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2021 JEFFERSON AWARDS: Jayne O'Brien - Leading a Literal "Grassroots" Effort

She is "Multiplying Good" by walking the walk to create change in our community.

MOLINE, Illinois — All over our area, there are people who are not just doing good - but Multiplying Good.

Every year, we honor them with the Jefferson Awards - a nationwide foundation that celebrates amazing acts of public service. 2021 is WQAD News 8's 7th Season of being a Jefferson Awards Media Partner, sponsored locally by Genesis Health System and Budget Blinds.

From January 14th to March 4th, News 8's Angie Sharp is introducing you to this year's nominees. To see all of our Jefferson Awards Nominees, past and present, click here.

2021 Jefferson Awards: Jayne O'Brien

Small steps bring about big change - and no one knows that more than Jayne O'Brien.

"One year, I picked up almost 400 Mountain Dew cans."

With a stick in one hand and a garbage bag in the other, she goes around picking up garbage - taking pride in her community from the side of the road... to the road itself.

Jayne is the President of the Board for Mercado on Fifth. Every Friday night, 5th Avenue in Moline, Illinois near 12th Street transforms into a festival that celebrates culture through food and fun. 

"It started with just a small group of us sitting here," she recalls. "We'd sit under a tree and read to kids. When I was on Moline Public Schools Foundation Board, we would give books out and that was probably the most fulfilling to see families sitting at a picnic table – each with a book."

Jayne helped the weekly event grow from a couple dozen readers to nearly 1,000 customers:

"Since Mercado started, we have supported 17 minority-owned businesses."

That support isn't stopping, either. Near where the festival takes place, an old auto shop is being transformed into an indoor-outdoor marketplace so Mercado can continue year-round.

"It's events like this and projects like this that show – we want you here," explains Jayne. 

"So many people don't want to be bothered with giving back," adds Brad Scott, who nominated Jayne for the Jefferson Awards. "They'd rather just cut a check and be done with it, but not Jayne. She says she's going to do something and it gets done – and in a big way."

Jayne's goal is to create a more healthy and happy place to live, work, and play:

"If I do this is, it might impact you to follow suit and pretty soon we have a community that is free of trash, we have a community where neighbors are outside talking to one another, we have a community where neighbors are helping one another, sharing resources, and we have kids playing together at Mercado that are now new friends and that gives you a true sense of community."

She is "Multiplying Good" by talking the talk and walking the walk.

Mercado on Fifth is finding new ways to support minority-owned businesses during COVID-19. To learn more, click here.