Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tax Credits, volunteering, and SBU

Two things I do not want to turn this page into is a political or tax report, but this one really does have strong ties for BonaResponds, so I will at least point it out. It comes from Jerry Moran a congressman from Kansas. In a nutshell he is proposing making it easier/cheaper for firms to allow employees time off with pay to volunteer in the time of a disaster.

McPherson Sentinel's Sentinet - News:
"I[Congressman Jerry Moran] have sponsored legislation to compensate volunteers for their efforts. The Assistance for Individuals Delivering (AID) for America Act creates a federal tax credit for businesses that continue to pay employees while they volunteer in federal disaster zones. In Greensburg, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that more than 1,300 individuals have volunteered since May 4, the day of the deadly tornado. The work of these volunteers totals more than 26,000 hours. This legislation builds upon Kansans spirit of giving by allowing more individuals to take time off of work to volunteer during times of disaster."
While I am not sure what the financeprofessor side of me thinks on this one (I would like to think that such a policy is a positive NPV project even without the tax credit making the tax credit redundant) , I am definitely in favor of it from the position of wanting to make it easier to volunteer. Indeed, there is a proposal already on its way to the SBU board of trustees to enact some version of this at SBU.

I will keep you posted on the progress of both the bill in congress and the proposal at SBU.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Make someone's Christmas one to remember!

Thanks to Katie for putting together this great flier. We will be including it in some mailings and hanging them up around campus.

Pass Christian home rebuilding with Randy's Rangers

This was posted by some recent volunteers working with Randy's Rangers. It is well worth a look!

Pass Christian home rebuilding:
"October 2007 - Pass Christian, Mississippi Two years have gone by since hurricane Katrina decided to spin the wheel of fate with the lives of residents of the gulf coast. Everyone knows how New Orleans flooded when the levees broke; horrible stories. Just 45 miles east of the big easy lies Pass Christian, or what's left of it. Pass is on a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico and Saint Louis Bay. Katrina made landfall here and sent a 27-foot surge of water washing over the peninsula removing houses, buildings, trees and animals."
and near the end:

"For me, I've decided. While there is a valid debate over what our collective government should do, it's clear what I as an individual should do. Helping rebuild Andora's house was the right thing to do. I choose how I spend my energy, and helping another human reclaim their home is the right thing to do. Perhaps the building of these houses will become a personal mandala, washed away in some future storm. So be it. The journey is what's important."

Several videos and even a picture of the BonaResponds sign! :)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Some pictures of the family we are adopting

Deb and Randy of Randys Rangers sent the following pictures of the Whavers family. More details will follow, but wanted to get these online"

Quotes from recent interviews

Just to increase those getting all of this, I figured I would take a page out of Mark Cuban's playbook and post directly to the blog as well...From various interviews...and just some quotes I have used today in telling people about BonaResponds:

On the December 14th art auction
* "Clarence gave us the paintings as a means of showing how grateful he was for the assistance. He did not know we were going to give him some of the proceeds. In fact he did not even know we were going to have an auction."

* "Of course we want to help Clarence. But we also want to help the Whavers. And we want to help any of the thousands of families still waiting for housing across the Gulf. And we want to help more locally as well. Unfortunately, this all takes money. We have to strike a balance between all of these. I confess one of the hardest things I do is to say "no, I am sorry, we can not help on such and such a project" because we can not afford to do it. That is not a position I want to be in. Events like these, and I would add the Online shopping through GoodSearch as well, are designed to assure that we do not need to say that much."

*"Working with others, here or where ever we are helping, is a great great thing. I am unable to put it into words, but on so many levels it is beneficial. It helps the victim, the volunteers, the community. The victim is helped back to his/her feet, the community is improved. As for the volunteers, the students mature while older volunteers stay young. It really is a win, win, win. Donating to encourage this is a no-brainer."

* "The art auction (Dec. 14) is a great way to buy some great artwork while also helping to fund future BonaResponds events. When you are buying a donated piece of art all of the money will be put to a good use. Whether it is helping Clarence to add insulation to his house, or to pay for breathing masks in the Gulf coast, the money will have a lasting impact."

"The art auction as well as the "adopt a family" program are really a means of you helping us to help others. Without your help, we can not help others."
On the Adopt a family program.
*"If you are not excited about this one, check your pulse. We are basically trying to get a family into a house. The Whavers are from Pass Christian. A grandmother, a mother, and two children. Still living in a FEMA trailer two years after the storm.

The story is probably longer than you want to hear now but the Cliff-notes version is that the mother works as a security guard and makes less than $10 an hour and they need a house. Sure they probably made some questionable decisions--they started rebuilding without having enough money to finish it and they are building a larger house than most charitable agencies will pay for, but is that reason to leave them? I think not. At some level stepping in and helping people like this are why I think there will always be a need for grass roots volunteer agencies. We can actually investigate on a case by case basis and not merely go by a formula that says who does or does not get help. They clearly need the assistance. To be able to help and to not at least try is something that I am not willing to do. "
* "We hope to raise $25,000. When people tell me it is a lot of money I have to correct them. It is a lot of money if we were asking just one person to pay it, but if we get many people, then it is really a very little amount of money. When we are in the field working, I often remind the volunteers that "many hands make light work". The same is true with respect to fund raising. Getting more people involved will allow us to have a big impact. We all can afford to donate a dollar or two. If we all do that, then it just becomes a matter of getting more people involved. Suppose we get the entire Olean metro area involved? Or better all of WNY. It is literally pennies per person. And those pennies can have a big impact."

On the need for fund raising in general:
"If you think about this from a economic perspective, burdening student volunteers with costs is not an optimal strategy. It is not something that I want to do. I think rather recovering from a disaster is a case of everyone pitching in to help. Some people have the ability and desire to help with manual labor, others to be there to cook, drive, or just listen to the victims. Still others, be it for job, family or time issues, can not volunteer on every trip. But these people play an important role too. They can help fund the trips.

I really am a big believer that the volunteers should not have to shoulder the whole burden. We are asking them to give up their time, the least we can do is to assure that they have a place to stay and food to eat. Your donations and purchases assure that we can continue to respond to people in need; locally or across the country."

* "many have the mistaken idea that we are funded through the university. We are not. We are all volunteers, no excuse me, I think 3 or 4 students are paid a small amount--I think for 4 hours a week, plus our two student leaders get funded some through the Journey Project. But other than that we are all volunteers. We have to pay for supplies, tools, gas, etc."
On other things:
* "Why don't more faculty/staff get involved? I really do not know. Some are too busy, some do not think they would like it, or could be any help. They are wrong of course. Everyone can do something. And almost all of it is fun. If for no other reason than you can actually see something accomplished. "

Question: what one thing could anyone do to help BonaResponds more than anything else?
Answer: One thing? ok, but I am going to cheat. In the short run, we need drivers. Or money that can purchase an insurance rider to let more people drive. It has become a big problem. Getting drivers is huge. So probably that is in greatest demand right now.

But before I shut up, I want to add to my answer. The longer and better answer is to get involved. I do not even care how, but get involved.

From helping on the ground on our next trip (planned or unplanned), to helping with fund raising, to donating a painting, to fixing our van for free, to agreeing to pay gas for a single stop, to making a video for us, to donating a GPS system, to donating money, to you name it.

I really do not even care. Just get involved. You will migrate to where you are needed most. But just be open to helping and show up for some of our events. Or email us. I do think you will get out of it more than you put in.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A letter of thanks to volunteers from the Gulf : LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
"They came by the hundreds, then the thousands. God had heard and we were thankful. They came - firefighters, military, police officers, doctors and nurses, linemen and engineers, truck drivers and preachers. They knew. They came. They all came. The whole world came and were were thankful. They came and suffered with us. They came and lived in tents, slept on the ground, but they came and we were thankful. They clothed us and fed us. They sheltered us and tended our wounds. They lifted our hearts and we were thankful. They came with full hearts and open hands..."
A very nice letter to the editor from Rita Duffus writing in the SunHerald from Biloxi.
You really should read the entire thing! It is down a ways, but it is there.

HODR Update: Not going to Mexico

Bill writing for

Hands On Disaster Response » MEXICO: Tabasco Flooding Assessment:
"The response from the Government of Mexico and state of Tabasco is efficient and comprehensive. The resiliency of the people affected by the flooding to clean out their homes and move forward is equally impressive. Prior to our arrival most homes that were flooded had been cleaned out and were being lived in once again, less than one week since the floodwaters receded."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Help BonaResponds While Shopping!

Ok, this is easy. All you have to do is click through this link and then shop at any of 100s of stores (Barnes and Noble, Best Buy,, Ebay, even Wal Mart. And if you select BonaResponds, the retailer will donate a portion of the sale (generally about 3%, but in some cases 5%, 9%, or even 25%) to BonaResponds!!

Support your favorite charity.

(on the menu, just type in BonaResponds for the charity (they call it who do you search for)).

Want more stores? How is this?

Home Depot, Dell, Office Max,,, Brookstone, Staples, American Easgle, Addidas, Nike,, BrooksBrothers,, Audible, even the Home Shopping Network. ANd MANY more!!

Really! It is that easy. Now I am not suggesting you go crazy buying stuff (people buy too much anyways for the holidays) BUT if you are going to do it anyways, do it through GoodShop and help us help others!

Come on and help us help others!!!

Support your favorite charity (BonaResponds!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

HODR news

Be sure to check out our sister (mother?) group. They are the former HandsonUSA we worked with in Biloxi. They are a GREAT group and I am proud to say we copied their model.

They are now working in Peru and Mexico. Also they have a very cool Aidgle (google site) that donates some of the revenue to HODR.

Speaking of search sites, we still do have the GoodSearch site. I had quit using it because of the quality of search, but it seemed better the few times I have used it of late. If you do not use the Aidgle site for HODR, why not try the GoodSearch site and be sure to enter BonaResponds for your charity of choice!

Monday, November 12, 2007

More info on BonaResponds trip to the Gulf

Had some questions on the trip, so here is some new info:

We are going to leave SBU on Jan 2. Will return on January 12.

We will be working in Pass Christian MS.

Mainly rebuilding the interiors of homes that were destroyed...

It will be really good...

A $50 deposit is due before Thanksgiving Break (if $ is an issue, let us know)...

The total cost of the trip is $199.

We will be traveling by vans.

not sure what else you need..

hope you can come!


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Jackson, MS: Gulf Coast Mayors Meet in Capital City

WLBT 3 - Jackson, MS: Gulf Coast Mayors Meet in Capital City: "
Mayor Warr says without affordable insurance, builders are charging significantly higher rates to build on the coast. And while both cities are financially stable, there are still many residents waiting on insurance checks or assistance from the government to help them rebuild."

A look at volunteers in Mississippi

Daily Pilot:
"More than two years after one of the deadliest storms in the country’s history, thousands remain displaced. Volunteers are helping repair homes, most of which belong to residents too old, too ill or too poor to move or rebuild after Katrina. This is the first in a five-part series.   Pascagoula, Miss., looks a little better every time Palm Harvest Church volunteer Mike King visits. Fewer FEMA trailers than last year dot each block of the small shipbuilding town on the Gulf Coast. The piles of rubble from Hurricane Katrina’s massive storm surge and sea waves the size of five-story buildings have been cleared. Street signs are back up. But Katrina left deep wounds.

The Breeze - Top Stories

Way to go JMU!!! :)

The Breeze - Top Stories:
"Two years after Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast, JMU is sending 110 volunteers to New Orleans. Last Thanksgiving they gutted houses; this year they’re building them. The group will spend five days in the Ninth Ward, the residential area where homes were submerged in minutes after a levee broke, making it one of the worst of the areas hit by Katrina. The group of JMU students, in addition to faculty, family members and local high school students, aim to bring “some normalcy” to lives of the residents of the Ninth Ward, said Mary Slade, JMU faculty co-leader of her sixth Katrina relief trip"

Friday, November 09, 2007

Campus emergency training should happen quickly - Opinion

This is what BonaResponds has asked repeatedly to be involved in. Stay tuned

Campus emergency training should happen quickly - Opinion: "
Over the course of the Fall semester, there has been talk of improving campus
safety by alerting and educating faculty in proper crisis response. Last May, a
proposal to institute professional training for all faculty members was brought
to the faculty senate and approved"

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

BonaResponds Gulf Coast trip Meeting

BonaResponds January Trip to the Gulf Interest Meeting 8pm Murphy AUD C Wednesday November 7th.

We will be working out of Pass Christian, Mississippi.

Leave Campus January 2, return January 12.

Places will be likely limited (there are fewer volunteer camps open plus transportation is difficult) so we will need commitment ($50 deposit) by Thanksgiving break. The first 6 faculty-staff members who are willing (and able) to drive can go free.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Bridge is open!

"Here are photographs from the daylong dedication cermeonies surrounding the Biloxi Bay Bridge, held at the base of the bridge on Point Cadet in Biloxi, as well as images from the ribbon-tying ceremony conducted at the center of the bridge. Also included are early morning pre-ceremony photos of the bridge and Point Cadet Marina."