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    Giving Back: Ray Rodriguez

    Twenty-six years ago, Ray Rodriguez moved from the Bronx to Bethlehem for a different life. He had grown up hustling on the streets of New York City, but by the time his first child was born, he had had enough. “When I came out here, I heard no gunshots —I heard birds and crickets. What a difference!” Today, Ray gives back to the community he loves through his work at the food pantry in the Mollard Hospitality Center at New Bethany Ministries where, last year, they distributed more than 41,000 meals. But the road between moving to this community and serving it was a difficult one. Drug addiction and mental illness took over. “My wife at the time became my get-high partner,” he says, “and it got to the point where I thought I’d lose my kids, so the best thing for me to do was get the help I needed.”

     

    Ray ended up homeless in 1999 and went to Safe Harbor in Easton for 30 days. After that, he found New Bethany and started volunteering. He’s been there ever since, moving to his current part time position two years ago.

     

    “I love cooking,” he says, “that’s my passion.” Last year the Bethlehem Police Department wanted to help cook and serve Thanksgiving dinner. “It turned out real good,” Ray says, “and I ended up cooking 32 turkeys.” Ray’s got a passion for cooking, sure, but it’s inseparable from his passion for helping others. He’s been there, he’s fought through it, and has been giving back to the people who are now where he once was.

     

    “At the end of the day,” says Ray, “all the employees here are one big family happy to help those less fortunate.”