Green Week features a man and his mission to wear your good

Wash the City’s Jayce Candrea among screen printing machines in his Canyon Ventures workspace.

Photos by Ralph Freso

Jayce Candrea walked through downtown Phoenix with a plastic rack, 25 T-shirts and a sign made of cardboard.

If you didn’t know him, busily on the way to work, he might be the kind of person you avoid making eye contact with. You would be wrong.

“Everybody was born into this life as an innocent child, so we are all on the same playing field. A different series of unfortunate events leads you to where you are today,” said Candrea, who on that day a couple of years ago gave away those shirts.

“I’m trying to break stereotypes. People think of the homeless as trash aside the road. If you are walking and see a piece of trash and you look at it, it’s a problem. If you look away, it doesn’t exist. When you have a Wash the City T-shirt, your mind is changed, and you won’t look away from the issue any longer.”

Candrea displays the new design for Green Week.

Candrea founded Wash the City as a Grand Canyon University student. Today, the GCU alumnus sells T-shirts that tell a story of people on the street, giving 10% to his cause of helping the homeless, giving them second-hand shirts, food, essentials and a listening ear.

His company, housed in GCU Canyon Ventures, is linking with Associated Students of GCU on Wednesday’s Spring Cleaning event during Green Week, asking students to donate old T-shirts for the less fortunate and bring another to be imprinted with his art and words: “He put man in the garden ... Will you take care of it?”

“This Scripture-based phrase acts as a call to action for people and a reminder that, as Christians, we should act as stewards of the earth and do our best to take care of it,” said Nicole Campillo, ASGCU’s sustainability director.

One of the latest T-shirt designs by Wash the City.

For Candrea, that means selling 100% cotton shirts and championing the reuse of clothing, which was how his idea launched in 2021 just three weeks after he was baptized and after he met Emma Steffen at GCU.

Sure, that day in high school in Phoenix when he volunteered at the food bank planted a seed of a good feeling to give, but after his first year at GCU he forgot that feeling and just wanted to have fun.

“Then I met a good woman, and Emma wanted to make me a better man. She saw through my heart and brought me to life,” he said. “Through her I developed a relationship with Christ and got baptized.”

That led him downtown with T-shirts he picked up at second-hand outlets. And that’s where he met Ray Lee Carter, who was then living on the street and told Candrea that there was no such thing as a morning shower to start the day, only a clean shirt.

“First time, you feel good. That first day with 25 shirts, I was Superman,” he said.

But Ray stuck with him. The stories were the inspiration to others who would buy a shirt and support the cause. A friend’s mom had an embroidery machine and helped him make 50 shirts, but it wasn’t until another friend gave him a screen printer that he could take off.

Why do we have to go to Haiti for a week to feel we are a mission? We can serve a mission in our community every day.

Jayce Candrea, GCU alum and Wash the City founder

He put Ray’s image on a shirt with the message that each shirt contributed to people like him. And to people like Amber, a homeless woman who said she was an artist and left him with a letter, telling Candrea that we are all of the earth and we all matter.

But mostly he pulled his rack downtown, adding some wagons full of food and supplies, reaching out every Wednesday, volunteers tagging along.

On day one, he just asks how it’s going and gives them a T-shirt. The next day he asks their name. The third he asks how he can help.

The tags on every Wash the City T-shirt.

The tags on his shirts carry the Bible verse Acts: 20-35, where Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than receive.”

“That verse is the cornerstone. And it ended up being my kryptonite. Before that, in my mind I was starting to get a 1:1 ratio. I gave one, where is my one?”

Now as he pumps out shirts in GCU’s Building 66, where as a student in 2021 he won the GCU Canyon Challenge entrepreneurial competition. The shirts carry designs from Chicano chic to throwback and urban vibe, while other items, such as distressed jackets, fill out several racks of clothes. Each tells the story, not selling it online but face to face, with Candrea giving away a chunk of his profit.

“Most businesses say this is a horrible decision. But I am 22. I’m taking the precedent that if we want to change the world, we the people need to step up and make a statement. Why are we not taking the initiative in our life?” he asked. “Why are we not on a mission in our life? Why do we have to go to Haiti for a week to feel we are a mission? We can serve a mission in our community every day.”

He says he has donated 1,000 units and $3,000 so far and has been the catalyst for helping a handful of people to get off the streets. “There are 9,000 people living on the streets here, and Ray is no longer one,” he said.

But it’s Candrea’s message that is as meaningful to him, from the tote bags that list resources for the homeless, to designs with the figure’s eyes crossed out to show it’s not your identity but actions that matter.

Candrea explains one of the new T-shirt designs.

“We are trying to change the world through acts of giving. We believe the world will change through acts of giving. We believe the world will change through small acts of kindness,” he said, words tumbling out of him, faster and faster. “Hey, tip your waitress 20% today. Hey, pick up that piece of trash. Hey, open the door for somebody.

“Getting people to integrate those little acts of kindness in their lives sparks a light within, which is then passed on to people in the community.

“That is what happened to me.”

And Emma Steffen liked what she saw.

On Monday, Candrea asked her to marry him. She said yes.

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.

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GREEN WEEK

Grow Your Goals, 3-5 p.m. today, Outdoor Recreation Garden behind Agave Apartments. Paint garden beds and plant seeds representing your goals.

Spring Cleaning, 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, the Quad (collaboration with Wash the City). Bring your old T-shirts to donate and be printed.

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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

From (Christ) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:16)

To Read More: www.verseoftheday.com/