You sure get a lift out of being a Move-In volunteer
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
Back in the day, when we walked two miles to school (uphill and into the wind in both directions, of course) and actually had to use maps made of paper, showing up at college was about as personal as getting your driver’s license renewed.
You went to an office to get the key to a mysterious room in a dormitory you’d never seen on a campus you’d visited once.
“Where’s Forbes Hall?” you asked.
“Over that way,” you were told. “Use the map.”
So you directed your increasingly annoyed dad down this street and that until you found your new home, but then good luck getting a parking space. And once you did, carrying all your stuff to the room was the sole responsibility of you and as many family members as you brought — at least the ones who were willing to help.
I couldn’t help but relive those ancient memories Tuesday morning when, for the first time, I joined the pack of volunteers for Move-In at Grand Canyon University. I wanted to see what it was like from the volunteer side, to feel what it was like to carry something up four or five flights of stairs. And then do it again. And again. And again.
And you know what? As much as the arriving students and especially their parents appreciate it, it’s just as much fun for the volunteers. The Move-In experience is so personal, it’s as if everyone who’s part of it is like one big family.
Everyone … is … so … darn … happy.
Not once in three hours did I hear a single discouraging word from anyone in a purple shirt, even the ones who were lugging mini-fridges and other shoulder-testers up the stairs to the fifth floor. In fact, the biggest challenge for any volunteer is getting to carry something — because every time a car pulls up, it is surrounded by people eager to help.
“You’ve just got to get in there and grab something,” was the advice of Juanita Jackson, the qualifying specialist from GCU’s Tempe office who by happenstance became my mentor for the morning. “Be aggressive.”
Got it, Coach. So I walked right up to the next car that arrived at Prescott Hall and took the first box available. But I was about to get a quick education in Move-In Volunteering 304 (this is an advanced course).
First, if you don’t look at the information on the car’s windshield before you grab, you’re playing Room Number Roulette. It could be on the first floor, but it could be on the fifth or sixth. Just for fun, I wanted to be surprised.
Second, when things really get busy you can’t stop to rest going up the stairs or you’ll hold up the entire procession. But, again, no problem — in our noontime boot camp at GCU, one trip up the stairs wouldn’t even qualify as a warmup.
Third, you get thanked by the volunteers at the information tables on the fourth or fifth floor just about every time you walk past them. I couldn’t tell what they were applauding — that the old guy had climbed the stairs or that he hadn’t forgotten the room number.
Finally, you learn pretty fast that you need to follow the more experienced volunteers. I committed the total rookie mistake of going down the “up” stairwell my first time as surprised students maneuvered out of my way despite the load they were carrying.
True to form, though, not a single one said a word to the dunce who took three floors to figure out that he needed to use the outside stairs at the other end of the building.
In time, the floors I visited looked like a golf scorecard:
5 5 5 4 5 3 5 3 4 5
That’s 44 floors. And how many stairs is that? We’ve got that figured out for you, too, sports fans: It was 668.
But that’s only a three-hour shift. A lot of volunteers go for the full six hours, and one of them estimated that she walked 16 miles Monday. Then there was the one who worked that shift, showered and went to her student worker job on campus.
That’s what gets you about watching this scene unfold: The volunteers, almost entirely students, have such a good time doing it, they make it look like fun, not work. Even the wait for the next batch of cars is fun.
It doesn’t take much to get them singing along and dancing to the music over the loudspeakers (Taylor Swift songs seemed especially effective). They really, really like it when a car honks its horn. And they’re there to work — and work hard.
“I was in awe to see the kids going after it,” said Jackson, who has been with GCU for a little more than a year and saw Move-In for the first time Monday. “They weren’t sitting down.”
Jake Lambert, a senior financial analyst at GCU, has been volunteering at Move-In for 10 years, since he was a student at the University. Back in those days, he said, he was one of only 50 people helping out — and that was more than enough.
“You’d think it would get easier now that we have so many more volunteers,” he said. “But, of course, we have so many more students, too. It’s always exciting, though. It’s just fun to be part of it.”
Part of that fun, he said, used to be seeing who could carry the most mini-fridges in a shift. The record was 25. How many did he lug up the stairs Monday?
“One,” he said. “I was in bed last night by 9 o’clock — and I could barely make it until then.”
We’ll leave the mini-fridges to the youngsters, but being a Move-In volunteer is definitely an experience not to be missed for any GCU employee. Avoid any “Stairway to Heaven” jokes, however. You’ll date yourself.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.