Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2013, 1:43 pm

Editorial: Thanks BHC Foundation for nurturing young leaders

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The Dispatch and The Rock Island

We were saddened to learn that a program for recognizing and encouraging young Quad-Cities leaders has closed up shop.

No doubt the Black Hawk College Foundation had valid reasons for discontinuing its Quad-Cities Area Leaders Under 40 event. But before the decade-old program rides off into the sunset, we'd like to take a moment to thank those behind it for what they did for the Quad-Cities.

Count us among those who have long stressed the importance of older communities like ours both growing and keeping young leaders. The Leaders Under 40 program offered an excellent tool to do that.

The awards were given to leaders aged 21 to 39 for their professional accomplishments, community involvement and civic service.

Under the enthusiastic and able guidance of Shelly Wells Cain, the former executive director of the BHC Foundation, the program honored 235 winners from a broad cross section of the Quad-Cities. Honorees and nominees have included aldermen, ministers, bankers, media members, business people, social service agency personnel and community leaders, some of whom have become foundation board members and college trustees.

Rock Island Mayor Dennis Pauley summed up well what the young people it honored mean to our community when he served as 2010 event chair. "They don't need this on their resumes," he said. "We recognize them because we want to keep them in the community, to have them help grow the community and adding to the Quad-Cities area. These are the young professionals we have been wanting to attract for so long. We don't want to lose them."

That, in a nutshell, is why we signed up as media sponsor for Leaders Under 40, and the wonderful people and the amazing leaders we've helped in a small way to honor each year are the reasons we kept coming back.

Closing the program down was a tough decision, Ms. Wells Cain told us as she left the foundation to take a job as vice president of development and marketing for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois.

"We made a decision last year that we wanted to look for something with more of an education mission, and maybe focus more on alumni," she said. And we can't fault the putting the community college and its alumni first.

"Leaders Under 40 has been an amazing event," Ms. Wells Cain also said. "The board years ago realized the importance of recognizing young leaders in our community who were doing great things, and I hope that continues in some fashion."

So do we. But as we wait to see if another agency takes up the challenge, please join us in thanking the Black Hawk Foundation and Ms. Wells Cain for identifying, honoring and nurturing young leaders.

And most of all, thank you to all the young nominees and winners of the awards over the past 10 years who have chosen to be leaders in our community.