When I first moved to the Sterling-Rock Falls area in early 2010, I knew no one here. I came here to take advantage of the opportunity to work for the newspaper.
A little more than 3 years later, I'm taking off for a new adventure. I will soon be working for The Gazette newspaper in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Looking back, I would say the people are the greatest asset of this community. As I made my way across the area visiting restaurants, shops, parks and other locations, many readers would stop to strike up a conversation.
Some asked questions about my background or what brought me to the area. They were curious about how a girl from the suburbs could plant herself in a smaller town, far away from home.
Readers of this column often would greet me by saying 'You're the girl from the paper.' We would talk for a few minutes. Many of you said you enjoyed reading my work.
About a week and a half ago, a woman stopped me while I was browsing the auction items at the YWCA Women of Achievement luncheon at Rock River Golf and Pool.
She told me she has read my work, enjoyed it, and just wanted to say hello. After each of these conversations, I left with a smile. It is an honor to know that my work here was appreciated and gave readers something to talk about.
There's a lot in store for the future of these communities. Both Sterling and Rock Falls are working to develop their downtowns and riverfronts.
In a few years, the downtown of each community could be a lively place where people will gather to dine, drink, socialize and enjoy the atmosphere. That would in turn attract outsiders, and those from within, to stay in the community and develop lives here.
Leaders in each town recognize the need to highlight these areas in the community. People flock to areas along the water and are attracted by what it offers. In Chicago, especially during the summers, people gather along Lake Michigan and the Chicago River to dine, spend time on the water and walk along the lake.
Suburban communities such as Naperville also have rivers downtown and have found ways to use the waterway to bring people, fairs and other events.
This summer will bring the opening of the renovated downtown Sterling Theater. Moviegoers can spend the evening downtown and then perhaps visit a bar or the wine cellar.
Developments in these areas are some of the stories I've gotten to tell.
The people of this area made me feel like I was at home while here. It has been a pleasure to tell your stories. Thank you, readers, for sharing this community with me and helping me put your stories in words.
Editor's note: Friday is Kiran's last day at the paper. Feel free to send her well wishes at firstname.lastname@example.org until then.