Student's nonprofit inspired by family and faith

GCU senior Connor Froysland was joined by his grandmother Charlotte Callahan at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for his Callahan Care Open Store in the new Glendale Elementary School District System of Care Center.

Photos by Ralph Freso

Ten family members lived in the three-bedroom Peoria, Arizona, home growing up – Connor Froysland, his mom and dad and sister, his aunt and uncle and two cousins, and his grandparents.

Every Christmas, Connor got one gift with a $25 limit. He was happy for it, because he knew they all worked hard but had little extra.

“The coolest part was, in the end, nobody cared about the presents. We all ended up sitting around the piano with my grandmother singing Christmas songs,” Froysland said. “That memory is one I will remember forever.”

Years later, his grandmother Charlotte Callahan sat next to him on a recent November day in Glendale. Froysland, who will get a bachelor’s degree Dec. 15 at Grand Canyon University, is chief executive officer and founder of the nonprofit Callahan Care Open Store, named after the grandparents who generously took in his family.

GCU seniors Connor Froysland (center) and his grandmother Charlotte Callahan (left) are joined by Jessica Lathrop (right), along with ASU junior Jeremy Proch (far right) during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The store that supplies clothes, school items, shoes and other goods to people in need is part of the Glendale Elementary School District System of Care Center, where a ribbon-cutting officially launched the center’s services to families. It is one of Callahan Care’s 12 locations in the West Valley for Open Closets and Open Pantries, located in schools and churches. They now help more than 500 people each month.

Froysland said he wanted to give others what his grandma Charlotte and late grandfather Albert gave to him, and that’s why he named it after them.

“I haven’t heard it put that way before,” Charlotte Callahan said. “It blesses my heart to be part of it.”

Froysland thought he wanted to be a lawyer one day, but after he gathers his degree in government with an emphasis in legal studies, his future will take another direction, inspired by his grandparents and by others growing up.

When the soccer coach at Christ Church of the Valley saw Froysland's cleats were three sizes too small, he bought him new ones and a uniform. So as a freshman scholarship soccer player at Texas Lutheran, Froysland spent what little free time he had delivering care packages to street people.

He soon decided to forgo his scholarship, return to the Valley, and help people while attending GCU.

Connor Froysland

He got together with a childhood church friend, Jeremy Proch, and began taking care packages to people on the street, usually locations near Seventh Street in Phoenix, while slipping them a Bible verse. Proch became the chief financial officer in their newly launched nonprofit, and they helped a woman escape an abusive home and a mentally ill man get medical help.

The work consumed 40 hours a week while he went to class and even was part of his dating life. When Froysland met a girl at GCU, their first date was to pick up supplies for donations, and the second date was in his garage putting together goodie bags for children in Title 1 schools.

“It was the way we bonded with each other,” said Jessica Lathrop, who will also graduate from GCU in forensic psychology in December and is Callahan Care’s director of outreach.

They are engaged to be married.

Whether at Peoria Elementary School or or Centennial High School or Deer Valley Middle School, the closets are filled with carefully curated donations, often gathered with big school events where Froysland sometimes makes his pitch before hundreds of people.

Inventory management is seamless, thanks to another GCU student, Leighton Feltman, who is the director of technology.

And GCU CityServe is a partner, helping Callahan Care go beyond essential personal items and clothes to supply families with home goods from the CityServe warehouse on campus.

“The beautiful thing about this model is it will literally be neighbor helping neighbor,” said GCU CityServe Manager Nathan Cooper.

GCU seniors Connor Froysland (center) and Jessica Lathrop (left), along with ASU junior Jeremy Proch have created Callahan Care, which features clothing items, backpacks and toiletries for young students in need.

The Callahan Care Open Store in Glendale is part of a complex that was once a school, converted to a social service center for those in need.

“We were able to offer space, and it’s a nice fit,” said Dennis Parcells, director of the System of Care Center at its ribbon cutting. Froysland's closet is one of 24 partnerships at the one-stop shop center off Bethany Home Road, which already has serviced 400 people this year.

“One big thing I have learned while helping street people is everyone is a person. If someone is struggling, there is no need to fear; everyone is just in a phase in life,” Froysland said. “One person was dealing with the death of a child. I’ve never faced the death of a child. I’m 21. I can’t judge them.”

After the ribbon cutting, those in attendance toured the Open Closet, pulling out phones to take videos.

And the would-be lawyer, who picked up plenty of legal tips at GCU about starting a nonprofit, was beaming, not the least worried that his new life maybe wouldn’t be as financially lucrative.

“The money is not what lasts,” Froysland said.

It’s Christ’s message that counts, he continued, and generosity to others, an example set by his grandmother many years before.

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected]

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