ust ask BC professor Bonny Dillon, who recently traveled to Florida to use her counseling skills to help the families and friends of the victims of this past summer’s mass shooting in Orlando, where 49 people were killed and 53 wounded in a terrorist attack/hate crime inside a nightclub.
In a true act of servant leadership, Dr. Dillon traveled to Orlando as a member of the American Red Cross Spiritual Response Team. A professor of psychology at Bluefield College, Dr. Dillon has an extensive background in counseling. She has academic and clinical training in both theology and psychology. She also carries the credentials of Board Certified Chaplain from the Association of Professional Chaplains and Board Certified Professional Counselor and Board Certified Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Clinician from the American Psychotherapy Association.
In addition, Dr. Dillon has been a member of the American Red Cross Spiritual Response Team (SRT) since 2007 when she first deployed to Blacksburg, Virginia, to assist with the aftermath of the campus shootings at Virginia Tech. She decided to respond to the Orlando incident based on her commitment to SRT and because she was aware that her previous experience with the Virginia Tech shootings would give her greater insight for the survivors of the Orlando tragedy.
“My primary area of service in Orlando was in the Family Assistance Center (FAC), which was set up in Camping World Stadium,” said Dr. Dillon. “My specific duties included supportive conversation with FAC agency representatives, employees of the stadium, survivors, and family members.”
Dr. Dillon also provided ombudsman services to people navigating the complex array of agency booths in the Family Assistance Center. She helped provide a Red Cross presence at vigils and a benefit concert, and she staffed the Red Cross booth in the Family Assistance Center, where she distributed blankets and tote bags and issued client assistance cards.
At the end of the day, she played a key role in providing mental and spiritual health care through the services of the FAC to more than 750 individuals, representing 243 families. According to Dr. Dillon, more than 40 agencies from city, county, state and federal government were represented. Representatives were also present from Puerto Rico and Mexico. As a Bluefield College professor who teaches and models servant leadership, she said she didn’t go to Orlando for personal gain, but instead to give of her self, her time, and her gifts to the people who needed it.
“I came away from this experience with much more than I took to it,” said Dr. Dillon. “I have a greater awe for the resilience of persons who have experienced disaster. Surely resilience is a God-given capability that goes beyond what can be learned or taught.”
Dr. Dillon also said that those who came to know she was a Christian were moved by her compassionate response to such a disaster. She said she connected with people just by being there and by offering a person-to-person connection that is much needed after such a disaster. She said she could not have served in the ways in which she did without the prayers and support of her BC family. She described it as “a great comfort” to know that her Bluefield colleagues “had her back.”
Those same colleagues say her servant’s heart is noteworthy and that her story is one that should be told. Even more so, they say, it is an example to the students at Bluefield College of what a transformational servant leader truly looks like.
“I hope that my actions will convey the message of servant leadership,” said Dr. Dillon, “better than any words I might say.”