GCU supports Phoenix Dream Center with hoops fundraiser
By Janie Magruder
GCU News Bureau
Joya Chapman grew up in an abusive home in Virginia, with violence and misery taking the place of hugs and happiness. She fled six months ago, eventually landing in a Phoenix homeless shelter where she was invited to attend church.
That simple invitation, which Chapman accepted, led her to the Phoenix Dream Center, where the 22-year-old is building a life of which she can be proud.
“I messed up a lot, but God is putting a ministry in me, and I’m learning who I am and how to dance for Him,” she said.
Chapman is enrolled in the center’s Christian Life Recovery School, a 15-month program that helps men and women overcome substance abuse, anger, depression and the emotional toll left by mental, physical and sexual abuse.
The school is among several programs the west Phoenix nonprofit provides at no charge to homeless and low-income individuals, at-risk youth and struggling families. Founded in 2006 by Tommy Barnett, co-pastor of Phoenix First Assembly of God, the center has 10 paid staff and about 120 volunteers and serves more than 40,000 people per month. It operates solely on donations.
Grand Canyon University, a center partner, will donate to the center all ticket and concessions proceeds from Thursday’s Western Athletic Conference season opener by the Antelopes’ men’s basketball team against Texas-Pan American. The game tips off at 7 p.m. in GCU Arena.
“You can feel the anticipation as we begin our inaugural season as a WAC competitor,” said Brian Mueller, GCU’s president and chief executive officer. “Our hope is to harness this passion to cheer on our ‘Lopes, while also making a difference for others.”
Kathie Gadberry, the center’s chief development officer, said the generosity of the University is appreciated.
“We are extremely grateful for GCU, for the many students and staff who are volunteering at the center, as well as for this opportunity to raise additional funding for our programs,” Gadberry said. “We often say that the Phoenix Dream Center is the Valley’s best-kept secret, that people who could help support us don’t really know that we exist. So this event at GCU is the perfect stage to be able to show them.”
The proceeds from the game will bolster the center’s free programs which, in addition to the life recovery school, include:
- A foster-care program providing life skills, education, legal aid and health care to 18- to 23-year-olds who were aged-out of the state system.
- A hunger-relief effort in which more than 12,000 hot meals are served weekly in the center’s cafeteria and at outreach events in the community.
- A youth development mission that finds lost children on the streets, and helps them become leaders who can improve their former communities.
- A neighborhood revitalization program in which volunteers bring food, clothing and a message of hope and God’s love to more than 100 locations, such as nursing homes, jails and parks, each week.
- A rescue project helping victims of sex trafficking, providing them refuge, specialized counseling, education, legal aid and basic needs.
“The Phoenix Dream Center deserves and needs all of our support,” Mueller said. “The work it is doing to rescue the broken and the lost, to rebuild their lives and help them realize their purpose — from sheltering broken young women who’ve been forced into the sex-slave industry, to feeding and clothing thousands of people every week, to providing housing, education and life skills to young adults — is truly God’s work. The center is our neighbor, and Grand Canyon wants to bolster it in whatever ways we can.”
The center operates in a renovated hotel. Gadberry said no one needing assistance is turned away.
“The beauty of the Dream Center is that, once somebody comes in that door, there’s no judgment,” she said. “We’re here to help people whose lives have been shattered by addiction, abuse and poverty put those broken pieces back together through a relationship with the Lord.”
The center has a sanctuary where services are held several times a week, a used-clothing shop open to all residents and non-residents, a wellness center, and a beauty salon operated by a local barber school. It also has a resource center that helps people with everything from obtaining ID cards and settling fines to building resumés and reuniting with family.
Gadberry said the center’s greatest need is for the rescue project, which has grown significantly during the past two years.
“Our goal is to continue expanding these services and help these women,” she said. “The trauma they’ve experienced is something most of us cannot imagine, and they will continue to experience it for a long time. The average recovery time on women who have been exploited like this is seven years.”
For tickets to Thursday’s game, go to www.gcuarena.com.