EAST MOLINE, Ill. — 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. 2022 is WQAD News 8's 8th season of being a Jefferson Awards Media Partner, sponsored locally by Genesis Health System and Tyson Foods.
From Feb. 1 through March 22, 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.
2022 Jefferson Awards: Jon "Squirrel" Steiniger
When there's a natural disaster, he is in the ground and in the sky. In fact, that's why Jon Steiniger is best known as "Squirrel."
"My father has a small residential company, and I was probably 15 or 16 years old at the time and we were on a job site," Steiniger said. "There were two trees side by side, and I was getting tired toward the end of the day and I did not want to have to go down to the ground and go right back up another tree. I was looking across, and I saw this long flat branch going out toward the other tree. So I loosened up my safety line, slacked it up and I ran off that branch, and I jumped into the other tree and started working on it. So from then on, everybody called me Squirrel and it stuck with me my entire life."
That nickname turned into a business in 2009 called Squirrel's Tree Care. Based in East Moline, Steiniger's team goes everywhere to fix trees, save trees, plant trees and remove them when they fall, especially during storms and other natural disasters. It's what he is now known for.
"The challenge of that has really turned into my passion," he said. "I love to be able to figure it out and not cause any further damage to people's property. Plus, it's nice to be able to come in and save the day for somebody when when they're at their lowest."
Squirrel has traveled hundreds of miles to do that - taking his company's giant remote-controlled crane, called the Megatron, to places impacted by Category 4 Hurricane Ida in August-September 2021 or tornado-torn communities like Fultondale, Alabama, which was hit by a EF-3 tornado in January 2021.
"A lot of these places that get hit with these disasters don't have the bigger companies that have that kind of equipment," he said. "A lot of times, they're out for months and months with no power, no food, no water. So for us to be able to go in there and help them get their lives back to normal as fast as possible is why we do it."
"There's a very limited quantity of good people in this world these days, and I know that if it was my grandmother without water or food or shelter for three months, I would want somebody to come in and help her," he said. "It's not about hoarding the equipment and the necessities that we have of our own to ourselves. It's about giving them to those who need more at the time."
Squirrel hopes to help even more people by purchasing another Megatron-type crane in the future. He is "Multiplying Good" through his selfless acts of public service - which is why WQAD is honored to recognize him as one of our 2022 Jefferson Awards Nominees.
To see his entire interview with News 8's Angie Sharp, watch the video below.