After facing some difficult and challenging times in his home state of Tennessee, Ray Joyce decided to make a big move northward to Minneapolis in March 2020 to get a fresh start.
And then the pandemic hit — rocking everyone’s world, including Ray’s.
Without a job or a place to live, Ray went to Harbor Light Center in downtown Minneapolis. Operated by the Salvation Army, this safe place offers people a wide range of services to help them stabilize their lives.
While living at Harbor Light, Ray was referred to Park Avenue for three months and then after, to the Life Rebuilders program of transitional housing and support programming, where he lived until December 2020.
Pauline Shimada-Hayward, a senior social worker with Hennepin Health, began meeting with Ray to help determine the services he would need to get a good start in his new town. She matched him up with a mental health therapist and medical doctor.
“I can’t thank Pauline enough for connecting me to all the programs and resources I have recieved with her help,” said Ray.
In addition, Pauline referred Ray to Rise Employment Consultant Jennifer Wiza for career planning, job placement, and follow-up support services.
After years of working in maintenance and construction jobs, the 52-year-old Ray decided he wanted to change career fields.
“I really wanted to work with and care for people by getting my certified nursing assistant’s license,” said Ray.
“He was really driven to make it all work,” said Jen. “We spent most of the summer researching how Ray could earn his nursing assistance certification (CNA), looking for job opportunities, and updating his resume to better reflect his tremendous ‘people skills,’ strong work ethic, and passion to help others.”
Ray was hired by Benedictine Living Community-Minneapolis in August. Still working on getting his CNA certification, he helps bathe, feed, and care for the senior residents.
Since he doesn’t have a car and relies on public transportation, Jen assisted Ray in finding long-term housing within walking distance of work, shopping, and his church.
Prior to moving, Ray was getting up at 3 a.m. to take two buses to work. Now that he’s much closer, he can “sleep in” until 4:15 a.m. to punch in for his eight-hour shift.
“Living out in the country, hard work was part of everyday life; it feels good to be able to take care of your family and yourself,” said Ray, a man of deep and abiding faith. “But all of us need help sometimes, and I am so grateful to Jen and Pauline, and my doctors for helping me navigate through all these big changes that I’ve made.”
His supervisors at Benedictine appreciate his good work. “One of them wanted to know if I had ever thought of becoming a nurse, so evidently, I’m doing real good!” Ray added.
His supervisor. Steve, says, “Since joining the team, Ray has been blowing us out of the water with his great attitude, warm heart, and caring actions.”
“I was raised to care about people – I love people and I love my job. I never thought that I could do this kind of work. I can look into people’s eyes to connect with them and understand what they need. God has put me right where He wants me to be.”
Ray has three grown daughters living in Tennessee. In his free time, Ray enjoys walking in the park, socializing with his community, and developing new friendships.
This article appears in the March 2021 issue of the Rise Reporter.