By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A community organization based in Frankford is continuing its work of bringing in out-of-town volunteers to help clean up some of Philadelphia’s most notorious neighborhoods.
Today, a group was working to clean up a playground in Kensington.
“Just put the needles in the bag as you pick them up,” Raymond Gant advised his volunteer workers.
Over the past few years, Gant (far left, below) has used his nonprofit group, the Ray of Hope Project, to bring in strong, healthy volunteers to fight what he calls an “uphill battle” in Kensington. He says the volunteer missionaries make the need for repeated cleanups a little easier.
“People have come from North Carolina, Hawaii, Canada,” he says. “You name the place, and they’ve been here.”
This morning, more than two dozen young missionaries converged on the Hessey Playground, near C Street and Indiana Avenue.
“I was kind of surprised,” said Brandon Wong, 13. ” I found poop, diapers, needles…” Using gloves, he helped clean up the residue of drug abuse and neglect.
Seeing trash-strewn streets was a first for 12-year-old Kendal Martin, from North Carolina, who was visiting Philadelphia for the very first time.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” she said. “I hope when people see us cleaning that they won’t put trash on the streets again.”
Marta, who lives across from the playground, says she’s grateful for the volunteers who keep coming back again and again.
“It’s a good thing, because they keep it clean now and all the kids can play there,” she said, noting that she used to be afraid to walk near the playground two years ago. “At night that is drug zone, but things are getting better. But it still needs a lot of work.”
Gant says he’ll keep coming back until the drug zone is no more.
“Before, when you would come down to Kensington Avenue across Allegheny, it was like coming from heaven into hell,” he says. “But now that we’re cleaning up and removing the trash, when you come across Kensington Avenue now, the sun is shining real bright.”
For more on the Ray of Hope Project, go to therayofhopeproject.org.