Project Humanities initiative gives ASU students, Phoenix residents chance to engage with community


By: ASU Now: The sun is just beginning to rise, but it’s still dark enough that the street lights on South 12th Avenue in downtown Phoenix remain lit from the night before.

Arizona State University senior religious studies major Johnny Martin has his hood pulled over his cap and his hands dug deep in his pockets as he chats with freshman psychology major Samantha Hill during a brief break from unloading boxes and bags full of donated items.

The desert air is brisk on this early December morning, but that hasn’t stopped Martin, Hill and others from making their bi-monthly visit to the area outside of Central Arizona Shelter Services, where they help to sort and distribute gently used clothes, shoes and other essentials to the homeless population of Phoenix.

Now an official ASU Project Humanities volunteer initiative known as Spontaneous Day of Service, the visits take place year-round, every other Saturday from 6:45 to 8 a.m. They began, as their name would suggest, as a spontaneous day of service at the behest of Neal Lester, Foundation Professor of English and director of Project Humanities.

After initially volunteering as part of a men’s group at his church, Lester said, “I saw the need to continue, so did, and began recruiting ASU students and others to join me.”

Meanwhile, Martin — who had previously worked with Lester and Project Humanities as an event coordinator — had been busy founding the ASU student group Sun Devils Are Better Together (SunDABT), the university’s first and only interfaith student organization.

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