In a virtual 4th birthday celebration, Tuesday, Sept. 29, Lead(h)er shared stories from across its 300-plus matches of female mentors and mentees, highlighted successes, and announced the 2020 Girl on Fire Award winners.

The awards honor Mentor of the Year and Mentee of the Year — amazing women nominated by their peers who show exceptional commitment. Lead(h)er offers free mentorship to young professionals, free networking, guest speakers and professional development, as

Lead(h)er executive director Megan Hasselroth (center) with the Girl on Fire award winners.

well as an inspirational spark to serve their community.

All day Tuesday, on the organization’s Facebook page, they celebrated everyday successes. “That’s what Lead(h)er does really well,” executive director Megan Hasselroth said from The Empowerment Center in downtown Davenport. “We celebrate women and their own individual goals.”

“All of our Lead(h)er ladies are impressive in their own way, but the Girl on Fire Awards highlight two women who live and lead the Lead(h)er mission in all aspects of their lives,” Hasselroth said.

Mentor of the Year is Cara Joiner, a home care consultant at Home Instead Senior Care Quad Cities. Her first mentee, Lilie Johnson, was last year’s Mentee of the Year.

“I’m so humbled by this opportunity,” Joiner said, noting she initially didn’t feel qualified to be a mentor; she was new in her industry. “How could I help somebody else?”

“You don’t know who you impact and how, as long as you do it,” she said. Of Johnson, Joiner said she was very impressed with her personal and professional growth. “I’m so honored to still have her love and support today, we have more than a mentorship – we have a friendship.”

When she got a second mentee, Joiner said, “I just have to be present and connected, and the rest will come. And that’s what happened.”

Lead(h)er celebrated its fourth birthday Tuesday night.

During the pandemic, “I still needed to be connected to her, so thank goodness for technology,” she said. “We used FaceTime and texts. We really got connected. After the pandemic slowed things down, we stayed connected and were really grateful for those moments.”

“When building a relationship with someone, you need to listen,” Joiner said. “As a mentor, we are here to listen – not for ourselves. They’re leaning on you for your experience, for your experience and to help them grow. Ask questions, dig deeper, and most importantly, be present.”

“You help guide them, to help them give them to tools so they can be the best they can be,” she said. “Be the biggest cheerleader. Mentors help celebrate a mentee’s success, no matter how big or how small.”

Rumaisa Rahman Khawaja, 2020 Mentee of the Year.

The 2020 Mentee of the Year is Rumaisa Rahman Khawaja, a life, relationship and personal development coach at Mandala Integrative Medicine, who has also become a mentor.

“You create what you want; you create your situations,” she said, noting she moved to the Q-C five years ago not knowing anyone. “You go for it. My intentional word was never in a million years would I think I would get this award.”

“If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know how to get there?” Khawaja asked. “So, there were highs; there have been lows. You find people who really support you on the lows and those highs. I found that community. I found that community through Lead(h)er; I found that community in the Quad-Cities.

“I found my people,” she said. “I’m very, very grateful for the people who have been there. Sometimes, you may not know where you’re going. But if you just stay and remember, you may not know the how, you may not know the outcome. That resiliency factor is hard. 2020 has been hard.

“Just knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Khawaja said. “Stay within your purpose, your passion. What do you want? What do you want more of in your life? That’s what led me to this organization. That’s what led me to moving here.”

“It’s not telling someone what they should do,” she said of mentoring. “It’s guiding them and being their biggest cheerleader. That’s all you can do – support one another, lift one another up, build one another up. We’re so much stronger together; really, we truly are.”

“I’m so grateful through all the rollercoaster rides,” she added. “So happy, grateful that it led me here today.”

Lead(h)er mentor LuAnn Haydon was praised at the event for helping lead two mentees simultaneously – including Courtney Lawrence of Moline.

“This past year has brought big changes in my life,” Lawrence said. “I decided to start my own e-design business and pursue my passion,

Cara Joiner, 2020 Mentor of the Year.

Courtney Lawrence Studio. LuAnn has played a huge role in helping me do this and helping me jumping into the unknown of starting my own business.”

“I’m so thankful be part of Lead(h)er; I’m so thankful to have met LuAnn and for her mentorship,” she said.

Anika Martin has worked seven years as community relations director for the Two Rivers YMCA in Moline.

“I came to Lead(h)er to help me navigate community engagement. I love volunteering and giving back to the community,” she said. “But I also have two children at home and by the time I’m done with my full-time work schedule each week, I don’t have as much time with my family as I’d really like.

“So I wanted some guidance in helping find a way to give back to the community in worthwhile ways, and doing things that worthy of the time I’m spending away from my family,” she said. “Somehow with Lead(h)er, I was paired with someone who knew exactly where I was coming from.

“LuAnn may have navigated the same waters when her son was younger and still found meaningful ways to serve the community,” Martin said. “She clearly figured out the whole ‘doing it all’ thing. I am so thankful to Lead(h)er, I was paired with someone who understands me, I value, and has supported me in my goals.

“Mostly, she has empowered me and encouraged me to be confident in myself and what I already have to offer,” she said. “For the last 10

LuAnn Haydon, Lead(h)er mentor and board member.

months, I have been serving on a board in the community that’s been a dream of mine for years.”

Haydon (retired manager of the John Deere Pavilion in Moline and Lead(h)er board member) said she feels like Lawrence is her daughter.

“I felt I needed to be there for you to help you walk in bigger shoes. I can’t thank you enough for the time you took away from your family,” Haydon said. “I am so delighted to know you and so honored to be part of your family. I can’t wait to see this next chapter in your life.”

Of Martin, she said:  “I think you and I have a special bond as well. Just like Courtney, I’m close to you. Your story is amazing as well. If I can continue to help the both of you two and others, I will be fulfilled in my life. Because of you both, I feel better. I feel like I’m still relevant in this world and I want to continue doing what I do for you and others.”

The 4th birthday also served as a fundraiser for the nonprofit. For more information, visit www.leadherqc.org.

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Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.