25 Jul GAP Ministries Grows Its Social Service with Good360’s Help
Searching for more meaning and purpose in their lives, Greg and Pam Ayer quit their executive management positions in 1995 to pursue full-time pastoral ministry. That fateful decision would eventually lead them to create GAP Ministries in Tuscon, Arizona, in 1999. That year, they started with only a spare room and a pantry.
Those humble beginnings would blossom 18 years later into a faith-based social service nonprofit that cooks up 12,000 hot meals every month, distributes more than a million pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables annually, houses more than 400 foster children in 14 homes every year, runs a commercial kitchen that trains line chefs, and operates a fleet of 60 vehicles. The organization even has a food truck for culinary training and to occasionally provide meals on wheels.
“I remember those early days when my son would help me put food boxes together and we would deliver them in a dumpy little pickup truck around to homes in Tucson to people in desperate need of food,” recalls Greg Ayer. “Today, we’re bringing in semi-truckloads of food every week into a 19,000-square-foot warehouse.”
With an annual budget of $10 million, GAP Ministries has matured into one of Good360’s most trusted and effective nonprofit partners. One of the most apparent and touching ways that we support the organization’s mission is by providing the furniture that goes into the family-style group homes for abused and neglected children, dubbed SPLASH. The furnishings also go into the private rooms where parents and children meet for court-mandated visitation sessions.
Instead of the second-hand or worn furniture you might expect to see in these surroundings, we are able to provide GAP Ministries with new, high-end furnishings donated from top retailers. The quality furniture helps to create an atmosphere of permanence for children who aren’t coming from the most stable home environments.
“The rooms look really nice,” says Tom Collins, director of finance and community ministries. “We used RH (Restoration Hardware) products to revamp and remodel all of the rooms. We want to put the kids in a place that feels comfortable, that feels like a real home. We want to put our best foot forward so the children never feel like they’re getting hand-me-downs. Good360 allows us to do that.”
Much of the new apparel, such as sleepwear and jackets, that the children receive while they stay in the group homes also come from Good360 donations. For many kids, some of whom live for years in the homes, it’s a special occasion when they get new clothes to wear.
“We provide the homes, the food, the vehicles, and basically everything that’s needed to run the SPLASH homes,” Collins says. “We hire employees who are actual husband and wife, and they move into the homes and act like parents to these kids. Some of them don’t want to leave because they see what it’s like having people around you that really care for you.”
Good360 also contributes to GAP’s tremendous impact through its BOOST program, which redistributes over $1,000,000 worth of hygiene items, paper goods, cleaning supplies and other needed items every year. Approximately half of those products originate from companies that donate through us.
These goods go to some 100 partnering nonprofits and churches that are helping marginalized populations in southern Arizona. The items are stocked in its warehouse on shelving in a fashion that resembles Home Depot. For a nominal $25 monthly fee, the nonprofits can come in weekly to “shop” for needed products.
In late 2016, we were able to facilitate two pallets of printers and accessories from RICOH to GAP Ministries. The shipment included a large-scale printer that’s able to produce marketing and event posters, as well as two high-end digital projectors.
One of the projectors went into creating a “movie theater” for the kids in the SPLASH homes — a fun diversion during those scorching summer nights in Tucson.
The other projector is being used in the GAP Culinary Training Program, which is led by a former Iron Chef champion. The projector helps the instructors to deliver lessons ranging from molecular gastronomy to creating a budget. The students are primarily ex-convicts and other at-risk, low-income adults who are learning new skills so they can re-enter the workforce.
“A lot of our students are visual learners,” says chef de cuisine and lead instructor Cassy Quinteros. “Without the projector, many people would have great difficulty learning and absorbing critical information.”
In its first year, the culinary program boasts a 100 percent job placement rate.
The most important impact of the RICOH donation was the ability to keep funds focused on directly helping GAP’s constituents, rather than diverting money to pay for administrative expenses such as printers, says Collins.
With Good360’s help, GAP plans to continue expanding its footprint and impact throughout southern Arizona. Future projects include renovating and expanding a recently acquired ranch property that’s used as a campground. The organization also recently purchased a car repair garage and hired a mechanic instructor to begin job skills training for future mechanics.
None of this would have been possible without the selfless passion and commitment of Greg and Pam Ayer to truly serve others. GAP Ministries is also a shining example of what’s possible when companies and nonprofits align on a mission to smartly and efficiently deploy product donations to directly impact the lives of people in need. It’s our own mission to facilitate these symbiotic relationships in every project that we’re supporting.