By Robbie Chulick, ‘13
More than 40 members of St. Bonaventure University’s disaster relief group BonaResponds returned safely back to campus late Sunday evening after spending their weekend in disaster areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.
To view more photos from the trip, visit BonaReponds Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/#!/BonaResponds
The volunteers spent their weekend providing assistance to those in need in Rockaway Beach, Queens, including SBU senior Ryan Lazo, who writes here about his eternal gratitude to those from the SBU community who helped his family this past weekend.
Frankie Matuszak, a junior biology major, said BonaResponds was able to help more than a dozen families this weekend by providing flood relief efforts. He said relief involved moving all furniture out of the house and gutting it by removing all structural elements that could rot, such as wooden walls, floors, and insulation.
Matuszak said he typically volunteers locally with BonaResponds every weekend but this service trip was different because Hurricane Sandy also affected his hometown of Middletown, N.J.
Ledonna Peters, a sophomore theater major from Manhattan, also decided to go on this service trip, because the storm also hit close to home.
“I am extremely blessed that I was given the opportunity to go on this trip because the people were able to give us hope as much as we gave them,” she said. “Seeing how devastated these areas were completely ripped my heart out and gave me the motivation and strength to work harder to get things done.”
Peters said once her group of volunteers from BonaResponds arrived in Rockaway, they assisted the family of Ryan Lazo, a senior journalism and mass communication major at St. Bonaventure. His home was completely destroyed after Hurricane Sandy’s floodwaters took over much of his house.
Other St. Bonaventure students are also coming together to assist their classmates affected by the disaster.
Sally O’Rourke, a senior journalism and mass communication major, and Tony Lee, an integrated marketing communications graduate student, put together a fund to help with the relief efforts for the Lazo family. They are collecting monetary donations as well as clothing for his family. For more information on how to donate or what items the Lazo family needs, visit: http://sbuforhurricanesandyvictims.tumblr.com/
For other St. Bonaventure University students like Emily Sorokes, an integrated marketing communications graduate student, it was about helping recent Bonaventure graduates and friends who were affected by the crisis.
“Some of my best friends and former roommates still live in Hoboken, N.J., and it made me really emotional seeing pictures of the city and hearing updates from them,” she said. “(I needed) to go and support our Bona Family. We bleed brown, and the Bona family doesn’t turn their backs on each other.”
Peters said she hopes to continue to help with BonaResponds in the future with possible Thanksgiving and Christmas Break service trips to those affected areas.
Although upcoming trip schedules are not finalized, you can continue to follow the disaster relief efforts of BonaResponds on their website, www.bonaresponds.org, through their Facebook account, “BonaResponds,” or by following the group on Twitter @bonaresponds.
“I hope more people will continue to join and offer their love, support and great attitudes to come out and help those who are devastated and hurt by Sandy,” Peters said.