting bad press for it.  It really is a thankless job you all have.
Clearly these ideas may  not all be possible, wanted, or even needed but they are things I have been thinking for a while to make it easier up there for you all and I would feel guilty if I did not mention them to you.

[Our] ideas: 

1. More vet coverage surely costs money [and I know you are always short of money.  Perhaps this story may be good if it gets people to donate more and I am not sure how we could help with this as we depend on donations ourselves], although the marketing intern might help.  I would encourage you to reach out to....the internship program for the School of Business. (Mike Kasperski's email address deleted)

2. Put up new fences for increased outside play area.  Have a gate to allow an "alley way" between areas on each side.  Eyeballing it, could increase play areas to at least 6 and improve efficiency in getting dogs in and out of their kennels. This would allow the dogs more outside time and also make it easier on your employees freeing up their time for other jobs.

3. Aforementioned boardwalk on the North side of the building (or maybe even just clearing and using gravel to allow the area to be used (cheaper--not as nice but cheaper).  This makes it less stressful for dogs and volunteers (maybe get more dog walkers to come?) I spoke with manager at Home Depot this week and they are interested in helping.  Also I spoke with a person who has a bull dozer who said he could spread gravel to make a path with pipes underneath to allow any water flow easier flow.

4. [Starting a] daily volunteer program (NOT BonaResponds--we simply do not have the time, but we can get a volunteer to help get it started and I am sure some will help on an ongoing basis--some of our leaders were there this weekend walking dogs in fact) to have more people sign up and take a single day a month of walking dogs for an hour or so.  Even an ad campaign to start this. Have dog walking times posted outside, online, and even in the paper.   Have some in the [morning] for people who work, and then after work as well.

5. Thinking longer term, Kitty Kingdom seems to me (and by no means am I an expert at all on this) too crowded?  Maybe convert some of the barn, or put up a new shed that could take washer-dryer-food space to increase room in the building? A capital campaign build around a video of current overcrowding would surely raise enough money for a small expansion?

6. Easier entrance. Sounds silly, but volunteers are already nervous to be out of their environment and then to approach down a bumpy one lane road can be stressful and may deter some.

I know you are all overworked up there and have next to no money, and these suggestions are not to be critical, [rather] just some ideas I had this summer when up there. 

To emphasize the enormity of your task (and seriously not to add to them), I have had two calls from a woman who is 81 years old and feeding 20 cats.  She is very worried it is too much for her and feels awful about it, but does not know what to do.  She can't let them starve.  Her friend (who called) was about crying on the phone with her sense of powerlessness.  Any ideas? 

Thanks, sorry, and good luck.  We will help in anyway we can.  I hope this email is not seen as criticism.  It is not meant to be.




In the past 25 hours, we have had talks with student BonaResponds leaders as well as alumni.  To a person we want to help.  Matt, a Junior Marketing major, has taken the reigns and is helping to organize a group of BonaResponds volunteers that will make twice a month trips to the SPCA to walk dogs.  With SPCA permission we will also help extend the walking program to make it easier for people to do this on a regular basis.

On September 29th as part of our WarmSnugglyBlanket/Collection day we will be collecting cat litter for the SPCA (that was stated as their biggest need last week).  Also we will help get them a marketing intern to help with adoptions and fund raising.

However, these programs can not happen without the support of you all.  Get involved.  Stop in at the SPCA and walk dogs, adopt a cat, have your animals spayed and neutered.  

To get started, we will have a very short BonaResponds meeting devoted to the SPCA initiatives on Thursday (tomorrow) at 4:30 in Murphy.  All are invited.