[Image courtesy of BonaResponds.org]
By Emily Rosman
One of BonaResponds’ favorite slogans is “do what you can” because the club’s members believe doing just one thing can make a difference in someone’s world — no matter how infrequent it occurs.
BonaResponds is an on-campus organization that combines leadership skills with hard work. Student and faculty volunteers come together for the objective of helping others. They commit themselves to hard work for about 51 weeks out of the year; occasionally skipping Christmas break as a result of their dedication.
The organization has a growing history behind it; it was formed about nine years ago after Hurricane Katrina hit in New Orleans. Jim Mahar was the person who initially created BonaResponds after being astounded at the aftermath of the hurricane.
“The clincher was showing an interview with homeland security where they said there’s no problem at the convention centers they had set up,” said Mahar, a St. Bonaventure University finance professor. “Then, they showed a split screen of homeland security still speaking and on the other side was live footage of dead bodies in the street and lines that were hours long outside of convention centers.”
Afterwards, Mahar knew he wanted to help. A couple months later, he and 286 people traveled down to New Orleans where BonaResponds officially began.
Since this original volunteer service, well into the thousands of people have joined the club on their mission trips. So far, they have traveled to 17 different states, including those as far away as Oklahoma and Georgia. In the regions they have traveled to, BonaResponds is willing to do any service that is needed because they “have a mission to help.”
They have done everything from putting up dry wall, cleaning up after tornados, and dealing with poverty in areas such as Camden, N.J. In addition, BonaResponds usually returns to their completed work and keeps in touch with the families they’ve assisted in case any further work needs to be done. They have made nine trips post-Hurricane Katrina to help with further damages.
Locally, BonaResponds has created about 115 wheel chair ramps, painted houses, fixed floors, and painted at schools. The community is appreciative of the organization and they do not discriminate against whom they help.
This organization is dependent upon donations and “more is always preferred to less.” Mahar said they have seen a couple of hard months in terms of money, and they may sell off one of their vehicles as a result. However, that has not stopped them in the past from helping others.
Last year they were able to send over 100 palates of school supplies to Haiti and they are in fact sending more supplies down this weekend. One of their bigger upcoming projects is called “warm snuggly blanket,” which sends blankets to people with cancer. This will be occurring throughout October and an estimated 100-200 blankets will be sent.
General leader Michael Muffaletto, a sophomore and one-year member of the organization, said that his favorite part of the program is doing real work that gives actual results. His favorite program within the organization so far has been their trip to Breezy Point to rebuild destroyed houses and a church.
Additionally, he said Mahar is very good to his organization members and that people in the club are close to one another.
Mahar has seen a lot in his time with the club. He spoke about several touching stories, including one in which he saved the lives of four family members from freezing to death while they were in Rockaway. Being part of such an active volunteer based organization, he could not truly pick a favorite project because they all meant so much to himself and those he assisted.
From student accounts, BonaResponds is an enriching organization that provides help to everyone and they do not mind in the slightest giving up time on the weekends to commit to the service projects.
As their slogan states, everyone is grateful to be able to “volunteer and change the world.”