“I finally found the one thing that gave me purpose, and that’s helping people who are in need.”

Meet the Browns

Ray and his partner Libby, his golden-retriever service dog, captured my heart as I spent the afternoon riding with him on their RSVP assignment as a food pantry pick-up driver. Ray is a very soft-spoken gentleman with a big heart. After retirement and several business adventures of his own, Ray joined RSVP in 2017.

Since joining, Ray needed some assistance keeping his health on track and found Libby through Dunes Dog Training Club, a wonderful companionship program that bring veterans and rescued dogs together. Libby has been his sidekick ever since, helping him to stay active and keep healthy while on assignment.

Ray currently volunteers as a Foodbank of Northwest Indiana driver and a driver for Adam Benjamin V.A. Clinic based in Crown Point to drive veterans to and from their medical appointments at Jesse Brown V.A. Clinic in Chicago. In addition, Ray has expanded his role to be a companionship volunteer driving area residents with transportation needs to and from their doctor appointments and the grocery store.

Born and raised in Harlem, New York, Ray spoke vividly about his years growing up and how his mom, Lucy Brown, was the biggest influence in his life. He started working at Praxair in East Hartford, Connecticut as a technician and ended his career as an engineer after thirty years. He then kept busy with business adventures of his own – charter boat captain, commercial diver instructor and a second-class deep sea diver, a Yellowstone USS diver and then building wooden playgrounds with his son. But for Ray something was missing, his purpose.

That’s when he decided to retire for good and join his wife, Marie, as a RSVP volunteer and here he finally discovered his niche. Ray spoke passionately about volunteering, “I finally found the one thing that gave me purpose, and that’s helping people who are in need.”

When I asked why he thought it was important, he said that his mom Lucy who worked in the Burn Unit at a local hospital and always took care of people. She lived her life serving others.

“My mom knew that no one liked doing the dishes, so she would go to places and ask to be the dishwasher because that would guaranteed her a place to serve. Her words have stayed with me all these years.”

Ray’s love of his life, Marie, has been an RSVP volunteer since 2015 and uses her energy and wittiness to brighten up the day of everyone she comes in contact with. Just like Ray, Marie has a heart of Gold and learned it from her mother, Louise Deveau. Still living, every year Louise knits and crochets scarves and hats in Nova Scotia and ships them to the United States to the RSVP program as a donation for children in need. This amazing example inspires Marie to serve and give her life to others.

Ray and Marie have been married 49 years and are planning a vowel renewal ceremony to mark their 50th wedding anniversary next year. They come together at the end of the day and meet in their living room where they often speak French together and doing what they enjoy. During their quality time, you’ll find Ray (who loves his gadgets and all things technology), strumming on his guitar or watching a movie with his headphones on, while Marie enjoys putting together puzzles or doing Yoga. They both agree that they’ve lived a blessed life and understand the importance of paying it forward. They instilled the same values in their three children Paul, Raynelle, and Becky who are carrying on their legacy of service. Together they are an awesome team who have never met a stranger and leaves a puddle of love and kindness wherever they go. In Ray’s words, “joining RSVP gave us an opportunity to reach out to people who need help the most with the simple things that we sometimes take for granted.” Thank you Ray and Marie (and Libby) for your labor and love and commitment to your community!

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