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Warming House, Bona Buddies programs at Bona’s sustained by United Way support

Oct 22, 2020

Of all the community outreach programs at St. Bonaventure University, The Warming House and Bona Buddies are among the most well known.

For many years, United Way grants have generously supported these long-standing outreach programs of the Franciscan Center for Social Concern. With SBU students Students Lindsey Lytle, Valentina Cossio, Nate Parish, Will McDonough and Hiryu Waseda work at the Warming House.back on campus this fall, programs are up and running, implementing creative twists that accommodate social distancing and the safety of all.

The Warming House has been serving takeout meals since March 13. Meals served each month have more than doubled since the beginning of the pandemic, with the Warming House serving 1,320 meals in July and 1,175 meals in August.

All are welcome to come to the Warming House at 164 N. Union St. for meals, which are served Sunday through Friday from 4 to 4:30 p.m. at the back door of the Warming House (Barry Street side).

The Warming House is believed to be the oldest student-run soup kitchen in the nation, opening in 1974. Today, St. Bonaventure students continue to plan, prepare and evaluate the meal service while welcoming guests with a smile, hospitality and dignity.

Jess Helmbrecht decorates an activity bag for her Buddy. Bona Buddies, the largest youth mentoring program in Cattaraugus County, is recruiting young people between the ages of 5 and 15. Despite the restrictions of social distancing, the student leadership team has reimagined Bona Buddies so that SBU students can continue to offer a positive influence in the lives of youth in the Olean area.

Alice Miller Nation, director of the FCSC, and the student leadership team of Bona Buddies are committed to offering a safe and socially distant way for St. Bonaventure students to continue to offer support, guidance, fun and encouragement to area children as we continue to make our way through the COVID-19 crisis.

Bona Buddies will offer three ways SBU students can connect with their buddies. Every month, each buddy will receive a “drive and drop” themed bag from their mentor. The September-themed bag was “Welcome to Bona’s” with SBU coloring pages, crayons, a Bona Buddies face covering, calendar, stickers, a mentor Bona Buddies ID card as well as an ID card for the buddy to complete.

Mentors and Buddies will write letters to one another several times a month and Bona Buddy families have the opportunity to opt in for one hour of phone or video-call homework help and tutoring each week by the mentor.

“This year, our Buddies need their mentors more than ever,” Miller Nation said. “The student coordinators for Bona Buddies have been meeting since July, planning and reimagining what Bona Buddies could be rather than focusing on what Bona Buddies can’t be for this academic year.”

If you know of a young person who would benefit from being part of a mentoring relationship with a St. Bonaventure student, please email

The Warming House and Bona Buddies student leadership teams are grateful to the United Way of Cattaraugus County for its continued support, she said.

“The pandemic has taught me that the Warming House and Bona Buddies do not belong to the Franciscan Center for Social Concern or even St. Bonaventure University,” Miller Nation said. “These time-tested outreach programs in our community belong to all of us. It is humbling to accept the support and encouragement from the Olean community for both Bona Buddies and the Warming House.”


About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. In 2020, St. Bonaventure was named the #2 regional university value in New York and #3 in the North by U.S. News and World Report.