0

Motorcycle club aids single father

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Rocky Rhodes has been working 10- to 12-hour shifts every day for a month.

"It's tough, and it's tiring," the 37-year-old union worker said.

Rhodes, a McDonough native who currently lives in Mableton, is a recently-divorced single father, with full custody of his 4-year-old daughter, Gracey.

He pulled the long hours as a millwright for Union No. 1263 in Atlanta, to provide the kind of Christmas he wanted his child to have.

Members of the Iron Warriors Motorcycle Club learned of his plight and sprang into action, offering help. The non-profit, community-support motorcycle club, which chartered its first Georgia chapter in June, adopted Gracey for Christmas.

"We provided a $100 gift card for the father," said Carol Wood, a member of the club and a training instructor with the Henry County Police Department. "We asked everybody to bring a gift, and everybody brought several gifts."

The 19-member organization donated items of clothing, learning games, dolls, and stuffed animals, during its December monthly meeting.

The club's support for Rhodes and his daughter came by happenstance, according to Wood.

One day in November, Wood noticed a pile of used clothing near her friend, and co-worker, Rhonda Ricci's desk. She asked about them.

Ricci, the executive assistant to Henry County Police Chief Russell Abernathy, said she bought the clothes from a consignment sale at her church to give them to her niece, Gracey.

"I told her that I try to pick up something here and there, when I can," said Ricci. "I shared the story with her -- didn't know that she was a member of a motorcycle club, or that they adopted children. I didn't know any of that."

Ricci said she told Wood of her brother's recent struggles after becoming divorced, and how he is raising his daughter as he pursues schooling to become a master welder.

"I guess it's hard enough for a dad to raise a girl on his own," Ricci said. "He gets up at 4 o'clock in the morning to go to work, and he works paycheck to paycheck."

Wood said she took the story back to other members of the Iron Warriors Motorcycle Club. They agreed to adopt Gracey for Christmas, and provide her with clothes and toys.

"Everybody just got really excited," Wood said. "It was just absolutely wonderful. We made a very special day with that girl that I don't think she will ever forget."

Ricci said her brother welcomed the motorcycle club's help.

"He was overwhelmed," she said.

"When you get down and you feel like you're stuck in a rut, and you have people like the Iron Warriors ... it's an uplifting experience. I truly feel blessed having them in my life," Rhodes said recently.

"Gracey is older than her age," he added. "She has accepted all of the changes, and she's asked for so little. She's really a great kid."

Rhodes' sister believes her brother, and niece, have enriched each others' lives despite their circumstances.

"When he had Gracey, it changed his life," Ricci said. "He's a hard worker and he wants a better life for his daughter. My hope is that they continue to be blessed with wonderful friends, a job, good health, and having each other. They're going to have to lean on each other. I think he will do fine. I'm his biggest fan."

As for Rhodes, he plans to spend time with his daughter this holiday season, teaching her how to ride her new bike.

"If the weather permits," he said, "I'll take her out and let her ride her bike for the first time."