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Boston’s Gang Peace Wins Presidential Honor

December 31, 1993

BOSTON (AP) _ When former addict and gang member Rodney Dailey straightened out his life, he decided he couldn’t turn his back on the kids who saw the streets as their only option.

The youth organization Dailey founded three years ago, Gang Peace, was honored Thursday as President Bush’s 1,000th Point of Light.

″So many people talk about getting theirs and getting out and never going back to the community,″ Dailey, 36, said on New Year’s Eve as he rushed to hook up two new Nintendo games in the Gang Peace offices in Boston. ″I helped mess things up. I got to help fix it. It’s the right thing to do.″

Gang Peace has about 1,500 youthful members and about 600 clients who receive specialized services, including regular checkup calls. It has a full- time staff of five, about 1,000 volunteers and an annual budget of $180,000 raised from public and private sources, including sales of Gang Peace T- shirts, windbreakers and hats.

″We have a goal of selling a million T-shirts in two years,″ Dailey said.

In recogniing Gang Peace, Bush achieved his 1988 campaign goal: honoring 1,000 ″points of light″ for their volunteerism. Bush intends to keep naming honorees until his last day in office, 1,020 in all.

A Gang Peace hat on his head, a diamond winking from one ear, Dailey spoke of how the Point of Light award should be more than a momentary flash of interest from the government.

″We want the United States of America to assist us and never let the light go out,″ he said.

A drug dealer until his own addiction ate up the profits, Dailey turned his life around and promised to help others do the same. While he was studying management and human services at the University of Massachusetts, Dailey rented a storefront in the heart of gang territory for a youth center.

He helped kick out the drug dealers and squatters upstairs and reached an arrangement with the bank that had foreclosed on the property.

Patricia Dee, executive vice president of Wainwright Bank & Trust Co. of Boston, said the bank is working with Dailey to begin a campaign to raise the $500,000 to $600,000 needed to build a new center.

″I just think he’s got the commitment and the energy,″ Dee said.

Gang Peace’s suite of offices now includes a music studio with keyboards and recording equipment, a small kitchen, a room furnished with computers for correspondence college courses and a recreation room. An empty lot next door has been turned into a playground.

Nearly every square foot of wall space is plastered with posters promoting sexual responsibility, warning against drug use or celebrating various musicians or causes.

Eighteen-year-old Lillian Semidey of Boston said she had dropped out of school and was ″getting into a lot of fights″ before she joined Gang Peace nearly three years ago. ″I got locked up a couple of times,″ she recalled.

″Rodney used to get down and talk with me,″ she said. ″Right now I got a job because of him ... Rodney helped me get (back) into school.″

Dailey said his group tries to refocus young people primarily by steering them away from the narcotics business.

″Business is the key. Business is the answer,″ Dailey said. ″Youth need to be in business - the clothing business, the food business.″

This doesn’t mean sponsoring make-work projects; Dailey derisively calls that ″cutting weeds.″

″Every kid out there wants a job. They don’t want to cut down weeds because what kind of a career is that?″

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