It is with great honor and pride that the Ken-Rock Family can accept the 2014 Excelsior Award. As defined by the Rockford Register Star, “The Excelsior Award was established by the Rockford Register Star in 1979 to honor an organization or institution whose work has a positive effect on life in the Rock River valley.” This is an honorable achievement and an accomplishment that would not have been possible without first having the positive attitude of the community as a base for our community center to flourish in. It has always been Ken-Rock’s mission to improve the quality of life for children and families in recreation and education and to be as much as we can be for the families in our community. This is a mission that we have upheld since our founding and it is a mission that we will continue to uphold throughout the decades.

From all of our staff here at Ken-Rock, we sincerely extend our gratitude to the Rock River Community and the Rockford Register Star for naming us the recipient of the 2014 Excelsior Award.

Excelsior Award Acceptance Speech

John K. Guth, Executive Director

Ken-Rock Community Center

The Best economical system is to “do the best you can with what you have to work with”. Economics teacher Mr. Troy Melvin at Rockford Jefferson told me that 35 years ago
That statement has resonated in me all these years. And that is how we approach every day at the Ken-Rock Center.

Tonight and for the next few days, a large sector of south east Rockford community will have just a little bit more pride as they will learn of this award and celebrate with their chin held a little higher by being a part of the Ken-Rock Center for decades upon decades.

Maintaining our relevance has required us in Changing some directions as we do different things than we may have 25-30 years ago.

We have a simple mission at the Ken-Rock Community Center. Enhance the quality of life for children and families in recreation & education. Or in other words, be as much as we can be for our families.

On behalf of the Ken-Rock Community Center and its board of directors and the thousands of volunteers that have given so much of their lives I am humbled to be standing here this evening as a testimony from my own personal involvement as a young child that participated in activities to today 45 years later, being the face of the Ken-Rock Center as the executive director.

There are so many worthy organizations doing great things for the people in our community, we congratulate the four other Excelsior Finalists
We were thrilled and are extremely humbled to be named as this year’s recipient on our 84th anniversary of serving the citizens of the Rockford community.”

Today we are blessed to have a committed group of volunteers that serve on the executive board that has a vision and passion to make Ken Rock a little bit more special for tomorrow. They have committed themselves to ensure the fabric of our center stays strong and viable for years to come.

The nomination process was a great reminder of why we do what we do. Ken-Rock Community Center has had a profound impact on people’s lives and we hope to have the same impact in the years to come.

The Ken-Rock Center’s lifetime merits of service to Greater Rockford has influenced the young and old as well as build a legacy of tradition that has served many generations of families. Today we continue to provide quality programs that build people and the family structure.

About a year ago, we almost didn’t make it… funding had weakened, bills were piling up, lay-offs were eminent and we weren’t sure if we would even see the spring of 2014…… and then we tightened up, re-evaluated ourselves and took baby steps to grow stronger and more self-sufficient.
But tonight everyone who has been a part of the Ken-Rock Center smiles and says, you’ve made it through the tough economic times, stay the course and everything will be ok…. and tonight, everything is ok…

I would like to thank the Register Star and the Excalibur/Excelsior Award committee to select. We are truly grateful.
We may not be the largest organization in the Rock River valley but for one night, we rise up and enjoy one more day in the sun. Thank you.”

Rockford Register Star Article

Excelsior finalist: Ken-Rock Community Center View on

How do you continue to provide services the community relies on?

That’s a daily discussion the staff here has. We continuously are evaluating and re-evaluating everything we do. It’s tough to let certain things go, but for every door that closes on a program, a new one opens. One thing that continues year after year here at the Ken-Rock Center is that generations of families continue to come back. We have four generations of our families still walking through our doors. It’s a small town atmosphere. There’s a neighborhood inside here. Every person who has been affected by Ken-Rock in a positive way has his or her chin up just a little bit higher today. There’s a 2 degrees of separation with Ken-Rock Center. Everyone knows someone in our community that we’ve had a positive impact on. And that’s doing the best we can for our families.

Mission: Our mission is to enhance the quality of life for children and families in recreation, education and social services in the Rock River Valley.

Services: Youth sports & recreation, after-school programming, adult education, 3-5 year old Learning Center, community holiday activities, senior activities, summer recreation, computer training.
Accomplishments: In recent years, we built a full service Learning Center for toddlers, developed an after-school program with a focus on reading and comprehension, offered free computer training classes for adults, and added several new partners in recreation and education.

What the nominator said: “From its humble beginnings as the Junior League House in 1930, Ken-Rock Community Center (KRCC) has provided outstanding opportunities to the families of our community and is committed to providing quality options for recreation, education, and social services to over 35,000 annually. Maintaining relevancy is possible through constant critical evaluation, improvement and expansion of programs and services and KRCC remains as relevant today as it was 80 years ago due to the endless attention to its community’s needs.”
Excelsior winner Ken-Rock enhances quality of life for generations View on

ROCKFORD — Ken-Rock Community Center, a playground, gathering place and haven for generations of children and families, is the winner of this year’s Excelsior Award.

Winners were announced at Thursday’s reception at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center.

Next year, Ken-Rock will celebrate 85 years of doing everything for the people of south Rockford from running youth sports leagues to hosting holiday parties and offering computer classes and tutoring. The center recently added a day care for 3- to 5-year-olds and an after-school program that works with kids on reading skills.

“Everyone in southeast Rockford is going to be holding their chin up a little higher because of this,” Executive Director John Guth said as he tearfully accepted the award. “We may not be the biggest organization in the Rock River Valley, but for one night, we rise up and enjoy another day in the sun.”

Ken-Rock has long been an anchor for the modest, working-class subdivisions that flank the center, which serves about 35,000 people a year, from kids in the winter basketball league to seniors coming in for a flu shot or to play bingo.

Guth grew up at the center. He played baseball there as a kid and went back as an adult to run its sports programs. Many of the center’s patrons are second- and third-generation Ken-Rock families.

Like many community centers, Ken-Rock needed to reinvent itself during the Great Recession. In 2008, it sold the building to get out from under skyrocketing maintenance costs and declining revenue. It continued to operate in the same location but was able to focus more on programming and services — a decision that benefited staff and the people who relied on it.

“Vision not only means anticipating the future, but it also means having an understanding of the world around you and the clients you serve,” Mara Wicklund of the Kiwanis Club, last year’s Excelsior winner, said as she presented this year’s award. “To this year’s Excelsior winner, it has meant continuously changing and growing with the times while one thing remains constant — the service you provide to the people of the Rock River Valley.”

The Excelsior Award was established by the Rockford Register Star in 1979 to honor an organization or institution whose work has a positive effect on life in the Rock River Valley. The winner receives a plaque and check for $500.

By Published On: December 13th, 2018Categories: Recognition7.7 min read

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