By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University’s Local Outreach Ministries this year is serving six additional at-risk populations and offering students greater opportunities to give.
This year, the estimated 1,200 GCU students who volunteer every month can spread their love to juveniles in detention, ex-convicts leaving prison, sex-trafficking victims, foster children, special needs adults and kids who need tutoring at the Dream Center.
At the same time, they can continue assisting neighborhood children, middle school pupils, mothers in recovery, the elderly at Colter Commons and homeless men.
“We saw a surplus of volunteers last year,” said Jaci Curran, GCU Local Outreach Manager. “We wanted to offer a variety of service options. We try to anticipate where the need is – and meet that need.”
One of those volunteers was Alexis Lopez, a senior education major from San Diego who believes she has received as much as she has given during her three years of local mission work.
“I worked last year with the elderly, and they shared such wisdom, so many life experiences that it felt like they were serving me instead of me serving them,” she said.
It’s also nudged Lopez out of her comfort zone of working with kids. This year, her focus will be working in a new ministry that helps people with special needs and disabilities.
“I feel that my mission work has helped me grow spiritually, made me see God moving in my community,” she said. “It’s a way to see how cool Jesus is.”
In another new program, Curran said, male students will work with Along Side Ministries to assist male convicts ages 18-60 who need help transitioning into society.
“The volunteers will build relationships with these men, some of whom feel that society views them as ‘scum on earth,’” Curran said. “Some volunteers will go into prison and others will participate in events like barbecues. The idea is to ease their transition.”
Another new ministry will assist OCJ Kids (Opportunity Community and Justice for Kids) and reach out to children living in some of the hundreds of group homes spread across the Valley that house juvenile foster children, Curran said.
“This will be an opportunity to develop mentor-type relationship with children – infants to 18-year-olds,” Curran said.
Local Outreach will continue supporting sex-trafficking victims by working with both Streetlight USA and the Hope Wing Women’s Rescue Project, which is connected to the Phoenix Dream Center.
Both aim to eradicate sex trafficking and minister to girls caught in the grips of the scourge. They seek to help rebuild the shattered lives of these girls and women, who were exploited sexually in exchange for goods or money.
Curran, whose team includes local outreach coordinators Torrey Allen and Bikonzi Moise, is excited about the opportunities for helping others this semester – and the looks on the faces of local residents who will benefit.
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected].