Story and photos by Ryan Kryska
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University employees wasted no time answering last week’s call for Habitat for Humanity volunteers.
Community Outreach Manager Debbie Accomazzo called on employees to fill the vacant neighborhood revitalization spots, and she was overcome with joy to see that almost 60 employees stepped up to the plate for the next two projects.
“I’m so proud,” Accomazzo said. “It’s invigorating for the future projects this semester. They are on board and it shows.”
About 25 employees volunteered Friday morning at a home on 43rd Avenue. GCU employees previously had helped put a new roof on the home and were out this time to paint. They started at about 6:30 a.m. and were speeding through the work, on pace to complete the four-hour job in two hours.
In the backyard, three College of Nursing and Health Care Professions counselors -- Sebastian Reyes, Trey Watkins and Steven Trujillo -- were taking the opportunity to do some team building.
“It’s cool that GCU gives us the opportunity to do this,” said Reyes, who started at GCU in May and was painting for the first time in his life. “This gives us a chance to give back.”
Mike Sanders, a Habitat neighborhood revitalization leader, kept calling the counselors “The Boys Are Back In Town.” Nobody really knew why, but it was funny and it stuck. Before too long, the young counselors, who had no idea what Sanders was singing, were introducing themselves as the name of the 1976 song by Thin Lizzy.
“I just love it,” Sanders said. “I love to help.”
Around the front of the ranch-style home, College of Humanities and Social Sciences online faculty members Sue Small and Nicole Denniston were painting the front-door entry way with Jennifer Johnson from Strategic Educational Alliances.
Small and Denniston carpool to work together and said they signed up after reading Accomazzo’s call for help. Johnson signed up at about the same time. It was her first Habitat project, and she volunteered even though her afternoon schedule was filled with meetings.
“I just wanted to see what it was like, hone my painting skills,” Johnson said. “It’s great to meet other GCU staff members. It’s an opportunity for us to practice community within our staff.”
Johnson said the volunteers met the homeowners before starting their work.
“They were very grateful for all the help,” Johnson said. “It’s making a visible difference. When you drive by, you’ll be able to say, ‘Hey, I helped those people.’”
Steven Scherpenberg, a neighborhood revitalization program manager, was the Habitat staffer at the project. He said the generosity of GCU employees has created something special in the Canyon Corridor.
“People see this and start doing it themselves,” Scherpenberg said. “It’s a privilege to do this. I love Grand Canyon volunteers. They want to be here. They really are enjoyable.”
Accomazzo said the family that GCU helped Friday was in need of a spiritual lift. She was gratified that GCU was able to provide support.
“Thinking about what really went on there today, it’s a family who has so much going on in their lives right now, and they just trusted Habitat and GCU to come in,” Accomazzo said. “That really, really struck me.”
Employees can sign up for other projects through the online volunteer portal. Volunteer dates are listed a semester at a time, and there are six more through December: Sept. 26, Oct. 19, Nov. 9, Nov. 16, Nov. 30 and Dec. 14.
Contact Ryan Kryska at (602) 639-8415 or [email protected].
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