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    Categories: CommunityFeaturedOutreachRecent News

Giving their all: Employees connect with nonprofits

Story by Lana Sweeten-Shults
Photos by David Kadlubowski
GCU News Bureau

With his military background, Ruben Urquidez knows he has something to give.

“I have experience that could benefit younger children – help them to become better people,” said Urquidez, a Grand Canyon Education curriculum developer for the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, who listened intently to representatives from Future for KIDS at the Serve With Purpose Employee Volunteer Fair on Wednesday in the lobby of Building 71.

Ruben Urquidez, a GCE curriculum developer for the College of Science, Engineering and Technology (right), was looking for a youth organization to volunteer for at Wednesday’s Serve with Purpose Employee Volunteer Fair.

Urquidez isn’t currently an active volunteer. It’s why he ventured out of his office space and stopped by booth after booth – 18 Grand Canyon University-connected nonprofit organizations were at the fair – to find a nonprofit that speaks to him.

“It’s why I’m here,” he said.

Future for KIDS might be where he fulfills his purpose.

The organization in February took over the soccer field on the GCU campus for a youth skills camp led by the men’s soccer team. Future for KIDS is known for its sports and fitness camps and youth mentoring, providing mentor-driven, out-of-school-time programs and camps that focus on academics, athletics and ethics.

Or another possibility Urquidez was considering — Big Brothers Big Sisters, which is in dire need of male volunteers. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona said its greatest need is for Big Brothers. Because fewer men volunteer to become “Bigs” compared to the number of boys who enroll, some boys wait a year to be matched to an adult mentor.

“I think this is an excellent idea,” Urquidez said of the Volunteer Fair as he perused the many booths and visited with organizations, all of which have established relationships with the University. “It brings together the best of the best the University has to offer.”

Urquidez wasn’t the only one looking for a volunteer home at the fair, which is in its third year. A steady flow of GCU and GCE employees picked up business cards and flyers, learned about the mission of each nonprofit, visited with Thunder and even had the chance to sign up to volunteer.

Future for KIDS partnered with the men’s soccer team in February to host a youth soccer camp on the GCU campus. The organization was one of 18 at the fair.

Luis Corzo, a GCU university counselor in the Military Division/Enrollment, spent some of his time visiting with A.J. Terrill, sports director of the Chris-Town YMCA.

“I played when I was a kid. I definitely know how important it is for kids to get into sports,” Corzo said. Even if they don’t play sports, he added, children need to go outside, be active and get away from the TVs, gaming systems and computers for a while.

He said he and his Military Division team often volunteer together at the Veterans Affairs Hospital, but he wanted to look into the YMCA and Boys & Girls Club.

Terrill said he works closely with Kaeman Mitchell, GCU L.O.P.E.S. for Life coordinator, and with the campus’ student-athletes who want to put in a few volunteer hours.

Outside of GCU’s student-athlete volunteers, employees can sign up to be volunteer coaches for game days for various sports. Or they might consider putting in a few hours a week as a lifeguard.

Several education-focused organizations manned booths at the fair, such as Treasures 4 Teachers and School Connect.

Employees learned about the missions of GCU-connected nonprofits at the event.

It’s at Treasures 4 Teachers where educators can load up on free and low-cost new and used supplies from the community’s usable resources, such as pens and pencils, art supplies, cardboard tubes and more.

“Teachers can spend about $1,000 (on school supplies for their classrooms) annually out of their own pockets,” said Andrea Ellingboe, a former teacher who now is Director of the soon-to-open West Valley location of Treasures 4 Teachers.

Treasures 4 Teachers volunteers get first dibs on supplies and have the opportunity to network with other educators. New teachers also receive sponsored memberships.

Ellingboe said if it were not for its volunteers, “we would not exist.”

The organization depends on volunteers for everything from data entry to processing and sorting donated items.

And, as the nonprofit gets ready to open its West Valley location in July, “I’m very much looking for volunteers to help us set up the store,” Ellingboe said, adding how, “I know we have a good partnership with GCU.”

Treasures 4 Teachers’ Andrea Ellingboe, Director of the soon-to-open West Valley location of the organization, gets moral support from Thunder.

Shea Duryea, a representative of School Connect, spoke with employees about its goal, which “would be to connect you to a school,” she said.

GCU volunteers helped out recently at a school library, though GCU and GCE employees could be called to do anything from sorting books to cleaning or landscaping.

The organization maintains a portal on its website listing all the projects at various campuses in need of volunteers.

Angella Mundle, a GCU employee who is on the faculty of the College of Education, also stopped by the fair to see where she could give some of her time. She checked out New Pathways for Youth, a nonprofit that aims to end the cycle of poverty and violence in the community through mentoring and life-skill development.

With some of her peers at GCU, she has volunteered on Habitat for Humanity projects, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance and Feed My Starving Children.

Clint Palmer, a development manager with Feed My Starving Children, displayed individual packs of vitamins, vegetables, soy and rice that are combined into bags of food called Manna Packs. Those bags of food are sent to children in 70 different countries.

This was the third year for the volunteer fair.

“We have tons of fun,” Palmer said of packing sessions. “It’s a great way for a team to volunteer.”

GCU employees and students are dedicated Feed My Starving Children volunteers, he said.

“I’ve seen the men’s volleyball team, the swim team, and Quality Assurance comes out quite often,” Palmer said.

And the fair gave his organization the chance to sign up even more volunteers.

“This is cool,” Corzo said of the Volunteer Fair. “I get to see what’s out there.”

And it’s nice to see how he can volunteer with purpose because, like Urquidez and other employees, he knows he has something to give.

Contact GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at 602-639-7901 or at lana.sweeten-shults@gcu.edu.

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GCU Today: GCU Volunteer Fair a ‘matchmaking opportunity

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GCU Today: Lopes get sudsy to serve Big Brothers Big Sisters

Lana Sweeten-Shults :