Inclusion. Caring. Respect. Transparency. Trustworthiness. Unity. Ideation. Responsibility. Interconnectedness.

Back in 2013, in the seats of the Coronado Theater in Rockford, our residents started a journey toward a better and well-defined preferred future. As we gathered to talk about transforming our community, we also united around these shared values.

We knew then, and today, the importance of co-creating and defining shared values to unite and guide our community’s transformation. It gives us a compass. While we may not know exactly each step ahead of us during and emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, our compass is helping us do the next right thing. So much good is happening all around our region as so many individuals and organizations step up to meet immediate needs and lay the foundation of social and economic recovery.

We’ll start with deep gratitude toward the leadership being shown, every day, by Dr. Sandra Martel at the Winnebago County Health Department, Mayor Tom McNamara, and Winnebago County Chairman Frank Haney. The clarity, confidence, and timing of your professional leadership has been remarkable. You have led by providing honest and reliable information, by listening, and by thoughtful planning. We are grateful for the care and respect you show, every day, for our community. You and your teams’ work has kept us informed and has reassured us that we will endure, we will recover.

Thank you, to our health care providers, first responders, pharmacy, grocery, and other essential workers. As neighbors help neighbors and to those of us “just” staying in, we are unified in our concern and care for our community.

Thank you, to the many leaders within our faith communities who are providing hope, assisting and serving fellow residents to have food on a daily basis, and technology for students to continue their learning and schoolwork.

Thank you, to the leaders in our private sector who are stepping up in so many ways. Our local banks and development community established the local COVID-19 small business loan program. By applying resources and innovation to create needed products, materials and space, businesses within the region have changed their operations to support our health and safety.

Curbside delivery of food products demonstrates the service mentality of our hospitality industry. Collaboration abounds and is making it possible for us to effectively manage the circumstances we face, all while instilling an effort to stay healthy and safe.

Thank you, to NICNE, the United Way, the Kjellstrom Foundation, the Community Foundation, and others for establishing the 815 Community Response Team to align funding to meet emerging and recovery needs for local non-profits.

The late Webbs Norman (former director of Rockford Park District) would remind us that when our values are clear, it makes your decision-making a lot easier to do good things towards others.

Some are saying this pandemic will define our generation. OK, bring it on. Our compass is solid. Our shared values will help us forge a strong and resilient new normal. Our definition will be one of hope and purpose. Our community will stabilize, recover, and grow from here.

Transform Rockford Steering Committee members: Ben Bernsten, Bill Gorski, Bobbie Holzwarth, Christie Jarrett, Jim Keeling, LoRayne Logan, Paul Logli, Peter Provenzano, Daniel Saavedra, David Sidney (executive director)