Support the Ray Anderson Scholarship FundWhen a child walks through the doors of the Northeast Youth Center in Hillyard, Ray Anderson, affectionally known as Ray-Ray, greets them with a big smile, unconditional love, and words of encouragement. For more than two decades, Ray has impacted thousands of kids’ lives, and there is no greater honor for him.

“I feel like I’m a father. So I make sure they’re on the right path, and I don’t make a big deal about it,” said Ray.

Ray is a humble, gentle giant with an incredible knack for connecting with kids. He’s always been that way. As one of nine kids growing up in Louisiana, Ray was surrounded by brothers and sisters. Neighbors would often ask him to babysit.

As a teenager, Ray got in trouble at school, and his mom sent him to live with family in Yakima, WA.

“I was a knucklehead, and I was sent to live with my aunt and uncle just like in the Fresh Prince of BelAir,” said Ray.

The Northeast Youth Center is located in the heart of Hillyard. The center is a beacon of light and hope for many low-income families. The center provides before and after-school care, tutoring, preschool, summer activities, and more. For many kids, Ray is a positive role model, often turning to him for words of wisdom when times are tough.

“I know, I’ve been there. I can relate to most of the kids here. I tell them we can change as we grow up. I changed. I tell them everything will be fine, take a deep breath, and it will be a good day,” said Ray.

Over the past 22 years, Ray has done everything at the youth center, from whipping up a batch of southern mac n’ cheese, driving kids to and from school, and building maintenance to homework helper and problem solver.

“When I first started, I thought I would be here a couple of years. But then my heart got into it, and I’m still here,” said Ray.

Ray is now greeting the children of the kids he first started working with decades ago. His granddaughter also attended preschool at the youth center.

Kids who’ve aged out of the programs at the youth center will often stop by and update Ray on the successes in their lives, much like a close family member. Once, the Executive Director got her oil changed at a local store, and the boys working there saw her NEYC shirt and said, “We went there! Is Ray Ray still there?” Kids remember Ray Ray.

“It’s so awesome. When they come by, I have tears in my eyes. It’s so awesome to see them,” said Ray.

Ray will officially retire on January 12, 2024- time with family, fishing, and a lake cabin call his name. But, even so, his presence will be felt in the halls of the youth center for years to come.

“I will stop in and see how they’re doing,” said Ray.