St. Bonaventure marks Philanthropy Day by emphasizing student volunteering

Nov 15, 2011

Tuesday is National Philanthropy Day.  But at St. Bonaventure University, students are encouraged to give something back every day.  As WBFO's Mark Scott reports, such giving is part of the Franciscan tradition that dates back to the days of St. Francis of Assisi.

It was during the Fifth Crusade in the early 1200s when Francis entered the hostile camp of Malik-al-Kamil, the Sultan of Egypt.  His initial goal was to convert the sultan to Christianity.  Instead, the two men parted with a new respect for each other's faith and culture.  It just might have been the first real dialogue between Christians and Muslims. 

Centuries later, St. Bonaventure students are asked to walk in the footprints of St. Francis.  Business Professor Todd Palmer says they want students to get out of their comfort zones.

"For instance, we do a very big Special Olympics program," Palmer said.  "We interact with these very special people in ways that allow our students to interact.  They get beyond the stereotypes."

Vice President of Advancement Mary Driscoll says they begin challenging students at the beginning of their freshmen year by giving each incoming student a one dollar bill.  She explains it's all part of an effort to show them the importance of a single dollar.

"If everyone gives the dollar back, the Advancement Office would give two scholarships.  What ultimately ends up happening is that we give out two, $250 scholarships.  The students come to understand that it's not just me but everybody giving back," Driscoll said.

One of the biggest giving programs at St. Bonaventure is Bona Responds, a disaster relief group that was created after Hurricane Katrina.  Students, alumni and Olean area residents volunteer their time by traveling to areas hit by natural disasters and helping with the clean-up.