Local outreach program inspires students to serve

September 13, 2016 / by / 0 Comment

By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau

At Grand Canyon University, giving back to the community is as easy as joining Local Outreach Ministries, the volunteer program that serves eight Phoenix populations.

Whether students opt to go grocery shopping for the elderly, teach Bible stories to neighborhood children or sing with the homeless, GCU’s local outreach fills a variety of needs outside the campus borders.

Cristian and Dario Castillo with swords and 2 Samuel bible verse during a Canyon Kids event last spring.

Cristian and Dario Castillo display their shields and Bible verse during a Canyon Kids event last spring. (Photo by Laurie Merrill)

At the same time, serving is also a gift to the student inside campus boundaries, said Jaci Curran, Local Outreach manager.

“Serving teaches people the heart of Christ, who they are in Christ and who God created them to be,” Curran said.

Local outreach must be doing something right — more than 1,200 GCU students volunteer each month, she said.

This week marks the kickoff of this year’s program, with eight groups fanning out on various days to do Christian works for people of diverse ages and needs, Curran said.

It also marks the start of a new ministry, Streetlight, which seeks to eradicate sex trafficking and ministers to girls caught in the grips of the scourge.

Streetlight has a strict selection process and requires female-only applicants to go through interviews, get TB shots and physicals and undergo fingerprint and background screening, Curran said.

“We have about 35 girls who are really interested in it,” Curran said.

Once selected, consistency is required. Volunteers will be paired with house moms and work with girls who were picked up off the street and sent to Streetlight instead of prison.

“We want to encourage female empowerment and are thinking of inviting them all to a women’s basketball game,” said Curran, whose team includes local outreach coordinators Torrey Allen and Bikonzi Moise.

One of the biggest events of the year, Habitat for Humanity/Serve the City, is coming up Oct. 1. Once a semester, hundreds of students come together to beautify neighborhoods by painting, yard work, gardening and more.

Other local ministries include:

  • Canyon Kids, in which volunteers take neighborhood children to two local parks for a morning of Bible verses, skits, games, crafts and sports.
  • Changing Lives Center, focusing on women and children who have found refuge from the dangers of homelessness.
  • Colter Commons, a ministry for the elderly in the community with the same name. Half the group holds events such as bingo games and half go door to door offering help with such tasks as cleaning and shopping.
  • Homeless Ministry: Partnering with the Salvation Army, students serve meals and listen to stories of those among the homeless population in Phoenix.
  • Neighborhood Ministries gives students the chance to lead hundreds of inner-city children through Bible study, worship and other fun activities.
  • Youth Outreach Ministry, in which students mentor middle school children from the community.

Local outreach is the Phoenix-centric version of its sister program, Global Outreach, which offers a host of programs both here and abroad, including the Prayer Ministry, Refugee Ministry and Mission Trips. Located on the first floor of Building 1, participants of both programs share a new student lounge with tables, couches, munchies and artwork.

“It’s cool to see students really find their niche on campus who wouldn’t have found it otherwise,” Curran said.

Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected].

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