Bonaventure Community Sponsors Hurricane Relief Service Trip

Suzanne Wilcox English Features

ALLEGANY, N.Y. – Alumni and members of the surrounding community are invited to join St. Bonaventure University students, faculty and staff as they mount a community-wide service effort to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Led by Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), the Finance Club, Alpha Phi Omega, and University Ministries, the trip, which may be the country’s largest hurricane relief effort by a single institution, will take place over the spring mid-term break, March 4-12, and may include at least 250 students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members.

Dr. James Mahar Jr., assistant professor of finance and Finance Club adviser, and club president Cassandra Pirdy sent out an invitation to alumni outlining the framework for the trip, which will involve working with various relief organizations including Hands On USA, Disaster Corps, The Lutheran Disaster Response and others to provide assistance in south Mississippi and the New Orleans area.

“Ground Zero for Hurricane Katrina was actually on the Mississippi coast where the destruction is catastrophic and largely indescribable,” Mahar’s message said. “To gauge this destruction and to arrange contacts in the area, a group of us went during the fall mid-term break and a smaller group went again over Christmas break.”

Alumni and others are invited to participate in one of two ways: Those in the Western New York area may join the bus from St. Bonaventure at a cost of $250 for the week, which includes food, bus transportation and a place to sleep and shower for the week. Others may choose to meet the group in Mississippi for either the whole week or a part of it. Transportation to and from the airport will be provided.

“There is plenty of work for people of all walks of life,” Mahar emphasized. “We will be gutting houses, cleaning homes, cutting trees and unloading trucks, but we will also be cooking, distributing food, meeting with victims, and helping out at animal shelters. While the work is hard, it is also rewarding and fun! The victims are remarkably thankful for the help and the feeling of accomplishment is something that money cannot buy.”

Mahar believes that the organizers can accommodate 250 people for the trip; to date, some 180 have expressed interest, including 130 students, 20 alumni, 20 faculty and staff members and 10 people from the surrounding community.

The cost is $150 for students, who are also asked to pay $7 to purchase a hammer and pry bar.

Students will be prepared for the trip by attending a lecture on post-traumatic stress disorder by Dr. Craig Zuckerman, associate professor of counselor education, who will also be taking part in the trip.

There will also be nightly reflection periods at each of the various base camps that the trip participants will be operating from in four cities across the region, Mahar said.

From casual conversations with community members, a new opportunity to help has just arisen: Mahar is working with softball coach Mike Threehouse and sports writer Jim Melaro of The Times Herald to publicize the need for sports equipment for community teams in Hancock County.

Mahar spoke with the commissioner of local softball/Little League teams in that region, who told him that they had lost everything. Threehouse has volunteered the softball team to help coordinate the collection of gloves, balls and bats for the Little League and softball teams in Hancock County, which Melaro will help to publicize.

Mahar encouraged everyone to consider taking part in the trip to help with the recovery, which has been a life milestone for him.

“The two weeks I have spent there have each been absolutely amazing and two of the best weeks of my life,” the professor said. “I have spoken with hundreds of other volunteers and have yet to hear anyone say they wish they had not gone. Indeed, almost without exception, it has been, ‘gee, I wish I could be there now’ or ‘I wish I could have stayed longer.'”

He emphasized that those who cannot attend may support the trip and the recovery effort through donations of funds, food or baseball or softball equipment.

Additional information, including pictures and video from the earlier trips, is available at, and brochures, fliers and a DVD can be mailed to those interested upon request.

Those interested in more information or reserving a place on the trip may contact Mahar at or (716) 375-2359 or Pirdy at