Wood Avenue neighbors welcome students


Brooke J. Freundschuh, Managing Editor

Many University of North Alabama students park in the student parking lot outside of the Appleby East and West dormitories. Those who park here must cross through an alley to reach the crosswalk that runs across North Wood Avenue to the campus. This alley runs in between two homes of Florence residents. Many students are familiar with these residents’ cats who often greet student passersby. 

On Sept. 29, the neighbors of Wood Avenue gathered together under the carport of the home of Lynn and Anne Ray to pass out cups of homemade ice cream to students passing through. 

They offered two kinds – chocolate and coffee flavored – having no idea that it was National Coffee Day in the United States and Canada. 

“The neighbors on Wood Avenue really appreciate the students who go through here and the fact that they chose UNA,” Lynn Ray said. “We just want to do something, because the ones especially here in these dorms are away from home. We feel like we can do something like homemade ice cream. They’re not at home, so they miss it.”

The Ray family was accompanied by the Stangel family – June, Mirium, Chris and Andrew – who helped serve ice cream and were ready to socialize with the students passing through. 

They began doing things for students in the 2019-2020 school year, but were put on hold because of COVID-19, as they wanted to ensure the safety of themselves and the students. In the past they served cookies, coffee and hot chocolate.

“We’re so thrilled to be able to see all of you guys smile,” said Lynn Ray. 

Lynn Ray shares that when they first moved into their home on North Wood Avenue, that everyone warned them that they would have to deal with the students passing by on the cross walk. However, they love meeting students who pass by. Anne Ray even shared that they have had international students over to teach them to cook foods from their countries. 

The rain took over the event, but the weather could not stop the neighbors from encouraging students. They simply moved underneath the carport, and invited students to wait with them until the rain passed. 

“We try to hand out umbrellas sometimes to,” Anne Ray said. “We go to estate sales and collect one or two dollar umbrellas, so when we see people run by without one, we’ll say ‘use it and drop it off when it quits raining.”

Ray shared that she herself is a graduate of UNA, where she majored in Biology and Art. Lynn Ray started out going to UNA before being sent to Vietnam as a member of the National Guard, where he was a machine gun operator.

Lynn and Anne Ray met in Florence, where they both grew up. They first met in 1964 when they were attending Appleby Junior High School, which used to sit in the spot of the dorms with the same name. They were unaware that the dorms were named Appleby, and were thrilled that the name is still around, right outside of their home.

The Rays’ share that their interest in helping international students began when their son, who also attended UNA, married an international student from Serbia. Their daughter-in-law graduated with a degree in communications and went on to be a field reporter who reported to Serbia from the United States.

The Wood Avenue neighbors are planning to do more events in the winter to share brownies and warm drinks with students as well, all for the reason of making them smile and feel at home on the UNA campus.