Deb Jones, president of the United Way of Linn County, has high praise for outgoing executive director Greg Roe.
“The Boys & Girls Clubs of Rogue Valley don’t know what’s coming their way," she said, "but they will love every minute of the ride with Greg leading the pack.”
Roe’s productive 15-year tenure in the mid-valley ends Wednesday as he takes over leadership of the Boys & Girls Club that serves more than 5,000 young people annually.
"Greg has left such an incredible mark on this community. He would give you the shirt off his back if he could and I think he actually has,” Jones said. “Not so long ago, I found a young girl sitting alone in the cold, crying. I called Greg for guidance, and he dropped everything to help. We found her a safe place to stay that night, and then he picked her up the next day, got her connected with an employment agency to help find her a job, while he tracked down her parents. By the end of the day, she was home safe.
“That’s the kind of person he is and that’s the kind of leadership he exemplified at United Way of Linn County.”
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Roe’s wife Laurie has taken a position with Rogue Community College.
Today, Roe is playing in United Way’s annual golf tournament at Mallard Creek Golf Course, and he says that’s a great way to end his mid-valley career, since it’s one of his favorite events of the year.
“It’s been the best 15 years of my life,” Roe said. “I have made so many great friends throughout the entire county. Each community is different, but I have friends from Sweet Home to Albany. It’s such a welcoming area.”
Linn County loses not only Roe, but also Yoda, his 7-year-old Chihuahua rescue dog.
“He’s the United Way’s director of public relations,” Roe said.
Roe grew up near Eugene and worked in the family’s roofing business for several years before attending Southern Oregon University and completing a Master’s Degree in public administration at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
“I completed my graduate thesis as an intern at the United Way of Northern Arizona,” he recalled.
Roe returned to the Willamette Valley and spent three years with the Humane Society of the Willamette Valley in Salem until taking the job in Albany.
He still has a soft spot in his heart for animals and Yoda comes to work with him every day.
Roe sees the United Way as the catalyst to make positive changes in communities.
“I think we need to give people hope,” he said. “My brother had drug and alcohol problems and he didn’t have hope.”
Roe said he is proud of the work the United Way has done concerning drug-abuse issues and in helping develop the mobile dental van that grew into the dental clinic at the Boys & Girls Club.
“This has really served a lot of people,” he said.
The 2-1-1 telephone database has been extremely popular and useful for families during the recent recession. With one call, families can learn about numerous services available in their area, from rental assistance to free or low-cost medical care.
Working with the Rotary Clubs of Linn County and the Albany Public Library, Roe said the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program has provided more than 38,000 books to children in the last 18 months.
“This is a tremendous program that addresses literacy issues in our county,” he said.
Roe said the passage of bonds to build a new fire hall, police department and support schools in the last two years shows how cohesive the mid-valley has become.
In addition to his work with United Way, Roe has remains active with the Humane Society, the Commission on Children and Families and the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.
He also was recognized as a Junior First Citizen by the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and as a Most Valuable Person by the Democrat-Herald.
Roe said he wishes he could have helped develop a program to help families based on the need of children who use the dental clinic at the Boys & Girls Club.
“We take care of those kids and then they go home and their parents can’t find a job or have other issues,” he said. “We spend a lot of money on kids, which we should, but what are their challenges at home? I think most people want to succeed, they just need a little help to get there.”
Janet Steele, executive director of the Albany Chamber of Commerce, said she was president-elect of the United Way board when Roe was hired.
"Greg has had an immense impact on Linn County and the many businesses and organizations he has worked with,” she said. “He's been instrumental in the new initiatives created for our area; including the dental clinic, 211 System, and most recently the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. He will be missed by all of us and I wish him well in his new position."
Blake Pang, currently with the United Way of Spokane County, has been hired as a regional chief executive officer and will be working with both the United Way of Linn County and the United Way of Benton & Lincoln Counties.
The organizations will remain separate, but will operate in collaboration with each other.
“Blake will work across all three counties to create, build and sustain collaboration, to strengthen existing relationships within the community and identify new opportunities to serve,” said Rod Aust of the United Way of Benton & Lincoln Counties.
Pang has more than 15 years of United Way and nonprofit leadership experience, and is currently the vice president of resource development for the Spokane County United Way in Washington.
“He has an impressive track record of program development and growth, as well as positive community impact,” Aust said.
Pang is a graduate of Linfield College and has many ties to this mid-valley.
Pang will replace both Roe and Jennifer Moore, the former executive director of the United Way of Benton and Lincoln Counties. Moore left that position in March amid a disagreement with the organization's board of directors.
Aust said the two boards of directors will remain separate under the terms of a memorandum of understanding for 24 months. After that, both organizations will review how to proceed.
The memo of understanding charges Pang with exploring additional efficiencies between the organizations. He will be paid $90,000 annually.
Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.