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Rosedale anti-gun activist seeks home for group

Nine years ago, Liz Goldsmith lost her 27-year-old godson to gun violence.

Now the Rosedale resident is struggling to find a new home for the organization she founded following that tragedy, Mothers Against Guns.

Until last month, Goldsmith ran the organization out of an office on Linden Boulevard in Cambria Heights. But she found she could not cover the $6,000 in yearly rent, despite the support of Councilmen Allan Jennings (D-Jamaica) and James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton).

So she moved the operation into her home but still hopes to find a new office as soon as she can. One possibility recently presented itself when the owner of a property on Farmers Boulevard near 109th Avenue in Hollis offered to let Goldsmith take over free of charge. But there was one condition: The organization would have to renovate the vacant building itself.

"If there's contractors out there who want to donate their time, we'd gladly accept," Goldsmith said.

The concept for Mothers Against Guns came to Goldsmith in 1994, after her godson Purnell Williams was killed outside the Jamaica nightclub where he worked as a security guard.

"He had asked some rowdy patrons to leave, and they didn't like it," Goldsmith recounted. "They waited for him outside the building."

One of the group put 17 bullets into the 27-year-old's body, Goldsmith said.

"I was writing my godson's obituary when I decided I was a mother against guns," she said.

The organization focuses on support and social activities for victims, and generally stays away from politics.

"We try to bring families and others together to share moments and show that others share their pain," she said.

That includes a pre-Mother's Day lunch for families of victims of gun violence, traditionally attended by many elected officials from southeast Queens. This year, for the first time, the pre-Mother's Day lunch will be held on Mother's Day, and the "pre" will be dropped from the event's name.

There are now chapters of Mothers Against Guns in Silver Spring, Md.; Chicago; Gahanna, Ohio; San Francisco and St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Following a recent BBC interview with Goldsmith, a chapter has even been formed in London.

Goldsmith's top goal for the future - after finding a new home - is to establish an after-school youth program. Dubbed BULLET, Believers United Learning Loving Enduring Together, the program would teach young people nonviolent methods of conflict resolution.

But even achieving modest goals is difficult when the operation is run on a shoestring budget, she said.

Aside from Goldsmith, Mothers Against Guns consists of a vice president, an outreach worker and a public relations specialist, all of whom volunteer their time.

"We all do what we can," she said. "We all have full-time jobs."

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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