The City of Rock Island has announced the 2021 Citizens of the Year in seven categories.
A reception will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 27, before the City Council meeting to honor the recipients, says a news release from the city. All recipients will be announced and presented with a plaque.
Citizen of the Year and Organization of the Year: Project NOW
Project NOW has been a pillar in the community for more than 53 years. The organization helps move vulnerable populations out of poverty. Under the direction of Executive Director Dwight Ford, Project NOW provides 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.
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. The program’s goal is to keep people housed once the moratorium on evictions is lifted later this month.
Individual: Thurgood Brooks
Born and raised in Rock Island, Thurgood Brooks is a dedicated advocate for his community. He 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 to establish a Police Community Relations Commission to improve relationships between the police and residents.
Youth: Riley Jones
Riley Jones is a junior at Rock Island High School, where she is a member of the National Honor Society, plays cello for the orchestra and was recently chosen for the Metro Arts Youth Apprenticeship. 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 the nation’s Capitol, but also a mural was painted in downtown Rock Island. She volunteers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.
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, and its employees have volunteered to maintain the property, entertain children at community events, serve breakfast to summer day campers and donated specially 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 its corporate office for the MLK Center and sponsored events.
City Employee: Carlos H. Jimenez
For more than 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 to reach from 1,800-2,000 youth annually.
Jimenez 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 City of Rock Island employee.
Professional: Justice Thomas L. Kilbride, ret. Illinois Supreme Court
Justice Thomas L. Kilbride is retired from the Illinois Supreme Court. 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, Kilbride made a number of changes to benefit Illinoisans, including the Access to Justice Commission, which ensures everyone has access to the Illinois legal system regardless of financial status or other barriers. Additionally, 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.
Education: Andy Campbell
Andy Campbell is a lifelong Rock Islander. He graduated from Rock Island High School, where he was a football co-captain and baseball MVP. After he earned degrees from the University of Iowa and Western Illinois University, Campbell taught physical education and science at Washington Junior High School, where he also coached football and girls’ basketball.
In 2007, he started teaching biology and chemistry at Rock Island High School and initiated a new course, anatomy and physiology. In addition to teaching science, Campbell is 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.
He is the dean of students at Rocky.