In driving around the city, helping people rehab their homes, Ray Gant encountered another need: overgrown lawns and backyards. And for the city’s seniors, he’s offering to tame them for free.
"A lot of seniors are not able to get out there and cut their grass," says Gant, 53, who lives in Frankford. "And they can’t afford the costs of getting their grass cut because they’re on a fixed income. We just want to help them out, and at the same time keep our neighborhoods looking beautiful."
Stabilizing communities wasn’t always Gant’s motivation. In 1987 the North Philly native was convicted of drug dealing and spent 12 years in prison. After his release, he got job in waste management, and looked for ways to help rebuild some of the blocks drugs had destroyed.
In 2002, he and his friend Will Bostock founded The Ray of Hope Project, an organization that aims to provide free home repairs to low-income families. When Gant got laid off from his job three years later, "it enabled me to keep doing what I’m really passionate about, which is serving the community."
Gant says that to date he and his team of volunteers have rehabbed more than 80 homes.
He's been advertisting his free grass cutting service for seniors at community meetings and social networking sites. So far, he says, he has four residents on his list.
"We want to help people who really can’t afford it," Gant cautions, "not folks with a whole bunch of kids and grandkids sitting around doing nothing, when they could be cutting the grass themselves. We want to help folks that really need our help."