The City of Rock Island is pleased to announce the 2017 Citizen of the Year in eight categories. During the Aug. 28 City Council meeting, the overall Rock Island "Citizen of the Year" will be announced and will serve as Grand Marshal of Labor Day Parade.
2017 Citizen of the Year – Category Winners
Every year, people in the Rock Island community are nominated by their peers for what they do for the community. The City of Rock Island is pleased to announce the 2017 Citizens of the Year in eight categories. A reception will be held at 6:15 p.m. before the City Council meeting on August 28th to honor these recipients. During the August 28th City Council meeting, the overall 2017 Rock Island “Citizen of the Year” will be announced and will serve as Grand Marshal of the Labor Day Parade on Monday, September 4, 2017.
Business Category – Ms. BriMani’s Hair & Beauty Supply
For the past 18 years, owner Nicole Watson has operated Ms. BriMani’s in Rock Island. Her business came into being because Nicole saw a way to help her three daughters and other women to see the beauty in themselves. A die-hard Rock Island fan, Nicole wanted her business to be in Rock Island. “I want to help all young ladies and women of all races to feel good about themselves. The Wig Boutique, which is part of her business, is number one in the country for wigs and extensions. It specializes in helping the poor and sick to feel good about themselves, especially cancer patients. Outgrowing the current location at 703 11th Street, Ms. BriMani’s is looking to expand – but only in Rock Island.
Professional Category – Reverend Stacie Fidlar
Rev. Stacie Fidlar, the “community pastor,” is committed to making Rock Island a better place and truly lives that commitment. As the long-time Pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in Rock Island, her ministry work extends far beyond her role as Pastor. She is a founding member of “The place2b” in downtown Rock Island for homeless and at-risk teens. At St. John’s, she helped open Micah House, housing for Augustana College Students who volunteer time to justice-oriented projects throughout the year. Rev. Fidlar oversees The Outreach at St. John’s, a free food pantry/library. Under her direction, $10,000 in funding was directed to the Highway Career Construction Training Program for minorities, women and low-income individuals at Black Hawk College. She serves on the board of directors of Trinity Unity Point and the Doris & Victor Day Foundation.
Education Category – Berni Carmack
Berni is in her thirty-seventh year of teaching in the Rock Island/Milan School District where she teaches kindergarten at Longfellow Liberal Arts. Berni loves the challenge of engaging the “little bodies and minds” of the young students she teaches on a daily basis. She is involved with many educational organizations: Blackhawk Reading Council, National Education Association (along with Illinois Education Association), American Society for Quality, Kiwanis Kids Club – Student Chapter Co-Advisor, and has served on many building and district level committees/task forces. Berni is also involved with community organizations: Rock Island/Milan First Day Fund and Friends of Douglas Park Committee. Berni has many achievements – one being her success rate at writing, co-writing and receiving grants. She has spent a considerable amount of time researching building or classroom needs; then pursues grants to fulfill them. Berni has a love of giving back to the community in gratitude for their investment in her and her extended family. She is a very loyal person who has great dedication and a commitment to the citizens of Rock Island.
Organization Category – Friends of Hauberg Civic Center
Few organizations have worked as swiftly as the newly formed Friends of Hauberg Civic Center. For the organization’s readiness to answer the City’s call to partner in tending to the beloved Denkmann-Hauberg Estate, the Friends of Hauberg Civic Center have been awarded this year’s Rock Island Citizen of the Year Award. Having only existed for little more than a year, the Friends of Hauberg Civic Center have demonstrated their commitment to preserving the historic Denkmann-Hauberg “Tulip Mansion” by logging more than 1,500 hours of volunteer time revealing and refinishing hardwood floors, repairing aging windows and tending to the surrounding woods. The Friends of Hauberg Civic Center Board of Directors feel as though they are breathing life into the Hauberg Family’s dream that the property be used as a community center; and the dramatically increased number of event rentals is a testimony to their success! This unique public-private partnership has brought civic participation and historic preservation to the forefront of the Rock Island ethos—and they’ve just begun!
Organization Category – Spring Forward Learning Center
Celebrating ten years of good work, Spring Forward Learning Center has given thousands of Rock Island children more hopeful futures through their afterschool and summer programs. In an aim to better build a partnership with the Rock Island/Milan School District, they moved their offices recently to the RIMSD Administrative office. Spring Forward provides opportunities for low-income students to “bridge the achievement gap” in literacy and math. With the belief that every hour counts, the staff works with students in out of school time providing enrichment activities and focused literacy and math intervention, with an overarching goal to get students to read at grade level. Under the direction of Executive Director Dan McNeil, Spring Forward has grown and expanded operating programs in six of Rock Island Schools serving more than 600 students each day.
Individual Category – Matt Stern
Having demonstrated his genuine personal commitment to the betterment of Rock Island, Matt Stern has received this year’s Citizen of the Year Award. Mr. Stern, of the Stern Beverage family business, has lived in Rock Island for most of his life. He is a product of the Rock Island School system and proud of it. After living in New York City and Tokyo, Japan, Mr. Stern decided to move back to hometown Rock Island to help the family business. Since his return, he has invested his time and personal wealth, in Rock Island. He is dedicated to historic preservation and putting Rock Island on the map. Mr. Stern’s choice to invest in our downtown by purchasing and renovating the Stern Center has demonstrated a true spirit of commitment to Rock Island. Mr. Stern also participates in many other activities, such as serving on numerous boards and commissions, including Chairman of the American Bank & Trust Board of Directors, and he also coaches little league baseball.
City Employee Category – John Gripp
The Parks & Recreation Department is one of Rock Island’s greatest amenities, and the successes of the newly established Department Director John Gripp have only reinforced this fact. For this reason, John Gripp is being awarded the Citizen of the Year Award from the City of Rock Island. A native of Rock Island, Mr. Gripp is proud to serve the community as Parks & Recreation Department Director. Since becoming the new director, Mr. Gripp has prioritized transparency and including Rock Island residents in the department’s plans. He has been a member of the Illinois Parks and Recreation Association for 18 years, serves as a non-voting member of the Rock Island Parks Foundation, board member of the Friends of Douglas Park, and is a member of the Friends of Hauberg Civic Center. Much credit is given to Mr. Gripp for pursuing such public-private partnerships with local communities, and the department’s balanced budget demonstrates his dedication to creative problem solving & cooperation.
Youth Category – MyKeisha Wells
MyKeisha is an inspiring young lady, with a genuine concern for her peers. She is very involved in many organizations that positively impact this community. MyKeisha is not only a member of the 4-H Club, but also serves as a Team Teacher, and is a Team Hunger Ambassador. She also is part of their Youth Voices team. MyKeisha has been a member and coordinator of an organization called "Girls Leading the Way" for the past year, and also sits on the State Commission Board for summer academics for the University of Illinois. Her absolute favorite thing to do is volunteer and be a positive influence to those around her, especially the youth. MyKeisha's motivation to get involved is seeing people happy. She has a desire to "pay it forward." MyKeisha told the committee, through her tears, that she loves to help others because others helped her family when they were down and struggling. MyKeisha is a beautiful example to the youth of this community.
Honorary Category (does not live in RI) – Christine Schmidt
Christine Schmidt is the founder and President of “It’s All Love, Only Love Coalition.” It takes up most of her time when she is not raising her family. She volunteers and speaks for free all over about suicide. She has spoken to over 10,000 students, and that does not include countless parents. It is not uncommon to hear from students, “She saved my life.” She gets numerous phone calls from family members that just need to talk. The organization hosts support gatherings and fundraiser walks to raise awareness. Christine knows first-hand the impact of suicide on a family; her 12-year old daughter Morgan died by suicide three years ago. She belongs to the National Alliance for Mental Illness and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She created the It’s all Love, Only Love Coalition to address the problem of suicides and their families. She is just a mom who cares. It is a true ministry of the heart.