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Pay It Forward: Davenport woman honored for program teaching youth life skills

Project Renewal is a non-profit in Davenport that works to build youth social skills and self-esteem.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Ann Schwickerath spends a lot of time on her feet as she run an organization with dozens of children in Davenport. 

"Some of them, when they specifically say to Ann from Isaac, those I have to put in a special place for me," Schwickerath said.

She doesn't get tired of hanging student's artwork up, it's a small part of the job she's been doing for nearly 30 years. 

"It's really cool when the kids can see their artwork up on the wall," Schwickerath said.

The kids are part of Project Renewal, a non-profit that works to build youth social skills and self-esteem.

"When you see her interact with students here at Project Renewal, you see how much the students love Ann and they trust Ann," President of the Project Renewal Board of Directors Alex Cahill said.

"She always called me during the school year. We always catch up; it's not like a few months, it's probably once a week," former student Keshawn Pegues said.

Ann has been in Pegues' life since he was 4, he is now 19 years old. 

"Ann is loving," Pegues said. "Like a mom to me."

She's given him a second place to call home.

Ann is used to nurturing around 50 kids a year in the inner city of Davenport.

"We're literally seeing people's lives change right before us," Schwickerath said.

"Alex, thank you for nominating Ann at Project Renewal," Alvaro Macias with Ascentra Credit Union said. "She has been doing so much for kids here in Davenport and for their families. It's truly an asset to this part of the community. She's truly an example of listening, caring and doing what's right and what we believe in at Ascentra Credit Union and for that reason I present you with 300 dollars so that you may pay it forward. Thank you very much, we really appreciate it and I know Ann will as well."

To pull off the special surprise, Cahill told Ann there was a board meeting scheduled, but instead, it was to present Ann with the Pay It Forward Award. 

"How are you," Cahill said to Ann. "This is not a board meeting today. So on behalf of WQAD and Ascentra and the pay it forward program, we want to thank you for all of your hard work here at Project Renewal over the past year and here's 300 dollars to pay it forward."

"There's so many opportunities to make a difference in people's lives and this is the greatest way I know how," Schwickerath said.

Whether just a hug, something to eat, or asking kids about their day, Ann meets them where they are. 

Project Renewal's summer program kicked off on Thursday, June 17. The services are free for children preschool through 12th grade. It is located at 906 W. 5th St. in Davenport. To learn more about Project Renewal, click here.

If you know someone you'd like to nominate for the Pay It Forward Award, click here.