Bonner Community Scholars

Sunday, November 18, 2012

This Hits Home

After sending and working with students in New Orleans and Nicaragua for years—it is surreal to be living through the Hurricane Sandy experience. The center of the large Donohue clans’ universe-where aunts, uncles, cousins and grandchildren gathered for almost forty years—is all but gone. After spending two full days removing all of the contents of the house with my siblings and building a 10 foot mountain of debris along the entire length of the curb—we have come to the realization that my parents will have to demolish their home. Now, cars drive down the street slowly and the passengers take pictures of us; how weird indeed to be on the other end of the camera lens.  I don’t think I’ll do that again when I return to the Lower 9th ward or the slums of Managua after we help rebuild our own state.

Pat Donohue
Assistant Provost
Community Engaged Learning Programs and Parterships

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Here for Home Point Pleasant Service

The past nineteen years of my life have been spent on the Point Pleasant shores and among the shops on Arnold Avenue, places that now reap destruction and despair. I had stayed on campus for fall break this year trying to get some work done when the hurricane hit. With the trains down, buses out, and cars off the road it was impossible for me to find a way home to help my parents, my neighbors, and my Point Pleasant family. The Here for Home effort at TCNJ allowed me to make it back to my home less than a week after the hurricane and begin the efforts for an evidently long rebuilding process. We arrived in the borough of Point Pleasant at an automobile shop where relief efforts were being organized for residents to gather necessary supplies. The amount of contributions from around the country was utterly amazing. The generosity and sympathy emanated through the seemingly endless packages of food, clothing, appliances, etc. that were sent. After only about two hours there, the relief center had to begin turning away donations because of lack of space and storage.

There were at least one hundred volunteers from the town and adjacent areas looking for any way to help and contribute to the efforts; there were even points where people were left with nothing to do because there were so many volunteers. Our team spent about four hours helping to carry and organize the donations and help residents in need get the supplies necessary. Once they no longer needed volunteers, we headed to the beach to see what kind of wreckage lay ahead. Although my sister had sent me photos of what our home and neighborhood looked like, I was certainly not prepared to face the reality of it all. There were boats that had floated onto the railroad tracks and into homes, sand up to five blocks off the ocean, and pieces of the boardwalk in my neighbor’s houses and backyards. It looked like the beach had spit on the town and on houses. The water level was evident by the remnants left on the doors and siding of the homes.

As we approached where the beach and boardwalk initially stood, the destruction became more and more real. Outside every home were piles of mattresses, family belongings, furniture, and memories destroyed. The boardwalk no longer existed and lay lifelessly in the streets. Never had the sound of bulldozers and cranes been so reassuring and hopeful for our town. Although much had been taken from the area, the residents remained as optimistic, strong, and resilient as ever.
-          Kerrie Hannen

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sandy Relief

On Saturday November 10th I spent the greater half of the day in Ocean Grove. I was part of a group from TCNJ that went down to help in the relief efforts within the Ocean Grove community. Our group composed of 13 TCNJ students from the New Jersey Christian Fellowship (3 of which are also Bonner Scholars), a graduate student from Rutgers, and a freshman at Mercer County Community College. Nick Lauda and I organized the group by connecting with a local pastor from Calvary Chapel of Mercer County. The Calvary Chapel ministry has gathered their resources and congregations from all over to come together for relief efforts in the Grove.

The operations are being run out of the Youth Temple of Ocean Grove’s Camp Meeting Association located across from the Great Auditorium. The Youth Temple is home base for volunteers and the locals to pick up donations and a hot meal. We were expecting a shipment of donations by way of two tractor trailers at 10am. The first one did not come until 2pm. In the meantime our group split into two operations. I took a team of 4 to help out some pastors from Pennsylvania to clean up debris and sand around the boardwalk and Ocean Ave. We got to the beachfront, which looked like a disaster zone with huge construction vehicles and machinery transporting sand to rebuild the dunes. The boardwalk resembles a wooden roller coaster that has not been maintained in decades. The metal railings were twisted and scattered throughout the beach. All the dunes were washed away. The sand that had covered the streets was pushed towards the beach. It resembled large dunes except they were on the opposite side of the boardwalk.

Nick’s team went door to door; assessing people’s needs and informing them of donation distributions. These volunteers had the opportunity to talk to people about the Christian ministry of serving one another not out of guilt and sympathy but out of reconciliation and love. Some of our volunteers were able to pray with and for people of the community. At the heart of the relief efforts in Ocean Grove is the calling of missional community Christians to be both hearers and doers of God’s word, to come together in prayer, in meal, and in worship for the glory of God. We cannot boast in the work done that day or how many mouths were fed. We can’t even boast about going door to door and sharing God’s word, the only thing we can boast about is that the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross once and for all.

The community of Ocean Grove is extremely blessed and extremely humble towards all of the time, labor, donations, and overall efforts flooding into the half a mile beach town. As both a Bonner and active leader in NJCF I felt a strong reassurance of why I serve. I was just in The Grove over Labor Day weekend and enjoy spending time there when I can. I was overjoyed to see so many people come out to help rebuild this community. Walking away from that day I can assuredly say to you that the relief efforts in Ocean Grove will multiply and go forth onto other coastal communities. It has been two weeks since Sandy hit their community and you can already see major change as a result of people responding to the call with love and passion.

                  - John Nally

Aiding Sandy Relief: Light Being Cast onto the Darkness

Millions without power, thousands without homes, hundreds of families displaced, and an unknown number of people gone. This was the story of Hurricane Sandy. The devastating storm left many with even more uncertainty than it came with. Its relentless wake not only threw hoards of people into states of mass confusion, but it destroyed beaches, churches, schools, and worst of all, families. The financial toll is vast, but the emotional burden on some will remain inestimable. The storm shoved many into the shadows as they faced the reality of losing everything that was near and dear to them, but out of the darkness has come a light that shines brighter than anyone could have imagined. The enormous surge of generosity that has come to the aid of people in need has been astounding.
Obviously there has and will continue to be a great need for continual help in areas that were affected viciously, but with all of the assistance that relief efforts have received, the amount of work needed to resurrect the Jersey Shore does not seem insurmountable anymore. The Bonner Scholars and TCNJ community as a whole are doing and will continue to do an amazing job of pooling together our resources and supporting our neighbors over by the shore until they can really stand up on their own two feet again. The important part is to remember that the need down at the shore will last long after media has stopped reporting about it and all the trained professionals are being pulled out of the region. It will be at that time when we will all be needed more than ever. We will continue to update the blog with new stories our volunteers’ selfless work along the shore, but just remember that taking that one extra box of clothes, helping clean that one extra yard, and even making that one extra PB&J sandwich really will help the lives of many; more than you can imagine.

“We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Coach Carter
-          Raj Manimaran

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Welcome to the Bonner Blog!

For those of you completely new to Bonner, we would like to welcome you to our blog! To describe the mission of the Bonner Community Scholars in a nutshell, we would like to quote the words of Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Each and every member of the Bonner Center epitomizes this quote day in and day out.

For our returning members, we know that this really isn't the first Bonner Blog, but we hope to have this be one of the first year-round blogs where you will be able to read many great and inspiring stories of the incredible and diverse family of scholars and staff we have at our center. As the Bonner Center continues to grow with the addition of the biggest freshman class in Bonner history, we know that the impact our members will be making in our community will be growing quickly and vastly.

As we hope to capture and shed some light on these stories, we hope everyone finds this blog not only as a nice outlet to hear about what others are doing, but as a motivating and inspiring tool to always remember to keep striving for our very best in everything we do.

"Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us." - Wilma Rudolph.

- Tommy Mladenetz & Raj Manimaran