The City of Rock Island is pleased to announce the 2021 Citizens of the Year in seven categories. During the September 27 City Council meeting, all recipients will be announced. All recipients have been invited to participate in the Labor Day Parade.
Citizen of the Year and Organization of the Year: Project NOW
Project NOW has been a pillar in our community for over 53 years. This organization works tirelessly in moving our most vulnerable populations out of poverty. During the COVID 19 pandemic, Project NOW did not fall short of their mission in strengthening communities and working towards moving people out of poverty. When many organizations had to close their doors, Project NOW figured out a way to keep the doors open and continue serving our citizens. Under the direction of Executive Director Dwight Ford, Project NOW provides a plethora of community services including assistance with utilities and rent; food and nutrition programs; clothing vouchers; scholarships; assisting the homeless with securing housing; senior outreach including meals and transportation; Head Start; and weatherization assistance; among other services. Most recently, Project NOW has partnered with the 14th Judicial Circuit in Rock Island County along with the Rock Island County Bar Association, Prairie State Legal Services, Inc., the Salvation Army and others to develop an Eviction Diversion Program. This program’s goal is to keep people housed once the Governor’s moratorium on evictions is lifted sometime in September. Their mission of strengthening communities by helping people help themselves and one another is not only an important one, but one that is deserving of recognition in their effortless work in combating poverty and reaching our underserved populations.
Individual: Thurgood Brooks
Born and raised in Rock Island, Thurgood Brooks is a passionate and dedicated advocate for his beloved community. He currently serves on the Human Rights Commission, the Rock Island County NAACP, coaches football at Rock Island High School, and works at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center as a family advocate. Most recently, he worked with the City of Rock Island in establishing a Police Community Relations Commission in an effort to improve relationships between the police and citizens. Mr. Brooks believes that inspiration is the best thing you can give someone and he hopes to inspire others.
Youth: Riley Jones
Riley Jones is an inspiring young lady with many accomplishments at such a young age. She is currently a junior at Rock Island High School where she is a member of the National Honors Society, plays cello for the orchestra and was recently chosen for the Metro Arts Youth Apprenticeship. She inspires others with her art work. Most recently she was selected as the winner of the Congressional Art Competition for Illinois’ 17th District for her “Black Pride” piece. This piece will not only be displayed at our nation’s Capitol, but a mural was also recently painted in downtown Rock Island. Riley volunteers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center and is very passionate about her community.
Business: Liberty Packaging
For nearly 100 years, Liberty Packaging has served and invested in the Rock Island community. Liberty Packaging has continually supported the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center including volunteering their time to maintain the property, entertaining children at community events, serving breakfast to summer day campers and donating special-made cardboard boxes to assist with delivery of food at Thanksgiving for thousands of residents in the Quad Cities community. Additionally, Liberty Packaging has secured grants from their corporate office for the MLK Center and sponsored events.
City Employee: Carlos H. Jimenez
For over 25 years, Carlos H. Jimenez has served teens in the community by teaching them the skills they need to make good life-decisions. As a Certified Specialist in Drug Prevention, he works at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center where his duties take him to Rock Island-Milan School District classrooms reaching about 1,800-2,000 youth annually. When he enters any Rock Island-Milan school hallway, he is usually greeted by a student who is eager to share a story or information with him. Carlos is a founding member and active participant in the C.A.U.S.E. Coalition and volunteers for the Rock Island Community Foundation, Rock Island NEST and VIVA Quad Cities. He is a proud employee of the City of Rock Island and is quoted saying “part of the reason I love working here is because we are in a sense raising children. We are part of their childhood and adolescent development. I am confident in our youth. I see great things coming up.”
Professional: Justice Thomas L. Kilbride, ret. Illinois Supreme Court
Justice Thomas L. Kilbride, ret. Illinois Supreme Court has been a champion for doing what’s right for the citizens of Rock Island and Illinois for decades. His passion for advocating for those that cannot afford access to legal services started at a young age when he attended law school. He began his legal career providing free legal services (pro bono) to those most in need. He followed his passion by serving the South Rock Island Township and eventually worked his way up to Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. During his tenure on the Supreme Court, Justice Kilbride made a number of changes to benefit Illinoisans, including Access to Justice Commission, which ensures everyone has access to the Illinois legal system regardless of financial status or other barriers. Additionally, Justice Kilbride was a charter member of the Illinois Pro Bono Center, volunteered his time with the Community Caring Conference, supported faith-based and humanitarian projects and served on the Rock Island Human Relations Commission, to name a few.
Education: Andy Campbell
Andy Campbell is a life-long Rock Islander, graduating from Rock Island High School where he was a football co-captain and baseball MVP. After earning his degrees from the University of Iowa and Western Illinois University, Andy taught physical education and science at Washington Jr. High School where he also coached football and girls’ basketball. In 2007, he starting teaching biology and chemistry at Rock Island High School and initiated a new course, Anatomy and Physiology. In addition to teaching science, Andy Campbell is also a volunteer coach with the high school softball program, started a vegetable plant greenhouse at the high school, and was named the Milan Boosters Club Volunteer of the Year in 2019. Andy currently serves as the Dean of Students at Rocky. One of his teaching philosophies is: “What can I do to make a difference today?”
*Picture of 2019 Citizen of the Year Winners