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Community Changemaker: Marlee Ray, ’75

One of the things I’m constantly doing is seeking and advocating for funds and grants that will help us make a difference.

After a 32-year career in public education, during which she worked mostly with academically gifted students in a variety of roles, Marlee Ray, ’75, was ready for a new challenge.Photo of Marlee Ray, class of 1975, seated at desk, wearing bright green blazer

She had a desire to continue working and making a difference in the community, so when she was offered the role of executive director of WAGES – the Wayne Action Group for Economic Solvency – she happily accepted.

“It was a great way to branch out and do something different, but also to continue to give back to the community,” Ray said of her career change.

For the past seven years, the focus of Ray’s work has shifted to concentrate on WAGES’ three central goals: mobilizing resources, improving the community, and changing lives of citizens for the better.

Based in Goldsboro, N.C., WAGES is the Community Action Agency (CAA) for Wayne County that plans, develops, administers, and implements human services programs designed specifically for that community. Programs offered include First Steps for expectant mothers and their newborns; Head Start and Early Head Start for young children; a self-sufficiency program for adults living below the poverty line; and Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions, and Meals on Wheels for seniors.

“People will say ‘Oh, I know Meals on Wheels, I know Head Start, but I didn’t know that was WAGES,’” said Ray.

In her position, Ray is responsible for securing the resources that enable WAGES to continue providing these programs in the community. “One of the things I’m constantly doing is seeking and advocating for funds and grants that will help us make a difference,” said Ray.

She also uses her leadership and teaching strengths to make a positive impact. “You have to have the passion to say ‘what can I do to help you do it for yourself?’ Not ‘what can I do to help you,’ but ‘what can I do to help you do it for yourself?’ Then you’ve built that structure in place for them to continue to grow and be successful, which is key to what we do.”

Ray continually sees how these programs benefit the community. “What stands out to me are the human stories – the impact that a CAA can make on a person’s life, and we get those daily,” said Ray. “We receive the most wonderful thank you notes from people and families who say ‘you made a difference.’”

Melyssa Allen

News Director
316 Johnson Hall
(919) 760-8087
Fax: (919) 760-8330

allenme@meredith.edu