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Your Neighbor: Meet Julie Ray

By Mandy Haggerson
For the Clemmons Courier

Julie Ray grew up in Jamestown, Rhode Island, as the youngest of six kids. “I have three brothers and two sisters,” mentions Ray. “There was never a dull moment in our house. We lived close to the beach and were always encouraged to spend a lot of our time outside playing.”

From early on, Ray knew she wanted to pursue education and helping children. “I went to Salve Regina University in New Port, Rhode Island,” says Ray. “As soon as I graduated with my degree in elementary and special education I began teaching. Initially I started teaching in kindergarten but I switched gears to middle school-age children. It’s funny — they don’t think they need you as much as the younger kids do, but often they need you more in different ways though.”

Much like her professional aspirations, Ray never wavered in her personal life either. Julie married her high school sweetheart, Chris, after graduating from college in 1989. They had their sons CJ (1992) and Robbie (1996) shortly after being married. “When my sons were in school, I was able to teach at the same place they attended. I’m sure it wasn’t always the easiest for them to have their mom where they attended, but I enjoyed the chance,” mentions Ray.

When the Ray family was given the opportunity to move to North Carolina for Chris’ job, they found their church was a huge comfort in their transition. “We found Holy Family Catholic Church and felt so welcomed by the community there,” says Ray. “Especially when I decided to home school our daughter, Mary, who we had in 2009 through the Catholic homeschooling program. This past year, I decided to go back to teaching in a local private Catholic school and am still homeschooling my daughter simultaneously. She’s very independent and has thrived in that setting.”

Ray’s appreciation for the importance of education combined with her strong faith has led her to establishing Mary’s Hope in 2018. In 2016, a group of Holy Family parishioners went on a mission trip to Guatemala for a week. They fed 400 children the only meal they would have for that day when they visited orphanages. “It was devastating to see the struggle these children endured and the yearning for a better life. At the root of wanting a sustainable future is education. These children want to be taught, they want to learn. It was humbling. We decided that we would help make that possible for them. We are currently helping 14 families in a community in Santa Maria de Jesus. Of course, COVID-19 has hampered our ability to get the educational program and school up and running, so currently we are focusing on helping the families with basic needs to ensure they are able to take care of themselves and provide meals. We are eager to establish the educational program for the children,” explains Ray.

“Our project manager in Guatemala has been a huge help to us. Even when choosing the location, Santa Maria de Jesus, we saw even in the name it was a sign of us heading down the path that was meant to be,” says Ray. Her hard work for Mary’s Hope has been very rewarding. “I get so much more than I give. I feel that God is always guiding me where I need to go,” Ray notes. “I would love for more people in our community to join in our efforts to change these children’s lives and futures. We are working on fundraisers virtually with a talent show on Dec. 12 and participating in a Dewey’s store locally. Everyone who donates and sponsors Mary’s Hope is kept up to date with emails and soon-to-be-launched blog. They will get to know that these are real families and children and their story. They will be part of the reason their lives’ changes for the better.”

Our neighbor’s dedication to making her community better starts with her passion for helping children. Ray embodies Mahatma Ghandi’s sentiments, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” For more information on Mary’s Hope, go to https://maryshopeinc.org .