ROCK FALLS – Pastor Al Campbell has been in the ministry for 35 years, but his past 5 years as leader of First Congregational Church have been different than his other stops, he says.
"This is the first time in all my years in the ministry where I've had the time to be involved in so many organizations," Campbell said. "Not only does my congregation allow it by giving me so much help, they encourage me to do this."
So when Campbell accepted his individual Shoulder to the Wheel award at the 58th annual Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce Meeting and Dinner on Thursday night at Days Inn, he was quick to thank the members of his church and his wife.
"Whenever I tell her I'm going to another meeting, she just tells me how proud of me she is," Campbell said.
Campbell has been a board member for PADS, the CGH Medical Center Auxiliary, and the Caring Center. He also has served as president of the Rock Falls-Sterling Area Community Clergy Association and is a past president of Kiwanis, and vice president of Whiteside Community Action Network.
When he first came to the Sauk Valley, Campbell said he had heard talk of a rivalry between Sterling and Rock Falls. But what he actually saw was the communities brought together by difficult economic conditions, he said.
"I saw these cities come together after people had lost jobs," Campbell said. "I appreciate the fact that so many organizations in these communities collaborate to do so many good things."
Two projects near and dear to his heart focus on the youngest and oldest in the area. About 400 vouchers were given in the most recent Kiwanis Coats for Kids drive. He also spends a great deal of time in nursing homes out of concern for residents who have no church home.
The individual award was presented by last year's winner, Brian Tribley, a pastor at Firehouse of God Ministries in Sterling and a part-time firefighter in Rock Falls.
Campbell wasn't the only award winner Thursday.
The winner of the youth organization award was the Rock Falls Junior Optimist Club. The youth branch of the Optimists worked on 10 service projects over the past year.
The Bridge the Community Race Committee received the Shoulder to the Wheel organization award. Chairman Jack Spencer accepted the award for the committee. The group, led by Spencer, organized Sterling and Rock Falls 10K and 5K races for the first time last year, and plans are in the works for this year's Bridge the Community races on Sept. 13.
"We have to showcase what we've got here," Spencer said. "This is a great event, and we're going to keep on doing it."
There was a tie for the Chamber ambassador of the year award, so two were named this year. Joan Hermes of the CGH Foundation, and Sena Warkins of Imprintable Memories were recognized for their efforts for the Chamber over the past year.
Bethany Bland, Chamber president and CEO, recognized the work of all of the organization's board members.
"The board has embraced change without losing sight of what has gotten us to this point," Bland said. "After 58 years, we're still relevant, growing, and serving our community."
In his address to the group, Mayor Bill Wescott focused on change and adaptability in the face of challenges.
"The economy didn't go away, it just changed," Wescott said. "The ability to change and shift gears has never been more of a priority for all of us in this room."