Story by Mark Heller
Photos by Emily Saunders
GCU News Bureau
Lein Ly stood on her driveway Saturday morning and surveyed the makeovers taking place at her house and her sister's home next door.
More than 50 purple-clad Grand Canyon University students and a dozen Habit for Humanity leaders painted, directed, laughed and scurried back and forth between the two residences during GCU's Serve the City event.
Lein’s neighbor, Phung, is her younger sister and part of the Ly family migration from Vietnam that began nearly 20 years ago. Illness has hampered Lein’s income for herself and her mother, who lives with her. It's a blessing for them that nearly 15 years ago, after Phung married, she moved in next door with her husband and mother-in-law.
“It’s really lucky,” Lein said. “Not many people have this chance.”
The Ly residence renovations on Saturday were among the 700 Canyon Corridor homes that University volunteers hope to complete in the largest Habitat for Humanity partnership in the country.
And they were among 11 homes that nearly 300 volunteers remodeled Saturday morning, bringing to 124 the number of houses in the 85017 zip code that have received makeovers since GCU and Habitat for Humanity partnered together in 2015. The makeovers have contributed to the zip code's rising property values, which have increased 30 percent.
While Lein spoke, longtime family friend Tuan Ho was painting wooden panels above the front door. Tuan works in Phung’s restaurant in Mesa and has known the family for nearly 20 years.
New windows were also part of the Habitat renovations, so when Phung came home Saturday, it was to a refurbished home.
“I didn’t expect so many people to be working,” Lien said.
Tuan hopes his house three miles away is next on the ever-growing list.
“Everything looks more new,” he said during a quick water break. “The neighborhood is safer and people volunteer to take time (when instead) they could sleep, study or do homework, anything else.”
Habitat for Humanity provides the tools, equipment and adult leadership. GCU provides the volunteer manpower and funds most of the repairs through its state tax credit subsidies.
“This keeps growing and growing,” said Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona president and CEO Jason Barlow as he glanced around at some of the 50 volunteers working on the Ly sisters’ homes. “We’re doing the best we can but what GCU brings is tremendous. It’s why 700 is a realistic goal.”
Two miles southwest of the Ly sisters sits Ida Hayes’ home, directly across the street from GCU’s main entrance at 33rd Avenue and Camelback. She has owned the property, built in 1954, since 2000, and it has needed new exterior paint and large dirt holes filled in the backyard — among other things — since before she moved in.
Two years ago, she saw a group of Habitat for Humanity volunteers working on a neighbor’s roof and decided to request help with painting and other tasks at her home.
On Saturday, 20 volunteers fulfilled her “to-do” list at a fraction of the cost. As a thank you, she offered several dozen doughnuts to volunteers and students returning to campus.
It was both the most she could provide for so many volunteers and the least she could do.
Money well spent.
“They help people who need the help and I was one of them,” she said. “It’s awesome. The Lord was watching and working today.”
For a slideshow of the event, click here.
Contact Mark Heller at (602) 639-7516 or [email protected]