Jim Collins

Jim Collins

Contributed photo

Rock Island native Jim Collins, whose service to the community dates back more than 40 years, received Modern Woodmen of America's Community Service Award during a breakfast presentation Wednesday at the Hotel Blackhawk in Davenport.

"He was chosen because of his long history of service to the community," Modern Woodmen spokeswoman Kim Woodward said. "He has always given back to the community and he has been instrumental in encouraging other people to volunteer and get involved in the community.

"He's a very deserving guy."

Collins received $7,500 as part of the award, Woodward said. Contributing $2,500 of his own money to the prize, Collins pledged $5,000 to the Martin Luther King Center in Rock Island and $5,000 the Dr. Freeman Pollard Minority Student Scholarship Endowment Fund at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

"We've had some generous recipients, but for Collins and his wife to up the amount so that there would be $10,000 split among the two recipients of the money truly speaks to his character," Woodward said.

Collins' donation was welcome news to Jerry Jones, director of the Martin Luther King Center where more than $3 million in renovations have been completed.

Just a couple of months ago, the center needed about $20,000 to pay off the whole bill.

"We could probably now be totally done with the project if we got donations of $10,000 or a little bit more," Jones said.

Collins said Wednesday that while he is honored by the recognition, working toward the betterment of the community and society as a whole is not a one-man job.

Volunteers who are committed to a cause are vital to the success of the community, he said.

"Since being retired, my wife and I have talked about unfinished business," Collins said. "When they put you away for the last time, there is still unfinished business.

"If you're not participating, even though you're physically here, then you're already gone."

There are many causes that need to be addressed, he said, from poverty to

the school dropout rate,

to the problem of high school graduates who

leave school functionally illiterate.

"As volunteers, we need to help people to understand their vested interest in an issue that we have a passion in, and that they should get involved in even though it may not yet be a crisis," Collins said.

"It's ‘pay me now or pay me later,' and you'll always pay more later."

Collins graduated from Rock Island High School and earned a bachelor's degree in sociology at St. Ambrose. He worked for 42 years at Deere & Co., beginning as a general laborer and casting sorter at the East Moline Foundry in 1964 and retiring in 2008 as president of the John Deere Foundation.

Woodward said Collins continues to give by

volunteering for Junior Achievement of the

Heartland, providing counsel to Achieve Quad-Cities Education Program, serving as a member of the United Way of the Quad-Cities Area education council, giving support and guidance to the Davenport and Rock Island-Milan school districts, and serving as an adviser to the Diversity Work Group of St. Ambrose University.

He also has served on the boards of many organizations, including the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend, Junior Achievement, Genesis Medical Center, the African American Museum of Iowa, the former Illinois Quad-City Chamber of Commerce, Quad-City Arts and St. Ambrose

University, among others. He has been recognized

by a variety of organizations for his service, including Junior Achievement, St. Ambrose University, Project Now, the local chambers of commerce, and the Rock Island-Milan Foundation.