A McDonald’s franchise owner, a judge, a Rock Island school teacher, and a number of tireless local volunteers were honored recently as Rock Island’s 2022 Citizen of the Year award winners.
The group was honored during Rock Island City Council’s meeting Monday, Aug. 22, and winners represented these categories: business, professional, organization, individual, youth, veteran, honorary citizen (non-resident of Rock Island), and overall citizen of the year.
“We obviously have a great city with very passionate people,” said Bill Healy, Seventh Ward alderman.
The award winners include:
Business: Austin Smith, Franchise owner of the McDonald’s at 1813 30th St., was nominated by citizens for “his ongoing support for the Rock Island community.” Via the McDonald’s Archway program, Mr. Smith donated more than $100,000 in college tuition to his employees last year. He also donated $5,000 to Rock Island-Milan schools. He sponsors Spirit Cards for Rock Island and Alleman high schools; provides discounts to U.S. veterans and Augustana College students; hosts Teacher Night five times a year; and has received the Rock Island Clean & Beautiful award twice.
Professional: District Court Judge Carol Pentuic created and helped implement the Rock Island County Eviction Diversion Program in the state’s 14th Judicial Circuit to help residents who were behind on rent to remain in their homes after the eviction moratorium ended in Illinois. The courts partnered with Project NOW, Prairie State Legal Services, Salvation Army and the Rock Island County Bar Association to help with mediation services and to provide funds to landlords on behalf of tenants who needed financial help, preventing evictions and making sure landlords were paid.
Organization: Celebrate Recovery, now in its 20th year, provides a 12-step addiction and mental health healing program. Housed at Edgewood Baptist Church, it uses Biblical principles to guide participants on the path to recovery and better mental health as they deal with addiction or trauma caused by abuse, health problems or other life issues.
Honorary Citizen (non-resident): Michelle Greenwood has taught at Rock Island High School for more than 20 years, serving as a role model, parent figure, counselor and mentor. She was nominated by several residents, including fellow teacher Connie Hayek, who said Greenwood is the “epitome of what it means to be a teacher and exemplary citizen.” Greenwood also helped implement the Rock Island High School chapter of Gray Matters Collective, a mental health and suicide prevention initiative.
Individual: Vicki Hess volunteers for the South Rock Island Township, organizes coat drives for Christian Care Homeless Shelter, raises money for families in need and cooks breakfast every Saturday at the Rock Island Eagles Club. Ms. Hess was nominated by several residents, who said: “She has such a huge heart and will do whatever she can to help a complete stranger if they would ask for help. She would give her last penny to help anyone. The world needs more Vickis.”
Youth and Overall Citizen of the year: Quincy Davis is called “the best kept secret of the Quad Cities.” He has been volunteering for nearly 35 years, beginning as a youth basketball coach for the Rock Island Park Board in 1988. He has volunteered for the Lonnie Ray Academy as a mentor and basketball coach. He organizes tournaments and arranges lodging, transportation and meals — often at his own expense. Mr. Davis also serves on the Rock Island Civil Rights Commission, the board for Churches United of the Quad Cities and chairs the Greater Antioch Missionary Baptist Church Deacon Ministry. Mr. Davis also hosts a weekly Sunday morning radio show on KALA called “The Greater Antioch Gospel Hour.”
Veteran: James Kerr is the first honoree to be chosen for this new category. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Mr. Kerr has been recognized by the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and the Illinois Bicentennial Office “as a veteran whose service did not stop when he took off the uniform.” He is a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 299 and serves as its chaplain. Mr. Kerr is a former Rock Island alderman, a current Rock Island Township trustee and sings in the choir of Second Baptist Church.