The GANG spreading warmth

Friday, December 3, 2010 ~ Updated 9:49 AM
"GANG" members (from left) Amanda Edwards, Rodney Riley and Rose Riley were the first to deliver gently-worn coats to Midtown Cleaners owner Terry Johnson, who will make sure the coats are clean before they are distributed to those in need. The Coats for Kids and Families campaign is the first humanitarian effort launched by newly created GANG (Global Action Network Group) that is based in Carroll County.

BERRYVILLE -- A new nonprofit organization known as "The GANG" is hosting its first humanitarian campaign to spread the word it is here and to distribute gently worn coats to people in the community.

Rose and Rodney Riley head up The GANG. They are two of the board members serving on the nonprofit's 13-member board of directors.

The 11 others are all North Arkansas College students attending classes at the Carroll County campus in Berryville, where Rodney teaches sociology and psychology.

Rodney said he had been discussing the idea of The GANG, which stands for Global Action Network Group, for some time.

"I shared my thoughts with my students and received a tremendous response," he recalled. "Then I went through the process of getting nonprofit status and enlisting the help of the students."

"Our motto is: Changing your community one person at a time, beginning with me," Rose added.

Rose and Rodney, who live in the Buck Mountain area near Beaver Lake, hail from Wisconsin farm families. Rodney studied engineering, went into corporate management, and received a doctorate in adult education while employed as a Texas-based corporate CEO.

Rose, whose area of expertise is in human resources management and leadership skills, worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before accepting a promotion as regional chief of recruitment for the IRS.

Along the way, she was nominated by then-President Ronald Reagan to assist with Americans with Disabilities Act drafts and hobnobbed in the nation's capitol with heads of state.

Both retired and moved to Carroll County, following their daughter and son-in-law who had settled in northwest Arkansas.

Rose and Rodney both teach at Webster University in Rogers. Rodney also has his classes at NorthArk's Carroll County campus where The GANG originated.

The GANG is affiliated with the International Link of Friendship, an organization, Rodney said, "that was designed to generate scholarship funds and promote friendship among all people."

His goal, he said, is to have The GANG recognized as a resource center for distributing goods and information to those in need -- and have The GANG concept spread nationwide.

"The intent is to spread GANG chapters across the nation," Rodney said. "The next would be in the Fayetteville area, one of many auxiliary GANG offices we hope to establish.

"This is the beginning," he said. "We are in our infancy and we are kicking off this holiday season with a campaign -- Coats for Kids and Families."

Amanda Edwards, a college student and a board member in charge of public relations, said all sizes and styles of new or gently-used coats can be dropped off at Midtown Cleaners and Laundry in Berryville where owner Terry Johnson will make sure they are clean.

Anyone needing a coat can call Rose at (479) 981-1253. She said it is a cell phone number dedicated to the cause where people can leave their name and number.

Amanda said it is possible they may have a coat distribution site set up soon. In the meantime, people should call the number.

Funding for future humanitarian campaigns will come from a number of sources, Rodney said.

"I personally will be conducting seminars and talking with church groups, civic organizations and corporate entities," he said. "And, we'll be using grant writing skills."

Another funding option, he said, is encouraging membership in the International Link of Friendship where 30 percent of the membership fee will be diverted to The GANG to help it get its start. Those memberships, he said, are $25 annually, $250 for a lifetime as an ambassador, or $2,500 for a lifetime as a presidential ambassador.

"We are at the ground floor," he noted. "We want to familiarize the community with The GANG. If people have a need, we want to pool resources so we can let them know where to go to get help. We want to award scholarships, not necessarily to those with the highest GPA. We want to find out what the community needs are. It is the board that makes the decisions, not me."

The GANG currently has a dozen members in addition to its board of directors. More members are welcome and encouraged to participate.

A website is in the works. Anyone who wants to contact Rose or Rodney can call the dedicated number -- (479) 981-1253.

Anyone who wants to show their support by donating a new or gently-worn coat can do so by dropping it off at Midtown Cleaners and Laundry, located in the Williams Shopping Center in Berryville.

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