Ray S.

Florida

Ray Storms

2012 Winner

Jacksonville, FL
Nominated by Joan Hecht

Volunteered for:

Alliance for the Lost Boys of Sudan

Length of Service:

7 years

Hours per Month:

40+

January 28, 2012

Most people who've retired dream of kicking back and enjoying the "golden years" of their lives, or better yet, spending some of their hard earned money traveling around the world exploring new and exciting things. But then again, Ray Storms isn.t your typical retiree. At 70 years young, he.s chosen instead to focus his efforts and money on helping others less fortunate than himself.

Ray, a retired school teacher and author, is always busy at work on something, especially volunteering and helping others like his many unofficially "adopted sons," better known as the Lost Boys of Sudan.

When first arriving to the US in 2001, most of the Lost Boys had never used modern conveniences such as electricity and running water. They needed instruction in the basic tasks of everyday life, such as how to walk across the street at a red light, how to eat with a fork and knife, etc. It was a strange and frightening world to these young men, who as children became separated from their families due to civil war in their homeland, forcing them to walk a thousand miles across the wilds of Africa in search of safe refuge. They depended heavily on volunteers like Papa Ray. And although many volunteers have passed through these young men.s lives over the years, Papa Ray has remained a constant mentor, friend and father figure. He.s worked diligently with The Alliance for the Lost Boys of Sudan, without pay, for the past 6 years sacrificing both his time and finances to help these incredible young men assimilate to their new lives in America and achieve their dreams. It hasn.t always been easy; there have been many challenges and obstacles along the way. But Papa Ray has never complained or responded with a "no" when asked to help, offering instead a warm smile and a willing spirit. Quite frankly, without the help of he and his wife Maryellen, The Alliance for the Lost Boys of Sudan would not have achieved the success that it has and these young men would not be realizing what they once thought only a dream; a college degree.

Papa Ray often works into the wee hours of the night, helping local Lost Boys and Sudanese with school assignments, such as writing term papers, assisting with research, helping with grammar and spelling, etc. Some of the guys even have their own house keys so that they can creep silently into the Storms house in the early morning hours, after working night shifts, to use their computer for school assignments. Papa Ray also helped many of them with filing income tax returns, making sure that all the forms were filled out correctly and sent in on time.

In the months following their arrival to the US, Papa Ray was one of the few brave souls who dared to teach these young men how to drive so that they could obtain jobs to support themselves and those they left behind in Africa. He was also the first person that they call at all hours of the night, after wrecking their cars or when stranded on the side of the road after they.ve broken down. Trips to the local junk yard were a common stop in the early days where Papa Ray searched for spare and inexpensive parts to repair their cars. On one such stop, the Lost Boy joining him was amazed at all the broken and compressed cars and asked Papa Ray, "What is this place? Where did all these cars come from?" With tongue in cheek, Papa Ray responded by saying, "Oh, these are all the cars leftover from the Lost Boys learning to drive." Ray often says that while teaching the Lost Boys to drive, God was teaching him how to pray!

Ray.s pretty much a Jack of all trades fixing broken plumbing, painting and moving furniture when needed and he.s always available to drive Sudanese to doctor.s appointments. Following such injuries, illness and surgeries, the Storms. house often serves as a rehabilitation center where Lost Boys go to recover. Sometimes, all that is needed is a shoulder to lean on or words of wisdom and encouragement. Papa Ray has a vast array of stories and jokes that never fail to brighten a gloomy day or spirit. Whatever the need, no matter the time of day, there is never pause for contemplation, Papa Ray is always "on call" and available to serve.

I guess the most important thing that the Lost Boys have discovered in knowing Ray Storms, is something that they once thought had been lost forever; the love of a father. The love that they.ve now found in a man they call "Papa Ray."


Impact on the Community:

The impact of volunteers like Papa Ray for non-profit foundations, such as Alliance for the Lost Boys of Sudan, is immeasurable. With the downward spiral of the US economy, we rely heavily on the efforts and support of our volunteers for raising needed funds and also in helping to raise awareness for the on-going plight of the Sudanese people. Papa Ray is always available for fund raisers and public speaking events. However, the biggest impact of Papa Ray.s efforts in our community is on the people served by the Alliance. I.ve included statements by a few of those people:


Papa Ray is a person that we pray will live a long time so that he can be with us in times of trouble to cheer us up with his jokes and stories and to make life fun for us. When we are tired from our struggles, being with Papa Ray makes us feel refreshed. If you have Papa Ray around, you do not need a dictionary, because he knows everything.
My name is Peter Apai and I approved this message.

A lot of people have received help in some way or another from Papa Ray. Mostly, when we have problems with cars, either at midnight or in a heavy rain, we call him and he comes. Everybody is amazed how Papa Ray helps endlessly. We were watching TV the other day, and a Lost Boy in Australia was having somebody help him. We said wow! They too have their Papa Ray! From now on we will associate anybody who is doing something good for others somewhere, as Papa Ray.
William Kou Deng

Papa Ray means a lot to me. He has the best heart and is always helping me with every need that I have. Whether it's teaching me about American culture, telling me jokes and stories that make me laugh or helping me with my school work, he is always there for me. I cannot miss my father when I am with Papa Ray. It is God who will repay him for all the good things that he does for me and others. There is no one that can compare to Papa Ray. He is an amazing person.

John Khot

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Prize Description

The National Winner’s designated non-profit charity will receive a $5,000 donation, courtesy of Home Instead, Inc., the franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® franchise network. Each Local Winner’s designated non-profit charity will receive a $500 donation. All Winners will receive a certificate and a spot in the Contest’s “Wall of Fame” here on SaluteToSeniorService.com in recognition of their outstanding service.

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