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.”
Ten years ago, Gant and Willard Bostock started The Ray of Hope Project. The group uses neighborhood donations to fix structural damage in the homes of low-income families and senior citizens.
“We offer not only the labor but the materials, free of charge,” says Gant. “We’ve done over 80 homes in the city of Philadelphia, to date. Now we are involved in revitalizing neighborhoods, cleaning up blight.”
Gant has helped clean hundreds of vacant lots and parks. One example is McPherson Park (below), at 601 East Indiana Avenue. Once known as “Needle Park,” a state-of-the-art playground and community center now stands in a place once notorious for drug activity.
“The people in the community didn’t even have the kids come over there to play because of the fear of having one of the kids going over to the playground and getting pricked by a needle,” Gant recalls. “We started to partner with the different community leaders and block captains.”
Two years later, there is a significant police presence in the area and kids can play freely and safely. He calls it the Ray of Hope Project’s biggest accomplishment, but they have others.
The group also provides work for ex-offenders and wayward juveniles, with Gant — himself an ex-offender who turned his life around — providing mentoring.
“We use people from recovery homes, people who were incarcerated, as well as plain individuals from he community who are looking to seek employement,” says Gant. “Then we also have an unlimited amount of volunteers from universities and schools in the area.”
Gant says cleaning has not only transformed neighborhoods in Philadelphia, but also the people who live there.
“Not only do they sweep in front of their door, they’ll sweep their neighbor’s door,” he says with pride.
Listen to Cherri Gregg’s extended interview with Ray Gant (runs 8:16)…