GCU employees show giving spirit at volunteer fair
Story and photos by Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
Fritz Bordes, a Grand Canyon University counselor with a penchant for giving, already has a schedule filled with commitments to such places as Habitat for Humanity and Feed My Starving Children.
But on Wednesday, the father of two was among an estimated 200 employees who attended GCU’s first Volunteer with a Purpose Fair in search of more ways to give back to the community.
“I’m interested in anything to do with helping children,” said Bordes, a university counselor for the College of Education. “I have a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old and I want to show them, while they’re young, that I help people in need.”
Bordes joined other colleagues who spent their lunch hour chatting with representatives from more than 20 nonprofit and local organizations whose booths filled the Building 71 lobby at 27th Avenue.
Marissa Mitchell, also a COE university counselor, has dedicated several mornings to sprucing up nearby homes for Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona, part of a neighborhood revitalization partnership with GCU.
“I want to do more. I came here to see what else I can do,” Mitchell said.
Introducing employees like Mitchell and Bordes to charitable, University-supported organizations such as the Society of St. Vincent De Paul, Catholic Charities Community Services and many others was the goal of the fair, said Leigh Critchley, executive director of Academic Alliances.
“In my role, I have had the opportunity to connect with a number of organizations that support K-12 initiatives,” Critchley said. “Almost every one of them has asked for opportunities to connect with our students for volunteer purposes.
“It occurred to me that we have this whole world of opportunity with our employees — and today, hundreds of employees came through here who wanted to give back more.”
Critchley also thanked the hard work and inspiration of like-minded Debbie Accomazzo, GCU’s community outreach manager and race director for the GCU Foundation Run to Fight Children’s Cancer.
Jim Miller, the new corporate chaplain in the executive office building at 27th Avenue, was all smiles as he met new people and collected pamphlets from every booth.
“I hope to be a clearinghouse for people looking for opportunities,” Miller said. “We (at GCU) have a heart for that. We want to be a Kingdom of God, both as a university and individually, and as followers of Jesus Christ we want to help bring justice and hope.”
Vince Licciardi, university enrollment manager and adjunct professor, received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from GCU and is president of the Phoenix Lopes Alumni Chapter, which has more than 18,000 members.
He was gathering information for fellow alumni.
“I’m super passionate about GCU and our purpose, and I think giving back is at the top of employees’ lists,” he said. “I think this is incredibly beneficial for current employees.”
It certainly was for full-time online English professor Dr. Priscilla Bamba, whose arms were loaded with information. Like Bordes, she already volunteers for Habit for Humanity and Mesa-based Feed My Starving Children.
“I like doing things locally, like Arizonans for Children,” Bamba said, referring to an organization that assists foster children. “I love the giving back. I’ve been in education for three decades. I raised two kids as a single mother. I had to have a lot of help. I believe in paying it forward and making it pleasant or easy for others.”
The fair brought larger than expected signups for the charities. More than 60 people signed up to help Feed My Starving Children, and more than 40 want to help the Children’s Cancer Network (CCN).
Andrea Sanchez, community relations specialist for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona, said the group is seeking volunteers to pair with the 300 children, 250 of them boys, who are on a waiting list for a big brother or sister.
She herself is a little sister and still has a close friendship with her big sister.
“I was really shy,” Sanchez said. “I didn’t see my mom much when I was home, and I didn’t have a lot of friends at school.”
Starting in fourth grade, her big sister visited her twice a month and they played board games.
Mentor Kids USA is like Big Brothers Big Sisters but with God, said program manager Wendy Mahoney.
“We want the children to know Jesus and have a relationship with Him, and even if they come from broken families and arguing at home, that Jesus is with us,” she said.
By the end of the fair, Mitchell decided to help out at the Salvation Army, whose trucks and holiday bell ringers she often has seen, and with CCN, because she wants to meet and interact with children.
Bob Horgash, a qualifying specialist, signed up to help CCN for a specific reason: “I’m a cancer survivor.”
Bordes, meanwhile, added another fistful of charities to his already packed roster.
“Anything to help these kids get back on track,” he said. “People need help everywhere. I want to let people know that I care.”
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.