For ERC's Rod Coleman, Barling Elementary is personal.
For Rod Coleman, Barling Elementary is personal.
He went there. He's still there.
Few partnerships have been as strong, long-lasting and as personal as Rod Coleman's bond with Barling Elementary School. His family's company, ERC, has headquarters on his ancestor's family farm, a stone's throw from the school. Rod attended Barling Elementary and says his first-, third- and sixth-grade teachers "changed my life."
Coleman is known as a dynamic, positive leader in Barling and Fort Smith and as an active church member and philanthropist who works hard on many civic and social causes.
But other than his family and his church, almost no project has his heart as much as Barling Elementary.
Retiring principal Diane Isaacs became his grateful associate more than 15 years ago when Coleman called to volunteer as a partner to the school. Among the generous gifts she recently recalled Coleman providing are a brick storage building, portable walls inside the school, a conference table and chairs and, most recently, a $10,000 donation to help complete a new playground.
But the gift of time from Coleman and ERC employees was what she valued most. He and they have spent countless hours reading to or tutoring students, helping kindergarten children through the unfamiliar lunch line in the first few weeks of school and working at school carnivals.
Coleman remembers that after attending Chaffin Junior High and moving up to Northside High School, he realized for the first time that some kids thought Barling was a poorer place to go to school. "It had never occurred to me - I thought it was great," he said.
"Today, Barling Elementary is the nicest school in the Fort Smith School District," he declares with a bit of a hometown gleam in his eye.