GCU, Habitat for Humanity project nears 200th home
By Ryan Kryska
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University‘s Canyon Corridor partnership with Habitat for Humanity is nearing completion of its 200th home, but the help of GCU employees is needed to reach that goal.
Cassandra Jarles, Habitat’s Director of Sponsor Relations, said the partnership has served 190 families in the corridor and in the Maryvale neighborhood since January 2015, on pace to reach 200 by the Oct. 27 Serve the City date. To make it there, GCU and Habitat will need employee volunteers to continue proving their dedication to the community.
Jarles said the Canyon Corridor connection with GCU was the first neighborhood revitalization project Habitat took on. Since inception, the partnership has provided more than $1.4 million in home repairs and more than 3,100 employees have volunteered.
“Our partnership with Habitat for Humanity is the largest of its kind in the country, but what makes it even more significant is that it directly connects us with the neighbors around us. We don’t want to build this brand new campus and just isolate it from the rest of the community,” GCU President Brian Mueller said.
“It’s become part of the education process for our students and part of our employees’ desire to not just have a job, but a calling that serves a higher purpose. Years from now, when they drive through this neighborhood, they’ll be able to point to homes and schools and other parts of the community and say, ‘I helped do that. I made a difference in making this a middle-class community again.’”
Jarles said Habitat’s partnership with GCU has opened the door to helping other surrounding communities outside the corridor, such as Maryvale. She said the impact GCU is making on the community has built more relationships among neighbors.
“The homeowners really began to talk to each other,” Jarles said. “More and more people are embracing the partnership. Our Habitat trucks drive down and people wave. People have gone into their home and changed their shirt to purple for Serve the City.”
The revitalization has intertwined the University with the corridor, Jarles said.
“We no longer have two communities of GCU and the Canyon Corridor, you now have one. GCU just happens to be a university within the corridor,” she said. “That is what we’ve really seen and have been able to express to the community at large. There are not enough words we can say to express our gratitude to GCU.”
Debbie Accomazzo, GCU’s Community Outreach Manager, said the University has many outstanding relationships, but the one with Habitat is perhaps the best example of combining resources.
“I think we as employees have learned more about our place in this community,” Accomazzo said. “It’s not like we are saving these people — they already loved their neighborhood and their homes. We’re just offering resources and standing side by side as they make the improvements that they want.”
Employees can sign up through the online volunteer portal. Accomazzo said “there’s a job for everyone no matter your fitness or ability to swing a hammer.”
“You’re going to get dirty and you’re going to love every minute of it,” she said.
Volunteer dates are listed a semester at a time. The first employee date in the fall is Sept 21.
Departments are encouraged to sign up together, and Accomazzo said she and Jarles are happy to meet any special requests.
“It’s a unique experience,” Accomazzo said. “It really takes that staff member away from their day-to-day life at their desk, and whether it’s with coworkers or fellow employees that they’ve never met before, they are able to contribute to the mission of GCU.”
Contact Ryan Kryska at (602) 639-8415 or firstname.lastname@example.org.