About BonaResponds

Click here to read some of the many "thank you's" we've received.

BonaResponds was formed in the weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Its purpose is to help others through volunteering. Our original mission was the Gulf, but very quickly it became apparent that there are many others who also need help. Hence, the idea grew that we would not only respond to Katrina, but to disasters and other smaller events whenever we could. This was first laid out in a "good bye" address at Handson GulfCoast that happened to be captured on film by PBS's the NewsHour. From this small idea has grown one of the most energetic and exciting college led groups in recent memory.

In addition to the aftermath of Katrina, we have responded to disasters in Buffalo NY and Enterprise Alabama and in each were on the ground within 2 days. We shoveled snow in Olean NY after an 18 inch storm, and we have had had numerous local service days where we have done everything from building classrooms, to painting high schools, to building trails, helping paint at the Olean General Hospital, Allegany State Park, SPCA, Olean Historical Society, St. Elizabeth's Motherhouse, on campus, the Olean Parks System, and the Olean Theater Workshop.

Some core principles behind BonaResponds:

  • BonaResponds aims to help make things better. We may not make it perfect but we can make it better! Whether the help is "just" being there immediately after a disaster to listen to survivors or if it means to haul trees, gut houses, and pick up debris. Or maybe helping means painting, landscaping, or even roofing. The goal is to make the world a little better.
  • BonaResponds is open to all. From students to staff, from faculty to friends, from friars to sisters, to alumni to community members! We try to find work that all can do.
  • BonaResponds does not discriminate based on any known criteria: Race, Gender, Sexual orientation, nationality, we just don't care. BonaResponds will work with you and you can volunteer with us.
  • BonaResponds is not per se a religious organization. St. Bonaventure is a catholic (Franciscan) university but BonaResponds will not push religion on you. Indeed the only religious view we will push on you is the "Golden Rule" --treating others as they want to be treated. Helping others when they need help. That said, we do try to make Sunday masses available for those who choose to particiapate on a purely voluntary basis.

We are largely modeled after Handson Disaster Response. This means there is no long term contracts to sign which means no dues etc. You can show up for a day and work or you can become an active leader that works every day on some aspect of BonaResponds. The choice is yours. We need people with a wide variety of skills and skill levels. So if you are good at constuction, we can use you. However, if you have a bad back and can only drive people around, or cook, or listen, we definitely need those skills as well.

While we are roughly modeled on HODR and do work with them whenever possible, there are differences

  • because of our small size we can (and do) respond to many smaller events that are not feasible for larger groups.
  • in some ways we operate more like Handson Network in that some of our projects are not emergencies (e.g. creating a trail, painting a class room, etc.), but designed to help the community.

The main reason for BonaResponds' existence is to provide services to those in need. But we do this in the context of having fun. Let's face it, you are volunteering. We want you to continue to do so. At some level it has to be fun. So be prepared to have fun and work hard at the same time.

We see ourselves both as organizers who rely on our skills and experiences to efficiently manage large numbers of volunteers as well as volunteer labor. As such BonaReponds both organizes our own events and responses as well as work with other organizations. For instance, immediately after the Buffalo Storm, we ran operations ourselves. We found jobs and organized volunteers efforts. However, we also worked with the Village of Lancaster and later Americorps as well. We have also worked with Persevere Volunteers, Handson, Common Ground, Randys' Rangers, the American Baptists, St. Roma Lima Church to name but a few.

You can also find out about BonaResponds from Wikipedia.


BonaResponds is largely a self sustaining enterprise. We do rely on University insurance and other overhead (for instance our meetings are largely on campus we use university computers etc.), but we do not receive money from the university. Thus we rely on donations. For trips to the Gulf, volunteers have traditionally had to pay about $250 to help cover some of the costs. Donations are deductible (the University is a 503-C and hence we qualify). Donations can be made through St. Bonaventure (please indicate the money is for BonaResponds).

Box BY
St. Bonaventure NY 14778