Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Margaret Mahar Scholarship Winner is:

We want to congratulate Greg Faughnan on being the 2013-2014 Margaret Mahar Scholarship winner.  Greg's work this past year has been outstanding. From the first trip to Arcade to work on a horse farm to the many trips to the NYC area after Sandy, to his work on countless wheelchair ramps and street cleanups, Greg has personified what it means to be a BonaResponds leader.  Greg, lead on! and Congratulations! :)

Here is a part of his winning essay:

"It is difficult for me to say that I deserve the Margaret Mahar Service Scholarship because I received so much from the time I have spent volunteering BonaResponds. It has taught me that I do have the ability to change the world...one ramp at a time or one hurricane help day at a time. 

It has been so rewarding to see the gratitude on the Sandy victims faces when we take a little time to help clean our after the storm or help them to start to rebuild. I have spent time almost every weekend this school year volunteering with BonaResponds when I wasn't doing my MERT chief duties or volunteering as an EMT with Allegany. 

I have gained so much from my time with BonaResponds. Of course I have become more proficient in techniques necessary for the wide variety of jobs we do including decking, gutting houses, and using a circular saw (I had never touched a chain saw before BonaResponds and now I feel pretty confident with one). 

[BonaResponds] has been so inspirational to me, teaching me how to lead and I can effectively lead a group of volunteers through a job site that may be unsafe and establish clear goals for the team. 

 Most importantly I have learned what I do matters and that I do have the ability to change the world. Some times it is the little things in life that we take the time to do that are the most important. I hope you will consider me for this scholarship as I intend to continue my work with BonaResponds and hopefully continue to grow, leading other students, alumni and professors to spend some of their precious time to help others and have a positive impact in our community and our world."

Friday, April 26, 2013

BR News of the Week


* Last weekend we had a good weekend of work at the SPCA and starting a new ramp near Allegany.  Both jobs were really needed! 

* The SPCA work this past weekend went well.  Major improvement.  The back area where the fences had been destroyed by pigs is notw fixed so for the first time in years dogs can use the area for a play area.  The SPCA still needs help.  If you can stop and volunteer, it would be great!  Take a dog for a walk, play with the cats, or help clean the facilities!  Can’t do that?  How about buying some items from their Amazon Wish List: http://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/3LCM1LCPAA5VV/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_ws_0FEDrb064C1TX

* Katherine has not been able to be outside since autumn because she could not get back up the stairs to her house.  We will be building a ramp for her this weekend.  We'd love your help!  The ramp will be pretty straight forward: straight shot for the ramp and then installation of new steps on the rear of the house for an emergency exit (Katherine can not go up stairs, but says she is able to get down them in an emergency.)  (work will be at 10:30 on Saturday and 11:00 on Sunday from the rear of Murphy on the west side of campus)

* It is with great sadness I report that Michelle passed away this week.  She was a Warm SnugglyBlanket recipient and is the mother of Brittany (an MBA student at SBU).  Our thoughts and prayers are with Brittany and the whole family.  

* Speaking of WarmSnugglyBlankets, we now has a full time “presence” in Harlingen Texas!  Jim and Wende are helping to distribute blankets to those with cancer.  This week Gail got one.  What a trooper!  She is undergoing chemo for brain cancer and this week not only was a lector at Church services, she also is planning on doing a walk to raise money to find a cure for cancers in La Feria Texas.  Gail, way to go!  Pray, Fight, WIN

* To introduce some of our newer followers to BonaResponds so we began a new vlog on Youtube.  Here is one episode.  When there enjoy some of the other BR videos as well!

* We also are doing blog articles for those of you who prefer to read:

* The trailer (truck body) has yet to arrive, so the ramp and landing on that is on hold until we get it.  Hopefully very soon.

* Want to make a fast difference in someone’s life?  Send a get well card to :

Kori Quinn, 111 Highland Park Ave, Excelsior Springs Missouri 64024   We sent her a blanket this week.  She is a high school student who is fighting cancer.  We have been in touch with a friend of hers who is organizing a card drive.  So send a card.  It will be appreciated!

* New Job requests this week from Olean (painting), Allegany-clean up, and Delevan (ramp).  Come get involved!  Sat 10:30, Sunday 11:00. 

SHOES!  --  Our collection of shoes for Soles4Souls is winding down.  So when you whether you are doing spring cleaning or moving home for the summer, drop off your lightly worn used shoes in the collection boxes upstairs in Murphy.  

School Supplies--  With the school year winding down and people will soon be cleaning out their lockers and offices, we’d love to ship your slightly used notebooks, pens, pencils, calculators, crayons, etc to students in Haiti and the US.  Why do they need them?  Here watch this video Jim made: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGiueA4qG9E

Winter Coats: these will be largely going to Little Portions (a homeless shelter in Buffalo).  

Books!-- We are collecting books for a friend in NYC.  Here is how she described her program:

“I tutor math at a middle school on Saturdays with the organization Top Honors, Inc.. While they focus on math, a fellow tutor and I are building a complementary reading program. Our Fall 2013 pilot will provide a healthy breakfast of fruit and toast to these students while a tutor reads to them. When the student finishes eating, the roles swap and he/she reads to the tutor. Then the students are ready for their math lessons!

We started this project because we notice that some of the 'math problems' our students face actually fall into one or both of these buckets:

a - Kids come in without breakfast, so their sugar levels are out of whack. OR, they eat super-processed foods in the morning and range from hyperactive to sleepy during tutoring.

b - Every time I work on word problems with a student, he/she stumbles on the vocabulary in the sentence or I notice a ton of spelling errors.

So we want to tackle this problem from all sides. Based on the pilot outcomes, we'll scale to a full curriculum. But the focus is on starting small and iterating from there (for any fellow tech fans who believe in Agile!). If you have any old books in the 5th to 8th grade reading range”
Here is a list of books they are particularly looking for: http://www.nationalbook.org/bookup_books.html#.UXrDd4JAse5

* THANK You to Allie for writing thank yous to our wonderful donors!  It was a great help and something I should have been doing right along--just not enough time in the day.

* Thank you to Olean First Baptist Church for a donation of over a thousand dollars to help with Sandy recovery efforts as well as the First Congregational Church in Wellsville for a $1000 to help cover the cost of the ramp in Cuba.  

* Thank you to Rick and Allie for attending the scholarship luncheon and representing BR so well!

* Look for a job soon in Buffalo.  

* Tentative dates for the NYC trip are May 17-25th.  Plan on helping those affected by Sandy recover!

Thanks everyone!  Have a great week.  Hope you can come out and volunteer with us!  


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Notice board announcement

"This weekend, BonaResponds will be working both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday we will be building a ramp in the Allegany area and Sunday we will be helping an elderly gentleman by cleaning and moving a ramp. 

Also, as you are cleaning out your dorms and apartments, keep in mind that BonaResponds is still collecting shoes for Soles4Souls as well as partially used notebooks, calculators, pens, crayons, etc. for schools in Haiti. They can be dropped off at 231 Murphy or with Jennifer Spencer, who is located in the School of Business, second floor of the Murphy Building. 

Finally, BonaResponds will be going back to Breezy Point, N.Y., to help Sandy recovery efforts the third week of May. The exact dates are still being worked out, but will occur sometime between May 17 through May 26. Plan on coming with us! "

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Collect, Collect, Collect. How collections can help.

This is the third in of our series on “What BonaResponds does”. It is intended to (re)acquaint our followers and others about how much BonaResponds does and to get more people involved. Lack of volunteers is always the #1 thing holding us back, ALWAYS. So come help.

BonaResponds got into the “collection” business early on.  Before the “big trip” in March 2006, a few students asked if they could help collect items for a softball team in Kiln Mississippi.  Within weeks what had started out as an idea to help a single softball team had, thanks to Carrie and Josh, grown to fill a large truck and outfit teams from several baseball and softball leagues.

While we had success in collecting items, there has to be a specific need and target for our collections.  For instance, we will not collect clothes after disasters as time and again we have seen these wasted and worse as they use valuable volunteer time.  

That said, there are many needs that we can help.  The list of collections that we have done include:

  1. Softball baseball equipment for Mississippi
  2. Books for Biloxi/Gulfport Mississippi
  3. Crutches, walkers, Wheelchairs for Haiti--(Portlight gets major kudos on shipping)
  4. Medical supplies for Haiti--mainly went to Port-au-Prince
  5. Hygiene items for Haiti--sites primarily around Leaogane
  6. Soccer balls for Haiti--Worked with Harvard on Shipping)
  7. Coats for Buffalo Homeless Shelter (Little Portions)
  8. Computers--have gone to Erie PA, Margaretville NY, Olean NY, and over 40 to Buffalo.
  9. Notebooks and Paper for Camden NJ-St Anthony’s
  10. Shoes for Soles4Souls to be distributed in Haiti primarily
  11. School Supplies for Schools in Haiti  

These items can make a big difference.  How big?  Check out this video on our collections for Haiti.  So far over 70 pallets of supplies have been shipped to Haiti.   While it is costly (each barrel costs about $150 to ship ($110 from Brooklyn to Haiti, $40 from Olean to Brooklyn), each barrel has about $600-$800 of supplies that will be used in Haiti.  


Things we are currently collecting:

1. School Supplies for Haiti
2. Shoes for Haiti
3. Winter coats for Western New York (will be given part to Little Portions in Buffalo and partly in Olean via New Directions.)
4. Laptop computers
5. Flat panel monitors for computers (thanks to Cutco we are OK for the time being on computers)
6. Books for 5-8th graders in NYC and elsewhere.
7. Small toys and balls (soccer and basketball) for Haiti schools.

Get involved, you will be glad you did! 
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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Who and What is HaitiScholarships?

This is the second of our series on “What BonaResponds does”.  It is intended to (re)acquaint our followers and others about how much BonaResponds does and to get more people involved.  Lack of volunteers is always the #1 thing holding us back, ALWAYS.  So come help.  


HaitiScholarships.org is a spin-off of BonaResponds.  It is its own 501c3 that helps to pay for students schooling in Haiti.  

Haiti is one of the world’s poorest countries and also only about 700 miles from the US.  There are a million reasons for the poverty.  From corruption, to lack of education, and of course natural disasters the nation has had a very tough time over the past century.  This problem was greatly exasperated when Haiti was devastated by a 7.0 earthquake that killed over 200,000 people, leveled hundreds of thousands of buildings (estimated at 280,000), and left nearly a million people homeless. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Haiti_earthquake)

BonaResponds was active almost immediately sending medical supplies, crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs to groups on the ground in Haiti.  Many of our leaders went to Haiti on non-BR trips (BonaResponds itself was not allowed to go as it was deemed too dangerous).  

It was on these trips that we came to realize that the need for help in Haiti was much much greater than merely hauling rubble and rebuilding buildings.  Many of those we helped had little formal education and could not afford to either go themselves to school or to have family members go.  

We decided to help fund some Haitians going to school in Haiti.  Quite quickly it was decided that we’d expand and spin-off the newly started HaitiScholarships so that we could include more people and do fundraising that was separate from St. Bonaventure and BonaResponds. (you can only ask the same people so many times).  Also this allows us to disburse checks easier, collect money online, and shiled the university from any tax implications since our mission (educating Haitians) is different from that so SBU and could be a problem for the IRS. 
In 2011 we made a new charity and filed for our own 501-c3 status which was approved in 2012--therefore all donations are tax deductible! (Thanks to Alex for this!) 

Our board is made up of people from around the country and while Jim is still officially the president, he will be the first to admit that Alexandra Armstrong is the real driving force behind HaitiScholarships. 
Currently we have 43 scholarship winners from elementary school to college in Leogane and Port-au-Prince.  We'd love to get the number to 50 students and be able to follow them as they progress though their education and into jobs.

Biggest challenges?  

*  verifying school costs (typically about $250 a year for elementary school, $350 for High School, and $500-$700 for college and vocational schools) and assuring that the proper student is credited at the school level--anyone on the ground in Haiti want to help??
*  getting scholarship winners to give monthly status updates on how classes are going
*  fund raising--Haiti is far removed from the news and raising money is a challenge.

Next step: 

We hope to start a penpal program whereby students can write back and forth with volunteers in the US.  (This would be a GREAT class project if you are a teacher!)

Want to help?

  We are always looking for donors, people to organize fund raisers, and people to help spread the word on Haitischolarships.  Just email HaitiScholarships@gmail.com and be ready to get to work! 

Additionally, HaitiScholarships and BonaResponds work hand in hand on collections of school supplies that BonaResponds ships to Haiti.  These collections have changed from medical supplies to food and now they are shipping gently used notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, and even laptop computers.  To date over 70 pallets have been shipped. We’d love your help in raising that number and being able to help more in Haiti.


Monday, April 22, 2013


This week there will be a series of short articles to (re)aquaint you with some of the various and diverse jobs BonaResponds does.  WAMTR--We are more than ramps! :) Starting off the series will be WarmSnugglyBlanket



WarmSnugglyBlanket is a part of BonaResponds that focuses on helping people with cancer.  More specifically it makes and distributes blankets to those fighting cancer.  



WarmSnugglyBlanket was started last year after Marge Mahar (Jim’s mom) died after a battle with cancer.  (technically she had an allergic reaction to the chemo, but the cancer was bad enough!).  

During her short struggle she regularly said that when she was better she was going to head up a new part of BonaResponds that would help those with cancer.  She was not sure what she was going to do, but one thing that sje suggested was letter writing and talking with people to let them know they are not alone in their battle.

As the news of her cancer spread (Facebook and a wide range of friends and family will do that), she began getting cards, flowers, songs, books, and prayers from around the world.  After one very calm night, she told the family that she had been praying for all of the people that were praying for her and it “felt like a warm snuggly blanket that was protecting her and keeping her warm and safe."

After Marge's death, a family friend and Villa Maria College Volunteer leader Kim Kotz took this idea and had a team of BonaResponds and Vila volunteers make blankets for people with cancer at the Kevin Guest House near Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo.  And with that an idea was born.

Over the summer we had several people donate blankets and then in September 2012 we held our first large blanket making day where over 300 blankets were made.  

These blankets go to anyone with cancer.  We have distributed them locally, in Buffalo, in Rochester, in Harlingen Texas, as well as in the NYC area after Sandy.  We also mail them to people when we hear of their journey with cancer.

We’d love help on this personally very important project.  How can you help?

How much do the blankets mean?  More than we know.  Take this from a thank you we recently received:

Need more "proof"?  I have personally delivered many of these blankets and have seen grown men who I had never imagined even wanting a blanket begin to cry, hug me, and thank me for the blanket.  I have also seen blankets at wakes and have been told many times thank you months after we gave the blanket. Why?  It is not the blanket.  The blanket symbolizes and reminds the person that people care, that cancer has not cut them off from their family and friends, and that (s)he is  not outcasts forgotten by society because of the cursed disease.

I don't know if there is anything more important that we do.

How can you help?

1. Come make blankets with us when we have a large blanket making day.
2. Make blankets on your own.
3. Donate money to help defray shipping charges.
4. If you know of someone with cancer let us know.  Even better, agree to deliver a blanket to the person (we will give you the blankets!)
5. Spread the word. 

6. Like us on Facebook!

More info?  See http://www.warmsnugglyblanket.org/

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

BonaResponds Story Time: A Vlog

A few stories of how BonaResponds was shaped on our first trips:

Friday, April 19, 2013

News of the Week

BR News of the week

* This weekend local work Sat and Sun (ramp, fence, indoor painting, and more) Sat at 10:30, Sun 11:00.

* Congratulations to Greg on winning the SBU Joesph Doino Service award. Very well deserved. Greg is out with us every weekend and has done a great job leading by example.

* On Monday we are getting the long awaited semi-truck "body" that will be used as storage facility and can be used to prebuild ramp sections when the weather is very bad. In the coming weeks we will paint it, build a deck and ramp to push large items in and out, and shelves inside. This will be a huge benefit! Thank you Ed for the donation and to SBU (Phil and Rob) for letting us have it on campus.

* Thank you to Ellen and Joyce for arranging WarmSnugglyBlankets to be given out at the SouthernTier Cancer Center in Olean.

* Plan on going with BonaResponds the third week of May to the NYC/NJ area. We are also monitoring a possible trip to the Midwest (Chicago area) and potentially a trip back to Texas (West and Harlingen).

* BR will have a grad position for 1.5 hours class credit in the fall AND an office in the new School of Business building. If you will be a grad student for the 2013-2014 school year and are interested please contact Jim ASAP. Thank you Todd Palmer for giving us this grad position--it is much appreciated.

* Our shoe collection as well as collections of books and school supplies got a little momentum this week. Remember donations can be dropped off on the second floor of Murphy or at the Allegany Park and Shop.

* The SPCA is always in need of volunteers. Dog walking, cleaning, painting stalls, and other jobs are what are usually done.

* Last week we picked up about 30 contractor sized bags of garbage to kick off Earth Week. If you didn't get to come out with us and want to help, University Ministries will be having a clean up day on campus at 3pm on Monday. Lend a hand.

* Rich and Greg will be leading a small group in Long Beach this weekend on Sandy recovery efforts. If you would like to help them, let us know ASAP.

* Remember this weekend there is much local work! and we are open to everyone!


Friday, April 05, 2013

Anouncing the Margaret Mahar Service Scholarship

When my mom died of cancer last year we pledged to not let her "ripples" end.  It is why we started WarmSnugglyBlanket and why we are now happy to announce the first Marge Mahar Service Scholarship at St. Bonaventure University. It is targeted for people who are active leaders in BonaResponds. 

here is the online form:

International Service Week starts NOW!

BonaResponds is expanding their International Service Day to an International Service Week and is asking for people to get involved.  

“It is really that simple.  Do a good deed to help others and then share what you did with us online”  said  JIm Mahar the leader of BonaResponds.  “Your actions will help others, but even more than that, the sharing will inspire others to do good too.  Too often we just see the bad in the world.  This is designed to let others know that the good outweighs the bad. That people are really good.”

BonaReponds was founded in the weeks after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Since then the group has grown to help people in 16 states after disasters as well as having local work days every weekend to help paint, clean up, build wheelchair ramps, or whatever is needed. The group is part of St. Bonaventure University but is open to all who want to help.

“We get all kinds of volunteers.  We get retired people, high school and religious ed class, even some sports teams have worked with us.  Everyone can make a difference” said Greg Faughten a Jr  preMed major at SBU.  

“Our mission statement says it all: we want to help.  It can be big or small.  Locally or in far away states after disasters” according to Nate O’Lay a frequent volunteer who has been to several states after tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes.  

Mahar added “All of our projects are open to all.  We love to work with others and have new volunteers.  And everyone can do something. International Service Week is a great way to get involved.”

For more information and to sign up, see BonaResponds.org.

From the BonaResponds.org website:

1. To help those who need the help.  And we all are in need of help in some way.  As Sesh (an amazing man who has devoted his life to helping others) says: “love all, serve all.”
2. To show that "people are people" where ever they are and not some group of radicals deserving of hate and criticism that is all too often shown in the media.
3. To show that problems are not insurmountable. Together we can solve them. Alone they are too big for any of us.
4. That there are many many people wanting to do good and help others but that too often their actions are unknown and we each feel like we our own efforts are meaningless (hence the importance of sharing the good deeds after the work is done and not just doing them).
5. To remind everyone that we all have some skills that can be used to help others.
6. To have fun.

It can be big or small. Some of my favorite jobs in the past have been a couple cleaning up the road by their house, another couple baking a birthday cake for a lonely man in a nursing home, to a former student taking her neighbor shopping.