GCU, GCE employees nearly double fundraising goal

May 06, 2020 / by / 0 Comment

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

Even as employees work from their homes all around the Valley and beyond, the Grand Canyon University community came together as one to fight COVID-19.

The latest example of how the GCU culture manifests itself is a two-week fundraiser in which employees from GCU and Grand Canyon Education were given the opportunity to contribute to the University’s efforts to produce personal protective equipment (PPE).

GCU President Brian Mueller said employees working from home have maintained their productivity or even increased it. 

The goal was $100,000, a seemingly lofty figure that would be reached by GCU and GCE matching each donation dollar for dollar. That meant that a $10 donation was tripled to $30, but even so, it figured to take a lot of generosity to reach six figures.

Instead, it turned into a triple double.

Despite the short timeframe, nearly twice the goal was raised. The final figure was $196,452, giving GCU the financial muscle to manufacture 15,000 cloth masks, 10,000 face shields and 10,000 respirator masks for the campus and community.

Donations from 829 employees totaled $59,484, an average of nearly $72. Corporate partner gifts were $6,000, and the GCU/GCE match will be $130,968.

In the view of GCU President Brian Mueller, that response was made possible by the University’s ability to swiftly switch ground classes to an online environment and have about 95% of employees work from home.

“That has worked incredibly well, both for our students and for our faculty and staff,” Mueller said. “People have been able to keep their jobs, keep their income, be at home, and be able to take care of their children, who also are at home.

“Yet they have not only continued to produce at current levels, in some cases they have exceeded productivity, and that includes everything from counseling students to doing admissions work to doing financial aid work to providing technical support and curriculum development.”

Dr. Kale Gober

The campaign was born in an online meeting last month when Mueller asked Dr. Kale Gober, GCU’s new Vice President of Advancement, a simple question: Can you find someone willing to contribute $100,000 for the new PPE effort?

Gober, like most everyone else, is working from home – but he’s still in Arkansas while he waits out the pandemic. He reflexively said yes to Mueller’s question but quickly realized that he doesn’t know any potential donors yet. However, he did know the reputation of GCU employees, who have been looking for opportunities to give back while most of their normal volunteer opportunities have been curtailed during COVID-19.

“It was important for me to see that the mission of GCU is really lived out by the people who work there,” he said. “It’s not just something that’s on a website. People in a state of gratitude were able to dig into their own pockets and make a difference for those who may not have been so fortunate.”

GCU employees from a variety of colleges and departments continue to dig deep to help the PPE production in more hands-on ways.

“It’s really all of GCU doing this,” said Marcus Castle, Emergency Preparedness Manager. “It’s not just one group at the University that decided to do this.”

Ruben Connolly and other Canyon Promotions employees produced a record 1,022 masks Tuesday.

The result of that teamwork: On the day the fundraising campaign ended, Canyon Promotions surpassed its previous high by making 1,022 cotton face masks. The effort, which began last month and could have added importance when students return to campus, recently took on a new ally, the College of Fine Arts and Production.

COFAP’s sewing machines normally produce the costumes for Ethington Theatre plays, but now they have a new role – putting in the pleating and attaching the ear loops for the masks. It adds to the time it takes to finish a mask, Castle said, but the improved design is worth it. (See story here.)

The mask production has been expanded to two shifts a day, and employees from other departments have jumped in to help — but more are needed, especially for sewing. Any employees who wish to contribute should contact Renate Spilger, Enterprise Division Manager for Canyon Promotions.

There’s a similar look and feel in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, which has taken on the other PPE tasks. With the help of student workers and employees from other departments, CSET’s 3D printers are being utilized to make about 450 face shields a week  for medical personnel. A respirator mask design that meets requirements also is being worked on.

“It is a family approach, and I wouldn’t change that for anything right now,” Castle said. “Our self-reliance is not placing a burden on busy partners.”

But, increasingly, GCU’s community partners are relying on the University. Castle said officials of hospitals and other patient-care facilities are stockpiling PPEs because they’re worried that COVID or the flu could return with a vengeance.

“I think right now everybody expects donations to come in,” he said. “But in four or five weeks when we’re still sustaining our community partners in this regard, that’s where it’s going to highlight how good a job GCU is doing.”

And its employees are right in the middle of it, in whatever ways they can contribute.

“There was a culture of gratitude that resulted in giving at unprecedented levels that are going to allow us to do a lot of good, both for ourselves and for others,” Mueller said.

This triple double isn’t just another statistic. The community scores again.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


Related content:

GCU Today: GCU faces up to challenges to make masks, shields

GCU Today: GCU adds new VP in Office of Advancement

GCU Today: GCU quickly makes ground-to-online transition


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