“I am giving you an assignment that will be for a noble cause that will encourage
perseverance, inspire sacrifice, and stimulate innovation. Volunteers will appear and will be
given the opportunity to identify their gifts and talents to use in the service of this unique
In 1991 God began one of the greatest works of all times! He gave me a vision to start an organization to help enhance and save the lives of children. May 7, 1991 my only son was killed on a college campus. On May, 12, 1991, I received the above God-sized assignment that was spoken into my spirit when I cried out as to why so many of children were dying senseless deaths! Why Stevie, a good child? As the memories of that day flood me, His words were, “I will get the glory from his death, just do as directed.” This is your assignment!
“Mobilize the people! Build an organization with a diverse group! Save the children!”
Hope for the assignment was brought through a double tragedy. Three years earlier Gloria Randolph’s oldest son Sean was also killed due to college campus violence like Stevie. Both deaths were tragic but from their ashes a “Ray of Hope,” evolved. Hope that would save the lives of many! Thank you co-founder, Gloria Randolph, for accepting me! You became part of the assignment by telling me you were sent! Gloria your powerful words, “It is going to be big,” are still unfolding. John 12:24 states that” Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth it abides alone, but when it falls into the ground it produces much fruit.”
Two sons fell into the ground James Mix and Sean Cater and much fruit has been produced since their deaths. Henry and Richard Blackaby wrote, “Don’t keep inviting God to join your work, you find out where God is working and get involved.” When He gives you an assignment all provisions are made! Only You, dear God could have chosen and anointed the caliber of women and men dedicated and committed to accept the assignment to move RAY forward. You sent volunteers with different talents, skills, and ideas, one not greater than the other. A God-size assignment!
Over the past 25 years RAY has successfully touched the lives of hundreds and thousands of children through our various programs. The first program began with “Rapp Sessions for Youth” because Stevie had been killed away at college. It presented a platform for teens to express their thoughts, show their anger, and solve their own problems. The talents, gifts, and innovation of each volunteer were clearly displayed in our programs: Rapp Sessions; Scholarships; Grief and Loss; Beauty Inside Out; Ray of Hope; Reclaim-a-Family; Basketball/Cheerleading; Empowering African American Males; After School Intervention; Mind Your Manners; Ray at Bloom; YAC. When I realized that deep down inside my heart that I had been called to this new purpose, nothing convinced me to turn in another direction.
I had to remember it was not my choice but Your choice. “Who else could take a weak vessel to lead something as effective and essential as RAY? Who else could build an organization depending totally on volunteers? Who else would call me at the lowest point in my life to mobilize and lead people after the death of my son?” We received this huge assignment for the express purpose of advancing and revealing Your divine glory and power! I felt I would never be whole again but You knew the assignment would lead to my healing. Helping others should have been a burden but proved to be a blessing. We all fell in love with our work at “Ray." Thank You for allowing me to play just a small part! The assignment You spoke into my spirit May, 12, 1991 is still the assignment today. The world is a much better place because you sent Ray!
An Awesome God! An Awesome Assignment!
Welcome to the fourth issue of the Executive Update. It is said that, “You make a living by what you get but you make a life by what you give.”(Anon) I am overjoyed because this sentiment holds true for the volunteers of the “RAY Organization.”
Can you believe the 24th year of Ray is behind us and we are just 188 days away from our 25th year of celebrations? Our volunteers are working very hard to bring one of the most exciting and rewarding galas we have ever had. We are growing and offering more opportunities to our students than ever before! As you were divinely sent, we pause, to say, “Thank you,” to all of our volunteers and supporters over the years, from the bottom of our hearts! We also, thank “the Divine” for allowing us to participate in such a wondrous event in His world. This event will be a great example of the remarkable efforts of RAY volunteers and how they help us achieve our mission.
“Career Day,” March 21, 2016 was an overwhelming success. Thirty-five presenters were in attendance from various professions. Success of Career Day can be attributed to the excitement of the students who serve as ambassadors for the presenters. The ambassadors escort the presenters to the classrooms and introduce them to the students by reading the bios. All the children love it! The annual Career Day in our district is a BIG, BIG deal.
Applications closed April 19, 2016 for Ray 2016 Scholarships. The Committee received over 50 applications. Winners will be announced at College Orientation Night:
When: Friday, June 3, 2016 at 7:00 P.M.
Where: Victory Apostolic Church, Matteson, IL
Great Refreshment! Great Panel of College Students! Great Fellowship!
Our successes attracted the attention of the Manhattan Institute which retained Virginia Commonwealth University to complete an external evaluation of Ray at Bloom Township High School. The first phase of the evaluation will be completed June, 2016. The results of the second phase of the study will offer support to our team of Volunteers, Ambassador, Advisory Board, and Board of Directors in leading our organization forward to reaffirm our belief in the strength of our organization, our programs, and our future directions.
You may be wondering about the implications of this evaluation for you, our donors, and supporters, and perhaps also for the staff of the involved schools. Without hesitation, I can say that the results are expected to have only positive effects.
We are also excited to announce that we are approaching the ending of our school programs. A special thanks to all Ray Volunteers and Facilitators who have given so generously to help us on our journey to empower youth for a better tomorrow. The time and talents that you share with us are truly amazing and so greatly appreciated. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of many and changing one life at a time, one family at a time.
We are ending this quarter with many successes and accomplishments:
1. Brookwood Jr. High School – RAY implemented a ten week Youth-After -School
Intervention Program with 75 students and 20 facilitators.
2. Brookwood Middle School - “Mind Your Manners,” commenced with 12 students and two
facilitators for ten-weeks of implementation.
3. RAY/JAY/Bloom ran for 10 weeks with 40 students and 3 facilitators. The students at Bloom were
also observed by Dr. Gooden and her research assistant from VCU.
4. Reclaim-a-Family (RAF)- Two families received one-on-one assistance from volunteers
in RAY. One family is receiving ongoing support.
5. Grief and Loss will resume in the fall.
6. YAC – Projected Summer plans:
a. Boys Basketball Scrimmage with Calvary Baptist Church (May)
b. Participation in Glenwood’s Fourth of July Parade
c. Picnic in the park (July)
d. Outing with Chicago "SKY" WNBA, Rosemont Arena
The Journey continues! Please, visit our Website and become a card carrying member. We welcome you to join this monumental journey that started 25 years ago.
Annual dues: Partners Program:
Gold - $500.00
Platinum - $1000.00
Before ending this message, I’d like to take this opportunity again to thank all volunteers, donors, and contributors.
Maybe we can’t all do great things, but we can all do small things in great ways!
As I think about our Organization, I’d like to say it's an honor to have served for 25 years as the Executive Director and Founder of RAY. Thanks to our current President Mark Myers who during his reign has put much effort into increasing efficiency steps to move RAY forward with ideas, resulting in timely decision-making which is important for this organization.
I owe a great amount of gratitude to our newly appointed Ambassador, Deborah Birmingham M.Ed., who has been an outstanding leader and visionary representing RAY nationally and internationally. I’m grateful to co-founder, Rev. Gloria Randolph who has shared how tragedy should be utilized as a stepping stone of strength on the journey to triumph.
Also, I say thanks to those past Presidents, Advisory Board, and Executive Board members who have worked and devoted personal resources to lend to the vision that makes RAY the strong, successful organization it is today.
As I reflect further, the Volunteers are a group with exceptional aptitude and sense of service who work tirelessly every year to accomplish our goals while contributing to the overall mission of RAY.
Founded on the God given vision the day after my son’s funeral, we at RAY have continually challenged ourselves to reclaim youth with the programs we provide. When I asked God why so many youth are being killed, he responded, “Your son’s death will be a catalyst to help save many youth and I will get the Glory from this one,”
So this tragedy was not a mystery. The vision was quite plain, but the mission seemed insurmountable and an uphill battle. Yet, the opportunity was too great, and the need to dire to ignore.
The vision became a tangible image with a mission with vivid descriptions of clear and compelling goals. The vision allowed volunteers to feel like they were part of a greater whole, and hence provided meaning for their involvement.
Never has a Bible verse come so alive and have such meaning to me than the past 25yrs. "Participating in The Building of RAY," by God, gives a penetrating picture of its meaning when Jesus explained why He had to die.
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels - plentiful harvest of new lives. John 12:24, NIV.
A Bold Move
Therefore, 25 dedicated men and women took a bold move forward, following the leadership of a vision planted while obeying God’s direction.
I'm not the same person as when my son was alive. The decisions I make now after Steve’s death are not my decisions but decisions made by the vision that played out in my head.
While we have achieved a great deal, there is much more to do as we march toward our lofty goal. Let us move forward with passion, but also with purpose. And most of all let us be mindful of why we are supporting our beloved youth of the future. I believe the energy of this organization is firmly established through vision.
RAY is truly a vision that has saved and touched many lives by its work. We closed the year 2015 with successful program accomplishments and a scholarship gala with an attendance of 500 plus guests.
RAY’S 2016, Youth Intervention Program at Brookwood Jr. High kicked off with 80 or more students and 20 volunteers and facilitators, both men and women. Watch you Manners initiated its program for this school year at Brookwood Middle School. RAY-JAY at Bloom High School rallied 60 enthused students.
By reaching out and touching the lives of youth, young and old, our voices are being heard, our ideas are well received, and the impact of our contributions to them will be fully realized as they become productive citizens of society.
RAY has grown and flourished because of the pioneering spirit of its volunteers who have made a space and a destination for young dreamers to dream and explore their gifts, talents, and skills.
As the organization embarks on its 25th year of its storied existence, I hope you share my pride in RAY for all that it has accomplished and for its vision in moving forward.
I invite you to join us on this epic journey. As you explore this Web site, I hope you will consider becoming an active participant in shaping RAY’s future and think about the positive impact you can make through our organization. The future is ours to create. Let us write the most glorious chapter ever for Reclaim-a-Youth of Illinois.
Dear RAY Volunteers/ Foot Soldiers of RAY,
I call you "The Foot Soldiers" of RAY because you cover so much ground. On our journey, there are many, many ways you have made a difference in the lives of youth... volunteering, gifting, sponsoring opportunities, identifying talents, sharing ideas, etc.
Pack your bags as the journey continues because, children don't care how much you know, they just need to know that you actually care! Your dedication and commitment, is irreplaceable! Your hard work has been inspiring, thoughtful, caring, focused, motivating, and fun!
Those of you who have chartered the course since RAY’s inception in 1991, I salute you! Those of you who joined the journey later, believe me, it doesn't matter! I salute you too! The vision that started almost 25 years ago, reclaiming the lives of youth, continues its journey today. Foot Soldiers you are so appreciated!!
We would like to welcome back R.A.Y. Ambassador Deborah Birmingham from her recent trip to London. During her time there, Ambassador Birmingham had the opportunity to share the mission of Reclaim of Youth (R.A.Y.) of Illinois with Prince Edward in hopes of collaborating in the future.
As we close our summer activities and journey into the fall sessions (2015-2016), things seem to become a little rocky which offers us an opportunity to reflect on the hopes, dreams, and accomplishments of 2015. The Summer 2015 program schedule included several new and exciting opportunities for Reclaim-–a- Youth
teens. To name a few:
· YAC'S play: "Yes We Can" was a play presented by YAC members and it was the first production written by volunteer, Georgia Butler and directed by volunteer, Rev. Stephens. Teens interested in showcasing their talents got the ultimate exposure through the dialogue, song and dance emulating the First Family: President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Malia, and Sasha. For many of the teens, it was their first time performing in front of an audience and the first time on what we consider the BIG stage.
· The Sky Outing: Women’s National League Basketball Game. Nothing tastes better than hot dogs and popcorn at the fun loving game of women’s basketball. What makes it twice as nice is riding the bus to the game with friends and family.
· Grief and Loss: Our year round program for adults, children, and families.
· Community Event: Cookout in the park was definitely fun in the sun!
In fact “Soooo much fun, let's do it again!!
And, on behalf of the many teens that Reclaim- a - Youth has reached this summer, I now thank you for your support!
As we approach Fall (2015-2016) programs we are looking forward to another great year at RAY!!
Scheduled programs for Fall include:
Ray/Jay at Bloom
Mind Your Manners
Rays Youth -After -School Intervention Program
Grief and Loss
Our teens are excited and I want you to know how excited and encouraged I am by what I see in our teens. We advocate for teens in an ongoing effort to help all see themselves as successful creative, citizens of tomorrow.
The "Gala" is off and running to a good start. Yes, Outstanding Humanitarians have been chosen and will be honored for the difference they are making in the lives of others. Yes, we will recognize the gifts and talents of students who are the RAY of Hope Achievement Honorees. Yes, James Mix and Sean Cater Memorial scholarship recipients will be highlighted at this event!
Please, come out and join RAY for an incredible and glorious evening of dining and celebrating!
We are eagerly looking forward to Saturday, November 7, 2015, Serbian Banquet Hall, 185th & Stony Island, Lansing, IL. Preparation for this year's Gala is invigorating and may prove to be one of our most successful Ever.
The best way to get things Done is to simply, Begin!
We are pleased to announce that Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) headed by Dr.Susan T. Gooden, has been commissioned by the Manhattan Institute, a nonprofit organization, to conduct an external evaluation of our program and its practices. It is a two year study implemented to identify the impact the organization has on low income and disadvantaged youth. After the rigorous study, their shared results will indicate our organization’s commitment to provide quality services to our youth and that we have demonstrated that we have incorporated quality improvements and best practices into the fabric of our organization. The review will include both on- and- off-site evaluations conducted by the evaluators from VCU.
Needless to say, we are extremely proud of our 25 year achievements and look forward to the challenge of participation in this study and welcome its outcome.
So, Foot Soldiers, don’t forget to pack your bags as we continue on this journey to Reclaim-a- Youth!
It's hard to believe, but we just ended our 2014-2015 school year programs and we are eagerly awaiting implementation of next year’s new and improved activities for our youth. Thanks to your generous support and donations we awarded $16, 000 to 15 students during College Orientation Night held June 5, 2015. Please encourage area teens and parents you know to visit our Web site at reclaimayouth.org.
A very generous gift of $500 from Glenwood’s Lions Club, was presented at our recent College Orientation Night by Mayor Ron Gardiner.
On June 18, 2015, sixteen new volunteers attended Ray’s Volunteers Workshop.
We are experiencing exciting times here at RAY of Illinois. Tomorrow June 23, 2015, we will say Bon Voyage to our Ambassador Deborah Birmingham as she embarks on her journey to meet members of The Royal Family in England.
I'm proud to share with you a momentous accomplishment of our teens and facilitators and one of the ways RAY continues to keep youth safe through opportunities to develop their gifts and talents. Our Youth Advisory Council (YAC) provided a play and dinner entitled “Yes We Can” at the Glenwoodie Golf Banquet Room on April 10, 2015. We'd like to thank all who attended in support of Glenwood's world-class teens.
RAY was highlighted in Forbes Magazine December 2014, article Giving Tuesday (2): Three Great Picks, Post-Ferguson, Post - Partisan.
We celebrated 23 years of serving youth at our huge Gala November 8, 2014 which proved to be one of our most successful galas ever. Close to 500 guests spent an incredible evening at The Serbian Social Center. The Outstanding Humanitarian Awardees were: Curtis Granderson, New York Mets and Donovan McNabb, Retired NFL Quarterback, Fox-TV Analyst.
This year's RAY/JAY BLOOM’S YOUTH PROGRAM was an outstanding event. The seven week program was attended by 35 wide-eyed -eager teens clued to their seats in absolute attention as Dr. J. Streeter’s shared a variety of impassioned stories of his personal experiences that related to issues that plaque teens today.
RAY of Illinois gives thanks to SKY the NWBA for providing such prestigious and exciting opportunities for our teens to have exposure to such a wonderful team sport.
New RAY of Illinois Programs
We have new and stimulating activities planned for our summer events. I am delighted that through generous funds and donated equipment our events for the summer will include the following activities:
The Building Bridges Program, Tennis Lessons, and Drama classes.
My heart throbs when I look around and see the many accomplishments of our teens. I sincerely want you to know how excited and encouraged I am by the choices I see them making.
On behalf of all youth, past and present, RAY of Illinois says, thank you for your support.