By Anne Eickstadt

CURT NEWPORT PHOTOS Belvidere Republican
Chamber of Commerce President Luis Gonzalez; Claire Gierat, who received the Distinguished Citizen Award; Troy Yunk, recipient of the Doctor of Civic Betterment Award; and Master of Ceremonies Jen Jacky.


The 104th Annual Belvidere Area Chamber of Commerce dinner was held at the Radisson Conference Center, Rockford on Thursday, March 7. With over 300 people attending, Jen Jackie if Belvidere Family YMCA was the Master of Ceremonies for the event and Reverend Adam Reardon gave the invocation before dinner.

Platinum Sponsor Mercyhealth Vice President Michelle Lippert gave a short video presentation and Chamber President Luis Gonzalez made a few comments before the featured speaker took the stage.

Felicia Hopkins is a published author of ‘Halfway Home’ and ‘Rise Up.’ Felicia has served in the military for 21 plus years. She is a senior pastor, and is a single mother of two boys. She is a thoughtful influencer and spiritual business leader creating paradigms, touching hearts, and changing minds.

Her topic for the evening was “Touching Hearts…Changing Minds” and focused on answering the call to service. She was serving at the Beaumont Medical Center when she received a phone call telling her she had 72 hours to prepare to be deployed to Germany. She was to return to the hospital to pick up her orders and a plane ticket. She had just 72 hours to finish her taxes, get her paperwork straightened out, go from Buffalo, New York to El Paso, Texas to get to her kids and explain to them that when you make a promise, you have to keep it.

When Hopkins arrived in Germany, she was informed that she was to turn a 45-bed clinic into a 250-bed hospital. There were already wounded warriors on site and more arrived every night. We would climb up on the truck and tell the patients, “While you are here, we will get you well, we will tell your family you are here, we will feed you and find you clothes.” Many of the warriors would arrive with little more than the bandages covering their wounds. Hopkins needed to keep their hope alive, assure them that better days would come.

Every night, more wounded arrived and Hopkins and the hospital staff continued to encourage them that this too, would pass.

After three months, Hopkins was told she needed to go to training. Two weeks later, she had still not done so. “I don’t have time to train,” she said when tasked about it. The next Monday, she went to training. “Are you kidding me?” she wondered, her feet tapping and leg jiggling. On the third day, the trainer filled a pitcher to the top with water. “This is all the stuff you do that you get paid to do,” he said “Where are you going to put everything you want to do? What matters to you?”

He called on Hopkins who did not have an answer for him. “Take a couple of days and think about it,” he said.

And she did. She realized that she didn’t know what mattered most to her. On the last day of class, she was able to give him an answer. One, her personal relationship with

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