We had the good fortune of connecting with Ray Young and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ray, what do you attribute your success to?
The biggest factor behind my success has been my faith. My faith has enabled me to get through being jobless for two years (with a Master’s Degree) and practically being homeless myself. Because of my faith, I was able to overcome a lifelong illness, cyclical depression, and push past the abundance of naysayers when I have shared my vision of The Dignity Bus Project. My faith has allowed me to think outside the box and create resources that did not exist with the goal of implementing even more in the future to help those in need. It has also propelled me to keep going when there was no funding, when the volunteers did not show up, when an event that I poured my heart into didn’t get the support that I thought it would; faith kept me going. My faith is the driving force behind stepping outside of my comfort zone, meeting people where they are and reminding them that they are loved, they have purpose, and encourage them that life will get better. I didn’t know it at the time, but the motto of my brand, Light up the Darkness, is a direct reflection of the life and servant hood of Jesus. I would not be where I am without it, nor will I ever doubt anything that I can do now that I realized the power of Faith.

What should our readers know about your business?
Bridge of Light is a non-profit organization created to uplift, support, and encourage individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty. We exist to shine a light on the forgotten as we believe that Everyone Deserves Dignity. We serve people in need with the intention of helping each individual transition into self-sufficiency. Our ultimate goal is to help more youth before they are in situations that are destitute. We also purpose to help those who have fallen on hard times, whether it be from a divorce, a tragedy, mental health issues, or a combination of unfortunate events that led to job and home loss.

We are beyond excited about our newest addition – “Dignity Bus II – The Clean Slate Project!” Creating a second mobile resource center will allow us to exponentially expand the amount of youth and adults we help transition to self-sufficiency for years to come. The Clean Slate Project consists of converting a shuttle bus into a mobile laundry facility. (We will be the first mobile laundry mat in ATL!!) This mobile unit will be renovated and comprised of multiple washing machines, dryers, a WiFi cafe and hygiene products. Individuals in need will be able to wash and dry their clothing for free. They will also be able to utilize and advance their technology skills while waiting on their clothing to be cleaned. The Clean Slate Project will be beneficial as it affirms dignity for the owners of the clothing – helping them possess a greater sense of belonging; eliminates the need for a continuous cycle of new clothing “disposable clothing”; reduces the potential contamination of Covid-19; diminishes landfill in our communities as individuals without homes have nowhere to place soiled clothing.

Bridge of Light has gotten to where we are today through grit, perseverance, passion, and love. It is not easy having a nonprofit in a sea of orgs all over the city. We focus on unmet, essential needs and continue to bridge the gap to fulfill those. As we currently offer hot showers, hair cuts, underwear, socks, and other hygiene items, we are often asked to partner with groups that serve food and give out clothing. As great things happen when people come together, it is our honor to continue to show up and provide resources to help people feel good about themselves. However, this does not come without challenges. As a newer (in operation for 5 years) nonprofit, it is very difficult obtaining grants that some of the bigger, longstanding orgs receive. I feel like we have set ourselves apart, but we are often rejected for grants that I feel that we should receive. This is where the grit and life experience come in – we will continue to show up and serve with love, affirming dignity for those we encounter; at the right time, I believe that we will finally be “seen” and afforded grant that will allow us to grow the business and employee multiple staff full time.

“The people who are trying to make the world worse are not taking a day off. How can I? Light Up the Darkness” – Bob Marley

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
– If my best friend was coming to Atlanta for a week: – Monday – Drive to Cloudland Canyon – go on a nice hike – then head to their Vineyard to wine down; Dinner at Atlanta Fish Market
– Tuesday – Take a trip to the National Center for Civil Rights downtown; take a walk through centennial park; Happy Hour at Oku Sushi, head to Ormsby’s for games, and then Republic Social House for $2 Tuesdays
– Wednesday – Grab lunch at Superica at Krog Street Market, then talk a walk on the beltline to Old 4th Ward park, then have dinner at Bar Vegan and drinks on the PCM roof
– Thursday – Brunch at Thumbs Up; Bike the Westside Beltline – End the night at ATL United Game at the Benzo; Night Cap – Fellaship
– Friday – Pack up the tubes and ride down the Chattahoochee; That evening, Have dinner at Sport and Social and catch the Bravos at the Battery – then end the night at Punch Bowl
– Saturday – Play a game of Co-Ed Flag Football at Piedmont Park – then head to New Realm for Brews and Grub; Night Cap – Catch a show a St James Live or City Winery (depending on who is performing)
– Sunday – Worship Sess @ Buckhead Church then Brunch at C & C Social House; continue Sunday Funday by heading over to Triton Yards for great food, drinks, and games

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to dedicate my shoutout to my amazing grandma, Gwendolyn Allen. She has been an entrepreneur and faith leader for years before Alzheimer’s began to affect her memory. She is the most loving, genuine, honest individuals that I have ever met. She taught me how to truly love people, all people and I strive to honor her legacy daily.

I would also like to thank my big bro Terence Lester, leader of Love Beyond Walls. Without his push to stop waiting and follow through with my vision, I might still be sitting on the sidelines trying to perfect it all. He is the definition of Good Pressure and I am forever grateful that our paths crossed when they did.

Website: Bridgeoflightatl.org

Instagram: @bridgeoflightatl

Other: Email: Connect@bridgeoflightatl.org

Image Credits
@lydiabrannenphoto – Lydia Brannen @justjewell2 – Jewell Foster

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