A Clean Up Man on a Hope Mission

For the past two decades, Raymond Gant, 65, has been a fixer, clean up man, gap-filler, whip-cracker and resource connector for some of the toughest neighborhoods in North Philadelphia. Efforts he says are mission driven:

“It is a mission to make sure that people in low income communities just get the required service that’s deserved to us as people just being human beings,” he says.

TROHP in the Media: Trash Talk Article

The Ray of Hope Project was mentioned in “The Local” (a publication out of East Falls, in NW Philly). The specific part is here:

“In Germantown, The Ray of Hope Project works to coordinate similar projects, organizing volunteers and advocating for community-driven solutions. While EF’s Town Watch is a local council committee and TROHP is a private, “non-paid” organization, both function on a grassroots level. Both neighborhoods have also engaged more formal efforts to control litter.”

Hello Again!

Hello Again People of Philadelphia!!

I Ray Gant have been in service in my community since returning back home in 1998. The Ray of Hope Project was founded in 2002 almost 16 years ago. Since that time TROHP have assisted Thousands of people in our neighborhoods here in the City of Philadelphia to help provide a Better Quality of Life. If you have been touched by this organization and what we do to serve our community then "GET ON BOARD" for something greater then ourselves know that the Love of God is real. You all seen the look on your children face this Christmas when you felt that all HOPE WAS GONE, The Ray of Hope Project was able to provide. Come join The Ray of Hope Project Movement for Cleaner, Safer & Healthier Neighborhoods,Come join The Ray of Hope Project to collect 15,000 old Shoes & Sneakers that will provide new items for Struggling Families this year in 2018.. Thank You for your time in this matter. As TROHP Continues To Take Back Our Neighborhoods One Block At A Time!!

My Warmest Regards,
Ray Gant

Local Hero Ray Gant organizing 1000 volunteers for MLK Day service projects

January 18, 2013
By Yasmein James for NewsWorks. Additional reporting by Anna Flint


Ray Gant’s work is never done.

That is the name of the game when you are committed to community revitalization like Gant. On any given day, he is leading a cleaning initiative throughout the City of Philadelphia in struggling business corridors.

It is through his volunteer work that NewsWorks learned about the former drug dealer who has been uplifting the community by cleaning the city's streets for 12 years.

2013 Justice Conference Honors

CSM (Center for Student Missions Philadelphia) included Ray in a group of twenty Philadelphians who provide service to our citizens and community, to honor at this year’s AMAZING Justice Conference!

Philadelphia Game Changers:The Ray of Hope Project

CBS Philly Article and KYW Radio Interview of February 3, 2013

“CBS Philly celebrates Black History Month with these profiles of notable Philadelphia ‘gamechangers,’ people and organizations making a difference in the lives of the city’s African-Americans. By Cherri Gregg

“PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Raymond Gant is changing the game, one neighborhood at a time.

“’We just went in there and started cleaning it up,’ says Raymond Gant, who grew up in North Philadelphia. ‘We started cleaning up the neighborhood, cleaning up the community.’

Frankford Running on the Fast Track to Revitalization Article of December 27, 2012

“It all starts with a broom”, said Raymond ‘Ray of Hope’ Gant, a former North Philly drug dealer who spent most of the ‘90s in prison but has spent all of the 2000s helping struggling business corridors like Frankford’s get clean.

“’When you clean up your house and your house is clean, the bugs go other places,’ said Gant. ‘Human nature’s no different, understand?’

“Gant leads a volunteer army of ex-offenders, recovering addicts and community-minded residents on a daily war against Frankford Avenue trash.

Annette John-Hall: Taking his place among nation’s ‘everyday heroes’ article of November 28, 2012

“Make no mistake. Ray Gant considers it an honor just to be included among the social entrepreneurs nationally profiled in the recently released (and just in time for the holidays) book, Everyday Heroes: 50 Americans Changing the World One Nonprofit at a Time - especially when you consider how far he has come.

“But getting a glossy spread in a coffee-table book isn’t why Gant started his nonprofit, the Ray of Hope Project, 10 years ago. All he wanted to do was give back the best way he knew how...”

Everyday Heroes honored at McPherson Square Library

Link to the Northeast Times Star article - November 14, 2012

“Two years ago, Ray Gant and volunteers from The Ray of Hope Project cleaned up McPherson Square. This Saturday, he’ll be celebrated at McPherson Square Library at a book signing that profiles Gant and other community leaders.

“When Ray Gant visits the McPherson Square Library this weekend to sign copies of a book honoring his work around Philadelphia, he will be able to see proof that his work has made a difference...”

Ray’s Work, and The Ray of Hope Project in a Feature Article

November 2012 (Link to online article)

Images courtesy of Flying Kite Media

Ray Gant Given Community Service Award by the Mayor of Philadelphia

Ray Gant Receives King Week Award

“Ray Gant Receives King Week Award to “Pay tribute to those who make local neighborhoods the ‘beloved community’ “ - January 11, 2012

Activist offers free grass-cutting for needy seniors

“Philly Corners” in The Philadelphia Inquirer - June 2010

In his job of helping people fix up their homes, Ray Gant encountered another need: overgrown lawns and backyards. And for the city’s seniors, he’s offering to tame them free.

Red Hot and Blue

The Philadelphia Inquirer - February 2008

The Blue Hair Studio, a Huntington Valley hair salon by day, became a Cuban jazz club at night when it sizzled with the jazz sound of the Elio Villafranca Quintet at a fund-raiser on Feb. 16 for the Ray of Hope Project. Among the quintet’s performers were Grammy-nominated jazz flutist Dave Valentin and 2003 Grammy-winning Cuban drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez. The benefit was attended by 150 guests and raised more than $10,000. The Ray of Hope Project, founded in 2002 by Blue’s owner Will Bostock and Raymond Gant provides home repairs to low-income families in Philadelphia.

The Elio Villafranca Quintet in an Exclusive Valentine’s Day Engagement

The Philadelphia Inquirer - January 2008

Candidates Snubbed Experts on Crime - By Linn Washington, Jr.

From the Philadelphia Tribune - April 3, 2007

Raymond Gant expected to hear information and insights when he went to the meeting in North Philly last week for a forum featuring mayoral candidates.

However, Gant left the forum feeling insulted because most of the major candidates seeing the Democratic mayoral nomination didn’t show up.

Sponsors of the forum said all candidates had received invitations and confirmed their attendance.

Gant and others attending this forum were there to dialogue with mayoral candidates on the issue each is making a center-piece of his campaign: fighting crime.

Gant and many others attending the forum present unique perspectives on the crime problem and “solutions” proposed by the candidates.

Like many attending that forum, Gant knows the crime perspective of being a former criminal and prison inmate.

“One thousand new cops on the streets is not the answer. Saying you want more police on the streets tells me you’re still into that lock’em up and throw away the key mentality,” said Gant, who served 12 years in prison for selling drugs.

“Doing the same thing the same way is not going to produce a different result.”

Statistics back Gant’s assertion.

Pennsylvania’s prison population mushroomed from 8,500 in 1980 to nearly 45,000 currently due to conservative policies pushing increased law enforcement and decreased attention to crime causing conditions like joblessness.

Are you safer today?

“The first thing we have to do is put people to work.people gotta work” observed Gant who’s turned his life around and helps other ex-offenders become productive.

One reason for holding the forum is the fact that persons released from prison and/or those with criminal records confront a staggering array of structural obstacles road-blocking access to jobs and other life-basics needed to avoid the temptation to seek quick cash through crime.

“When a person with a record can’t get a job, find affordable housing or receive any type of governmental assistance, it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to know that with all doors closed, this person will go back to doing what they know how to do,” said Leona Smith, one of the panelists at the forum during an interview late last week.

Smith, a renowned homeless activist, is a former director of a female reentry program at Philadelphia’s prison system. Decades of government studies document that most inmates lack adequate education and employment skills before incarceration and after release.

Former City Councilman Michael Nutter was the only major candidate to attend this forum.

Campaign workers for Nutter circulated his proposed Re-Entry Employment Program For Ex-Offenders that includes providing tax credits for businesses hiring ex-offenders.

Nutter and Chaka Fattah are the only major candidates who prominently feature employment and educational initiatives for ex-offenders on their campaign Web sites.

Nutter said, “it makes no sense that the Philadelphia residents have so little access to jobs in construction, one of the growth industries in this city.”

Mayoral candidate Queena Bass also attended the forum, remarking that “little common sense” exists in public policy.

Congressman Fatah notified forum sponsors that he could not attend due to congressional duties in Washington.

Sponsors received no notice from the other major candidates.

Spokespersons for candidates Dwight Evans and Tom Knox said their campaigns had received no notice about the forum.

A spokesperson for Bob Brady apologized for not attending, saying they were not sure if an invitation was received.

Regardless of the reason for candidates not attending, attendees considered their absences a continuation of treating ex-cons as outcasts.

“You want our vote, but you give us no support. Shame on you,” Philly boxer Simon “One Punch” Carr said at the forum.

“Politicians come here when someone famous is here, but not when ex-cons are here,” Carr said, referring to a December reducing-violence event at the Met featuring entertainer Bill Cosby.

Malik Aziz, an ex-offender and organizer of the forum, said candidates “didn’t show up because they figure we don’t count.”

All major candidates at least articulate the connection between poverty and crime...a major improvement from political posturing that ignores this critical cause and effect.

However, promising action and actually delivering corrective change once elected are two different things.

Had all major candidates attended this forum, they would have heard a financial analysis of the flip side of their favored anti-crime strategy: hiring more police.

The commissioner of Philadelphia’s prison system, Leon King, told those attending the forum that increased arrests would require spending additional millions for expanding prison space plus hiring more personnel from prosecutors to social workers, guards and judges.

“There are too many politicians with proposals to hire new police,” King said. “It is a fantasy among the public that prisons are bottomless pits that can absorb all the people that police arrest. We can’t deliver.”

Philadelphia spent $60 million to expand prison space since 2002 and its prisons remain overcrowded.

Had all major candidates attended this forum, they would have seen posters showing the volunteers of the “Ray of Hope Project”. “This program during the past five years has rehabilitated homes of senior citizens and low-income families at no cost to the occupants.

“People who come through our program do not go back to jail,” Gant said.

“There are ex-offenders out here who are making positive contributions,” he emphasized.

Mayoral candidates, Gant feels, “need to know our voices do count!”

*Linn Washington, Jr. is an award-winning writer who teaches journalism at Temple University.*

Earth Angels in the City

The Westside Weekly - November 12-18, 2004

There are indeed “Earth Angels,” people who have dedicated their lives to helping others.

On Friday, November 19th from 6 - 10 pm at the Beautiful View Banquet Facilities located 800 N. Broad Street (the former Traffic Court Building), 11 Philadelphia-area “angels” will be honored at the Harvest Fest Recognition Dinner.

In the West Philadelphia/Yeadon area the honorees include Minister John Brown and his wife Lynise (youth mentors), Rev. Lorraine Custis (Prison Ministry), Ronald Ford, retired coach of Overbrook High School, Elvira Pierce and Jaki Mungai (Scholarship Fund for Overbrook High School Students), Gloria V. Prescod, Professional Fundraiser for major groups including Mercy Hospital and Evelyn Robinson, Missionary with Wayland Baptist Church.

Volunteers with the Ray of Hope Project are also being honored: Janice Kenney, Desmond Neligan, and Robert Wilson.

The Ray of Hope Project provides structural damage repairs to homes of senior citizens and low-income families for the cost of materials or free.

The hosting organization, Seeds for Needs, Inc. will be presenting the prestigious Presidents Volunteer Service Award as well as the Earth Angel Award...

Commentary - Sunday Rock Climber Ascends to a Higher Calling in N. Phila.

He found religion, sort of, in helping make poor people’s homes more livable.

From The Philadelphia Inquirer - December 5, 2003

By Tom Krattenmaker

My friend Willard Bostock used to devote his Sundays to high-adventure sports -- kayaking, snowboarding, ice and rock climbing. When he wasn’t using the time in pursuit of action, Sunday was his chance to work on home improvement projects at his house along the Delaware River in Yardley. From September through January, of course, Sunday was for watching the Eagles.

But nowadays Will is occupied with something else on Sundays. You might be guessing that he found religion and dedicates the seventh day to church. In a sense, you would be right.

Will, along with Raymond Gant of North Philadelphia and a handful of fellow volunteers, spends more than eight hours every Sunday in dilapidated homes in North Philadelphia. You’ll find them screwing drywall into walls and ceilings, shoring up caved-in walls and collapsed floors, installing tubs and sinks, and doing whatever else needs to be done to make a poor person’s home liable. None receives a cent in return.

Will and Raymond are co-founders of a volunteer organization called Ray of Hope, which has been in operation for about a year. Operating on a shoestring with small donations and a handful of regular volunteers, Ray of Hope is trying to achieve two primary objectives. One is to improve the living conditions of North Philadelphians, many of them single women. The other is to aid the return to the world of men fresh out of prison. Will and Raymond employ the volunteer labor of ex-offenders living in halfway homes, teaching them carpentry skills and providing them with a means of fulfilling their community-service obligation.

Will envisions Ray of Hope as a constructive contagion. He sees ex-prisoners learning carpentry and going on to make their living rehabilitating people’s homes, all the while passing on their skills to others and creating momentum for a better community.

I volunteered on a recent Sunday and spent the day with Will. First, we collected discarded kitchen cabinets and a granite countertop from a client of Will’s who is upgrading his home in the suburbs. We dropped the goods off at the North Philly home of a young woman whose kitchen had no sink. (She had been getting by with a hose and some large pots to hold water. Will, Raymond and the crew will come back in a week or two to install the cabinets and counter and put in a sink. Then we joined the rest of the group -- Arthur, Raymond, Raymond’s brother Wayne, and a retired carpenter known only as Mr. Wilson -- at a house a mile or two to the west, where we fixed a crumbling ceiling for the woman who lives there.

Driving back to Yardley in Will’s pickup -- he has traded his Audi convertible for a vehicle better suited to his Sunday commitment -- he reflected on the change that has come over his life since last fall. Ray of Hope is not as much fun as rock-climbing, he admits, but it’s a lot more satisfying. He thinks now that his thrill-seeking was just an artificial way to create urgency and meaning in his privileged life.

Will and Raymond started the project after becoming friends at a personal growth workshop in Philadelphia and realizing they both wanted badly to make a contribution to the community. They make for a study in contrast. Will is white, Raymond black. Will grew up in a well-off suburb, Raymond in the inner city. Will owns a hairstyling studio in Huntingdon Valley; Raymond is an equipment operator for a sanitation company. Will is not particularly religious; Raymond is an evangelical Christian who praises the Lord as easily and naturally as breathing.

There are certainly more morals to Raymond’s and Will’s story than I have figured out. Still, a few leap out at me. Maybe the cultural divides between black and white, inner city and suburbia, religious and secular, are not nearly as wide as many of us tend to think. As someone worried about the wedges religion can drive between people, I am inspired to see two men of such different religious dispositions united in making the world better.

Will’s example should give pause to Christians who have convinced themselves that morality is the exclusive realm of believers. And Raymond, a smiling bear of a man who exudes tremendous warmth and kindness, presents a real challenge to seculars who tend to sneer at devoted Christians as sanctimonious hypocrites.

No, Will has not been going to church on Sunday ... Or maybe that just depends on how you define “church.”

_________ Tom Krattenmaker lives and writes in Yardley.

Receiving an award from “Build On Community Partnerships” - June 2012