By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
It had been a nice little idea the last four years, the Curriculum Design and Development department at Grand Canyon University “adopting” a family selected by St. Vincent de Paul.
But this one was different from the first conversation with Katie Jordan, a mother who had lost one small child to a murder … was struggling to provide for her other four … simple things, like food, cooking items and beds … and she has health issues, too.
“After I first spoke to her,” said Kathleen Hicks, Curriculum Instructional Designer, “I was a little disheartened because I didn’t know what we’d be able to do for her.”
But there’s a lesson here: Never underestimate the heart and generosity of GCU employees. Not for one second.
When Hicks told her manager, B.J. Reyes, about Jordan’s plight, his first thought was that his department could do more this year. “After all,” he said, “there are 71 of us.”
But it was early December. They would have to work fast.
“As soon as I talked to the team, everyone was super willing to jump in, super generous,” Hicks said. “I’m just really thankful for everyone’s contributions and how our team came together. It was amazing.”
Reyes is the first to admit that he’s the competitive type, but even he was taken aback by the way people stepped up.
“It just kept growing and growing bigger and bigger,” he said. “It was a little overwhelming. We couldn’t believe how many people were willing to give. It just took a little coordination – the snowball effect – and here we are. It’s better than anything we could have imagined.”
The result: Monday morning, 10 volunteers filled Jordan’s apartment with more gifts and furniture than she ever could have imagined.
There were the three new beds, courtesy of GCU’s Academic Web Services department as well as Del Sol Furniture. One of Reyes’ employees reached out to the furniture store, which donated the beds and assigned workers to set them up, free of charge.
But there was so much more:
Academic Web Services: queen-size mattress, pillows linens, dishes, household cleaning supplies
Curriculum Design and Development (Janelle Davis and family): money, blankets, towels, sweaters for kids
Curriculum Design and Development (Colangelo College of Business and College of Nursing and Health Care Professions team): children’s toys, comforter, bedding, crock pot, bike, clothes, socks, pajamas, toiletries, two televisions, two DVD players, several prepared meals, groceries
Other CDD teams: money for food items (more than $160) and a microwave
Canyon 49 Grill: toiletries
And they’re not done. On Christmas Day, members of the Canyon 49 Grill will serve Jordan and her kids a full Christmas dinner.
There were so many items, it was hard to find places to put all of them.
“I didn’t expect all this. It’s a blessing,” Jordan said. “It shows my kids that it’s not just me – that there are people who help, too, and that there still are good people out in the world.
“They think the pressure is on me. My son is always saying, ‘Mama, it’s always you.’”
When she called St. Vincent de Paul, humbly asking for only minor assistance, “I guess I looked a little stressed, and they asked me if I needed help with Christmas,” she said.
Then GCU got involved, and “the miracle happened,” Hicks said.
It’s no accident. The atmosphere in Reyes’ department and beyond makes miracles possible.
“At GCU, it’s this big family,” Reyes said. “As cliché as it sounds, that’s really how all of us come together. People genuinely care about each other, and that builds something beyond who you are.”
During one of Hicks’ frequent talks with the family the last few weeks, one of Jordan’s sons wanted to get on the phone – not to ask for a bicycle, but simply to say thank you.
The kids all were there again Monday for the same reason. “They wanted to thank everyone,” said Jordan, who also made it a point to say how thankful she is.
It was quite a scene, all these people reaching out. Touching? Absolutely. Surprising? Not really. This is what these people do. It is not to be underestimated.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].