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Rock Island Citizen of the Year Award

Steve Gottcent, left, community outreach coordinator for Christian Care, accepts the award for Rock Island 2019 Citizen of the Year Award from Mayor Mike Thoms, left, and last year's winner, Eudell Watts III, during the city council meeting Monday.

ROCK ISLAND — Christian Care is the 2019 Rock Island Citizen of the Year.

Rock Island residents and Citizen of the Year committee members announced Christian Care as the winner during Monday night's Rock Island City Council meeting, recognizing the organization's commitment to serving the homeless and acting as a meal site. 

Already a nominee in the organization category, Christian Care received the award from last year's Citizen of the Year winner, Eudell Watts III. 

"Christian Care was chosen for the overall winner award because of their deep commitment to providing exceptional services for the homeless and the Rock Island community and for their collaboration with their partners towards their goal of ending homelessness in the Quad Cities," Watts said. "Christian Care has been providing services for over a century, and the passion and caring of their staff endures in the tradition of their founder, Guy Rodgers."

Steve Gottcent, community outreach coordinator for Christian Care, accepted the award on behalf of the organization. 

Citizen of the Year was the highest recognition among several categories.

As the overall winner, Christian Care will serve as grand marshal of the city's Labor Day parade on Sept. 2. All other category winners will also participate in the parade, which begins at 9:30 a.m. at Rock Island High School. 

Other Citizen of the Year winners for 2019 were: Business; Annette Hutto of Cool Beanz: Education; Andrea Parer: Individual; Heidi Huiskamp Collins: Professional; Sarah Stevens: and Youth; Anna Darrow. 

Alderman Jenni Swanson, Ward 4, presented the education award to Parer, who is a teacher at Rock Island High School. 

"Andrea Parer's caring nature and drive is exactly what education needs," Swanson said. "As an educator and coach, she has consistently provided her students with guidance, a sense of community and pride. Andrea is the leader and founder of the student ambassador program at Rock Island High School.

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"(Parer) has an infectious personality that causes people to smile and gives students the confidence to overcome adversity," Swanson said. "Her integrity, thoughtfulness and determination make her a force as an education leader."

Darrow, a recent graduate of Alleman High School, was recognized with the youth award for her academic achievements and community service. 

Citizen of the Year committee member Bridget Ehrmann said the city of Rock Island developed the Citizen of the Year program more than 30 years ago to celebrate local citizens for their efforts to improve the community.

"Every spring, the city of Rock Island asks residents to submit nominations for citizen of the year in several categories including business, education, community organization, youth, city employee, and individual citizen," Ehrmann said. "In previous years, the city council members voted on all nominee submissions to determine the winners but this year they created a committee of previous winners who voted."

City employee of the year went to Police Chief Jeff VenHuizen

VenHuizen was promoted to police chief in December 2012 from deputy police chief. He has been a member of the Rock Island Police Department since 1993.

VenHuizen received his award from last year's employee of the year, Utilities Maintenance Supervisor Pat O'Brien. 

"His accomplishments professionally and academically are extraordinary, but it's his initiatives to connect with the citizens of this community that put him over the top," O'Brien said. "Chief VenHuizen believes in community engagement and removing the veil to let people know how the police department operates."

Honorary Citizen of the Year was awarded to Arc of the Quad Cities Area and the Committee's Choice Award was given to Friends of Douglas Park

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