College Students Serve Others During Spring Breaks

HNP Communications Around the Province

The Lenten season, a time for prayer and for reaching out to others, began last week and with it the donating of time and talent by college students.  Many students from both Siena College and St. Bonaventure University are involved with a variety of service programs during their spring breaks.

Approximately 85 students from Siena College are making their mid-semester break time an occasion for service, according to Janet Gianopoulos, director of Siena’s NewsServices Community and Public Affairs.

Nearly 70 Siena students will be working on Habitat for Humanity projects at four sites in South Carolina, helping with tasks such as applying siding, building and paneling interior and exterior walls, roofing, building sheds, and cleaning/organizing donated supplies.

Also serving others this week – at the Province’s St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia — will be Franciscan Center directorKevin Mullen, his assistant Judy Dougherty, Siena faculty member Joe Zoske, and seven generous students, according to Janet.

Siena’s Sister Thea Bowman Center for Women is co-sponsoring a service trip to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, with nine Siena students, center director Shannon O’Neill, Ph.D., and Brian Belanger, director of Siena’s Study Abroad programs. Participants will stay at the convent of a group of Bernardine Franciscan Sisters who run an elementary school, small medical dispensary and trade school for women.

The Siena group will work with school children and visit their homes. The travelers are bringing supplies for the school, as well as vitamins and pain relievers for their medical dispensary.

Many of the students gathered for a blessing Friday evening, Feb. 23, in the college chapel, prior to departing on Saturday.

Representatives of the Habitat and Inn Siena groups can be heard on Kevin Mackin’s News & Views radio program, airing Saturday, 9 a.m. Eastern time, March 3, on WVCR FM 88.3 and on-line.

In Franciscan activities in Western New York, preparations are being made for a second BonaResponds trip to the Gulf Coast.   A group of 58 faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members will leave Mar. 2 for a nine-day trip to Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis, Miss., where they will help reconstruct houses ruined by Hurricane Katrina in  2005.

Participants will be installing drywall and new roofs and, in some cases, rebuilding homes that they gutted last year during the group’s March 2006 visit.  SBU’s BonaResponds group was featured last year on a TV program on PBS.

A smaller contingent of 27 volunteers went to Pass Christian in January to construct a new volunteer camp. In the past, volunteer groups have been stationed at school buildings; now, many of those structures have been repaired and are reopening.

BonaResponds coordinator and finance professor Dr. James Mahar said that approximately half of this year’s volunteers participated in the 2006 spring break trip.

Many more than that have worked with BonaResponds on other initiatives, he said, such as responding to the Oct. 13, 2006, snowstorm that downed trees and power lines across much of Buffalo, N.Y. More than 100 volunteers headed to Lancaster and West Seneca, N.Y., on five Sundays in October and November to clear downed trees and other hazards from 86 homes.

In an effort to nurture the desire to serve, BonaResponds made an active decision to aid in local community service projects in between the large-scale disaster relief projects. In addition to the cleanup efforts in Buffalo, it hosted several other local service days, where participants refurbished rooms at Archbishop Walsh High School, painted at Olean General Hospital and worked at the Cattaraugus County SPCA.

Community members who would like to offer their support are welcome to provide donations of food or cash by e-mailing

Shown in photo is Larry Orsini of Olean, a retired faculty member from the SBU School of Business, helping construct a new volunteer camp in Pass Christian , Miss., in January. where some of the BonaResponds volunteers will be staying in March.