Lopes shine light on service with Serve the City
Story by Jeannette Cruz
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
Nearly 300 Grand Canyon University students who might otherwise have spent their Saturday morning sleeping chose instead to pick up paintbrushes, shovels, wheelbarrows and rollers and spend the day toiling for their neighbors in the Serve the City neighborhood revitalization event.
GCU’s semiannual Serve the City Day is part of the largest Habitat for Humanity partnership in the country in which University volunteers hope to renovate as many as 700 homes in their community.
On Saturday, Habitat for Humanity President Jason Barlow encouraged the volunteers to make their work count.
“This is Serve the City, or ‘Sweat the City,’ not ‘observe the city.’ We’re here to work. We’re here to serve our neighbors as we are called to do.”
The students were joyful as music played, landscapes reformed and homes transformed as a result of their labor.
“It’s tiring but worth it,” said junior Kayla Smith. “Let’s let the light shine on Jesus.”
Volunteers lavished attention on seven homes and Bourgade Catholic High School and made a difference in the lives of GCU’s neighbors.
Julie Guardiola said her 50-year-old slump block home has been in her family for generations. Watching volunteers restore the place made her feel “overwhelmed and blessed.”
“We couldn’t afford to do this and we didn’t have the manpower to do it,” she said. “It’s nice to see new hope in the neighborhood.”
Habitat for Humanity volunteer Lee Bemis said many of the other homes were also decades-old, meaning the revitalization effort was extra beneficial to the Phoenix community.
“What we have here is this beautiful college out of the desert and a neighborhood around it that has been here for years and years,” he said. “What GCU and Habitat for Humanity are trying to do is to show the community that these homes are not a threat and we are here to help them grow with us by offering this service — so everybody wins.”
A half mile away from campus, at Bourgade Catholic High School, students and staff from GCU and Bourgade gave the school grounds a makeover and moved sprinklers away from a new security fence installed around campus.
Music played as students dragged old sod, carried rocks and dug through dirt. Even with sweat dripping off of their faces, they smiled and encouraged one another.
“It’s a project that we’ve wanted to do for a long time, so it’s a very exciting day,” said Sue Rounds, director of Finance and Facilities at Bourgade. “There is so much energy here — nobody is complaining, everybody is sweating and we are looking forward to many, many more projects.”
It was a special sight for many students to also see GCU’s dean of students and pastor Dr. Tim Griffin (dressed in cargo shorts and a purple T-shirt) and President Brian Mueller (in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt) sharing the experience.
“Based on the amount of sweat dripping from everyone’s faces, I’d say we’ve been working pretty hard,” said Brian Watson, Bourgade’s dean of students. “I think this ultimately gives GCU students an opportunity to be leaders and for our students to follow by example and to see what it means to serve. It’s phenomenal. In my two years here, I’ve never seen anything like this.”
On the north side of GCU’s campus, senior Paulina Awuah and some of her GCU Circle K International Club members were part of the landscape crew.
“Our club is already focused on community service and servant leadership, so we are here because of that passion we share,” Awuah said. “More personally, I feel as humans it’s important to help others whether we know them or not.”
Freshman roommates Madeline Lindey and Madison Lawson had a dance-off while painting. As it turned out, the students were celebrating their manual labor.
“I was nervous we wouldn’t be helpful but I think we did pretty good,” Lindey said. “All we did was paint and yet the house looks totally different. It looks so clean and really nice now.”
Throughout the productive service day, junior Kyle Hammond said he wasn’t surprised by the positive atmosphere the students carried on.
“I think we all understand the meaning of wanting to give back to a community that has blessed us,” he said.
For a slideshow on this inspirational event, click here.
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.