CityServe helps facility grow hope — and a garden
Story by Lana Sweeten-Shults
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau
PEORIA, Arizona — Cindy Humes dreamed of a garden oasis where she might lay down her troubles.
She wanted to build a sanctuary where she might breathe in the aroma of fresh garden basil wafting in the wind and gaze at the plucky red tomatoes vying for her attention — a place where she would share the healing calm of serenity with friends.
That dream has come true for Humes, Director of Deep Within Rehab Center.
When she peeks out the sliding glass doors of her office, dog Desi by her side (named for the desert where she was found wandering), Humes sees the new prayer garden that she says has changed the vibe of the residential men’s drug and alcohol recovery center, one of the community partners of Grand Canyon University CityServe.
It’s a garden that might never have existed without the dozen or so elevated planters, flowers, herbs and more installed by Home Depot that encircles the open gathering space.
And it might not have happened without the help the center received from GCU CityServe. The donation hub, the Arizona distribution site of the CityServe Network, teams up with more than 70 point-of-distribution partners, or POD, to distribute donated home goods and other items from Costco, Home Depot and other major retailers to those in need.
“Oh my gosh, I’m going to cry,” said GCU CityServe POD Relations Manager Paige McMahon on a recent tour of the new prayer garden, where she spotted an artificial fire pit. “That has been in the warehouse since September. It had been there since almost the very first truck (delivery to the GCU CityServe Warehouse). We were like, where is this going to go? Who’s going to use this?”
McMahon smiled when she saw the fire pit at Deep Within’s new prayer garden: “It’s so perfect,” she said.
An outdoor patio set is nestled in the heart of the garden, just a few steps away, while an outdoor grill awaits the next summertime barbecue. They both came from the GCU CityServe Warehouse.
Just see the space at night, said Humes. Before the garden was built, the area at the center of the nonprofit’s buildings was an empty, dark space. Now it’s a point of light.
“If there are UFOs, they’ll land here,” the congenial Humes said with a contagious laugh. “… No nonsense can come in here. You’re telling crazy stories, you’ve got to sit over there (outside the circle).
“Without CityServe, it would not have happened,” said Humes emphatically of the dream prayer garden. “There would NOT be that beautiful lawn furniture in the middle of the garden. This is what I always wanted — this garden. I pictured it for 20 years.”
The outdoor furnishings aren’t the only items CityServe has supplied to Deep Within, a collection of buildings just off of Grand Avenue once used as farm laborers’ quarters in the 1940s and 1950s.
A stop in the kitchen and Ed Heard, part of the center’s peer support team, is quick to point out the jumbo-sized coolers lining the back wall. They, too, were culled from the warehouse, along with a bevy of everyday items, such as paper plates.
“Some of (the donations) help the budget, like the toilet paper I don’t have to buy,” said Humes of some of the goods from CityServe. “And then some is making dreams come true that we would never have been able to do,” like the prayer garden.
That oasis is where Deep Within Rehab’s residents will gather for meetings and Bible study, once the weather is a bit cooler. Up to 34 men can live at the center as they go through the facility’s six-month recovery program, which touts structure and hard work followed by meetings, Bible study and, once the day’s work is done, a little free time.
Residents work at food banks and other nonprofits, putting in a full day at the Tolleson Food Bank on the day of the CityServe tour, or they man concession stands at Arizona Cardinals games and similar events, keeping a percentage of the concession sales to raise much-needed income for the facility.
“You’re not just going to sit here and weave baskets all day. It’s a schedule. You’re going to get up, make your bed, do your hygiene, go and eat breakfast, and then you’re going to go out and volunteer. … You’re going to do a regular day’s work,” Humes said.
She emphasized the center’s philosophy: Hard work, keeping away from the people and places in your old life of addiction, and when the roadblocks of life get in your way, “You have to learn how to deal with it, one day at a time.”
It’s a program that has worked for many, Humes said. “Every single person that has graduated from this program has had a job.”
It’s something Ed Heard knows about.
He has gone through the center’s program more than once after falling into old habits.
He knew where to find Humes the last time he relapsed. In his not-so-clear mind, he made it to a football game and asked the security guard if “his mom” was there working the concession stand.
“What’s my son’s name?” Humes asked him. “He said, ‘Ed. He really needs you.’”
“Yes,” she told the security guard with a smile. “That’s my son.”
Heard said, “I told her, ‘I need to come back home.’ She said, ‘Go to detox first.’ After Lee passed, I was glad she kept this place open for people like me.”
Cindy Humes’ late husband, Lee Humes, co-founded Deep Within nearly 20 years ago to get homeless men off the streets — men who often struggled with addictions — and to bring them to God. Lee passed away in 2020 after battling COVID-19 for more than 50 days before succumbing to a heart attack and other ailments.
His passing came at a time when the nonprofit was mounting a capital campaign to buy the property the center now leases, which would make Deep Within more sustainable. But the site owners decided not to sell the property, which means donations such as those GCU CityServe provides are so important in helping the rehab center do what it does best: transform the community.
It’s a mission it shares with GCU, which is part of Humes’ family in more ways than one. One of her daughters, Willow, graduated in 2020 so she could teach in Haiti, and son Isaac will be a freshman in the fall.
McMahon, on a recent facility tour, already is seeing other needs the warehouse can fill. Looking at windows in the dorm and elsewhere, she tells Humes: “We have blinds. Just send us measurements,” she said.
The POD site tours, which the CityServe team have recently launched, help the team see where its community partners’ needs lie and, ultimately, help the PODs better serve their communities.
Jason Barker, also part of Deep Within’s peer support team, first connected with the center after being released from prison years ago. He returned to prison to clear “wreckage in my past,” he said, and now resides in the men’s dorm.
“There’s so many things here that you guys have helped us out with, that has made this place, which was already a home, just a better place. I’m so grateful,” he said of GCU CityServe’s help.
Warehouse Manager Nathan Cooper gets so busy sometimes that it doesn’t always hit him what kind of impact CityServe is making.
“I don’t really think of (some of) those items being that impactful,” he said. “But in the right setting, they’re still changing lives.”