At 65, Jim Collins is at an age where many start to pull back, to slow down, to coast, but he will tell you when it comes to life, education and helping others, there's no finish line you cross.
And for his continuing dedication and leadership in our community, he will be honored Wednesday with Modern Woodmen of America's Community Service Award for 2011.
"(Being chosen) was completely unexpected and I just really didn't know what to say, which my wife found very interesting," Mr. Collins said. "When (Modern Woodmen CEO) W. Kenny Massey called to inform me, I was very humbled and honored in part because I know every one of the previous honorees and recipients and they areawesome people who have done awesome things in the community, and to be listed among them is very humbling, very much an honor."
Mr. Collins worked for Deere & Company for 42 years, starting asa general laborer and casting sorter atthe East Moline Foundry in 1964. He worked inpersonnel, affirmative actionand community relations. He retired in 2008 as president of the John DeereFoundation. He's been married to his wife Karen for 46 years.
He's also served the community as a volunteer forJunior Achievement Business Consultant at Truman
Elementary School in Davenport, provided support and guidance to Davenport and Rock Island/Milan
Community Schools,served as a member of the United Way of the Quad Cities Area Education
Council, provided counsel to Achieve Quad Cities Education Program, and served as an advisor to the Diversity Work Group of St. Ambrose University, inthe development and implementation of their Decade of Diversity Initiative.
In the past, he has served on the board of directors for many local organizations, includingthe Community Foundation of the Great River Bend, Junior Achievement of the Quad CitiesArea, Genesis Medical Center, the African American Museum of Iowa, the Illinois Quad CitiesChamber of Commerce, Quad Cities Art and St. Ambrose University, among others. He has been recognized by a variety of organizations for his service, including Junior Achievement, St.Ambrose University, Project Now, the local chambers of commerce and the Rock Island/MilanFoundation.
"Mostly, I've focused on education, to try to inspire our young people to get training and continue learning," Mr. Collins said. "Learning is lifelong. Education is a basic building block for life. We need to be sure our kids are getting what they need to learn and to continue to learn so they can lead independent lives. I realized how important education has been to our family, I have five kids and 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and I hope I've instilled and they recognize the importance of that."
One of his biggest concerns is the significant dropout rates at area schools.
"I view it as a crisis, I really do," he said. "It's unsustainable for a community, we can't tolerate it. Look, they are going to learn and if they are not learning in school and getting an education they are going to learn on the street and most of what they learn on the street isn't going to be very positive. Right now, people with an education can't find a job, so you know what's happening to those without an education. The impact goes beyond the immediate person and their family, it affects business, it affects retail, it affects schools and cities. It doesn't stop at the river, or at the city limits,it affects us all."
Although he sees great challenges, he is optimistic about the future.
"We are truly blessed as a community, we have a lot to offer, especially in our human resources," Mr Collins said. "We could do a much better job at working together and collaboratively, we're not in competition here. I know we have the resources, I'd like to see us focus on connecting the dots and seeing the bigger picture."
He credits his family and the church for instilling ideas like shared sacrifice, helping others and being aware of a bigger picture and always working hard.
"I've looked at it as unfinished business," Mr. Collins said."My wife and I have spent a lot of time at these schools, doing things with our own kids and there's a temptation to say it's enough but you do this here for someone else's kids and you hope some one where ever your grandchildren are are looking out for them."
About the award
The Modern Woodmen of America Community Service Award honors a Quad-Cities leader who is committed to volunteer service and helps our community to grow and prosper. Modern Woodmen donates $7,500 to the charity of the recipient's choice. Mr. Collins chose the award to be split by the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center and the Dr. Freeman Pollard Minority Student Scholarship Endowment Fund to share the grant.
Previous award winners include:
1997: William B. Foster
1998: Michael A. Bauer
1999: Thomas G. and Karen H. Getz
2000: Peter Lardner
2001: Gene Blanc
2002: Joe Whitty
2003: Don Wooten
2004: Mayor Mark Schwiebert
2005: Clyde C. Schoeck
2006: Dr. Richard "Bud" L. Phillis, M.D.
2007: Jim Horstmann
2008: Judy Kreiter
2009: John Wetzel
2010: Jill McLaughlin
2011: Jim Collins