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.

“Ray's enthusiasm and positive energy are contagious,” said Joanna Branch, who nominated Gant for NewsWorks’ Local Hero series. “For Ray each cleanup is a small, important step towards a larger goal.  He really makes you believe that through the hard work of committed citizens we really can transform blighted neighborhoods into places of pride.”

NewsWorks caught up with Gant last November at the book signing of “Everyday Heroes: 50 Americans Changing the World One Nonprofit at a Time,” which profiles America's leading social entrepreneurs and their life-changing nonprofit organizations.

“It’s been stone cold crazy. Not like it wasn’t wonderful before,” said Ray chuckling.

The book signing took place at the McPherson library, which was significant to Gant because his organization, Ray of Hope Project, helped transform the space into a drug free zone through a collaboration with the Friends of McPherson Library.

Though the day was about him, in true Gant style, he was drumming up support for his “1000 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.” He made sure to shake hands, give hugs, and specifically recognize each person at the signing. Even while shaking hands, he talked it up asking “Will I see you at this upcoming MLK Day?”

Gant hopes to have atleast 1,000 volunteers in 20 sites throughout the city to volunteer in the communities including people from universities, corporations, and organizations.  The community clean ups will take place on Monday, January 21 from 9am to 1pm.  For more information and to participate call 215-744-1039, 215-964-7627, or go to the website, therayofhopeproject.org.

Project sites:

6200 Chew Ave

3000 N. Clifford Street

1800 N. Etting Street

2000 N. Etting Street

2800 N. Boudinot Street

3000 N. Page Street

5000 N. 3rd Street

2200 W. Thompson Street

2700 Coral Street

1200 W. Glenwood Avenue

400 E. Mechanic Street

1300 Ruan Street

2500 W. Master St.

2800 Jasper Street

3000 Gordon Street

400 E. Indiana Avenue

200 E. Cambria Street

C Street & Indiana Avenue (Hissey Playground)


Additional reporting by Anna Flint