ALLEGANY, N.Y. — BonaResponds, St. Bonaventure University’s volunteer disaster relief group, recently returned from helping residents of flooded Iowa.
Eleven members traveled to Palo, near Cedar Rapids, July 7 to 13, where they worked with the Hands On group to gut flood-damaged houses. The group joined SBU graduates Mike Vieyra and Tessa Ocke, who have been volunteering in Iowa since June 22.
Dr. James Mahar, SBU assistant finance professor and founder of BonaResponds, said the devastation in Iowa was as bad as anything he had seen in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of people lost homes in the mid-June flooding.
What struck him, he said, was the lack of volunteers in Iowa. “In Iowa, we were the only organization on a street,” he said. “With Katrina, we were one of five or six on a street.”
Mahar said BonaResponds decided to go to Iowa to help fill the need for volunteers. The Iowa flooding did not get as much response as other disasters, he said.
Founded after Katrina in 2005, BonaResponds has made approximately 30 trips in the past three years, said Mahar, mostly to the Gulf Coast, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Alabama and Buffalo, N.Y.
Work in Iowa included cleanup, gutting interiors, mold abatement, hanging drywall, painting, rough electrical work, and more. Volunteers also cooked and cleaned, ran errands, organized work orders, and talked to residents.
“The physical work you do is important, but it’s not half of what makes these trips what they are,” said Vieyra. “The people you meet — fellow volunteers, homeowners, as well as people from the local communities — truly make the trip the life-changing experience that it is.”
Use of SBU vans helped make the trip more affordable for participants, costing $100 per person. BonaResponders stayed in a church hall and showered at the local YMCA.
Since the need is so extensive, Mahar said BonaResponds will probably return to the area by the end of the year.
Like all BonaResponds events, missions are open to anyone over 18 (16
with parental supervision).