EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — East Cleveland city leaders paid tribute to filmmaker, actor, and music artist Ray Winegarner, better known as Ray Jr., for his consistent philanthropy in helping his community.
City leaders renamed Fifth Avenue in East Cleveland Ray Jr's Way and presented the East Cleveland native with a proclamation and key to the city for helping to provide food and funding for the needy.
East Cleveland Deputy Clerk of Council Justyn Anderson told News 5 Ray Jr. has quietly helped dozens of teens realize their true potential, as Ray Jr. prepares to host his own all-star game at Warrensville High School on Feb.19 and issue $20,000 in scholarships to Warrensville and East Cleveland students during Black History Month.
“He is a husband, father, and a community hero," Anderson said. “When the Shaw High School basketball team needed new jerseys to play basketball we found out it was Ray Jr.."
Ray Jr. has acted in and been involved in producing five movies, including the popular comedy "Rent Due" in 2020, which is now airing on the Starz streaming service.
The music and film artist told News 5 being involved in filmmaking and giving back to his community was the fulfillment of decade long dream.
“I wrote my first movie in 2008, but I didn’t have the money to film it so I just sat on it until 2018 when I had the money to film it," Ray Jr. said. “It just felt good doing something positive and being a positive role model.”
“So for me to have a positive impact on my community, that’s what it’s all about. It’s just about making people feel like they can make it out of the city.”
Ray Jr's mother, Natasha Watts said her son's focus and priorities have allowed him to be such a positive example to his hometown.
“I’m so grateful that he’s been what the scriptures say steadfast, unmovable, always abounded in the work of the Lord," Watts said. “Anytime you do anything for your community, the scripture says when you give to the poor, you are lending to the Lord.”
Ray Jr. told News 5 he'll continue to extend a helping hand any way that he can, and share his platform to help others.
“It’s a positive vibe, it's just like the Cavs winning right now, you feel me, it's just like you feel better watching the game, it’s like I know they might not lose," Ray Jr. said. "I wanted to do this on 216 day because it shows that somebody from Cleveland can come from the bottom and prosper.”