MADISON — Two Beloit area leaders have been recognized among the state’s most influential Black leaders as part of an annual announcement by Madison365.

Beloit City Council President Regina Dunkin and Rock County Jumpstart Founder Genia Stevens were both included in the five-part series by the nonprofit online news outlet.

Dunkin, who currently serves as Beloit City Council President, said she was “surprised and honored” to be part of the effort highlighting Black leaders across the state. She currently serves as the Community Relations Coordinator for Beloit Health System after spending 18 years as director of the Merrill Community Center.

“I didn’t expect it because I always give from my heart,” Dunkin said. “I am passionate about being a role model and helping others succeed. I am happy to have made history, but hope this will be an inspiration showing what can happen when you make a difference.”

The effort to highlight Black leaders is vitally important in Wisconsin, Stevens said.

“I really appreciate that they do this every year,” Stevens said. “A lot of times the work that Black folks do in Wisconsin falls under the radar and folks don’t know how many amazing Black leaders we have.”

Stevens works daily to uplift Black business owners through Rock County Jumpstart, an organization that launched this spring in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic to help coach and mentor Black small business owners.

Even amidst the pandemic, Rock County Jumpstart grew from supporting 20 small businesses to now over 80, Stevens said, noting that there’s a core of around 20 businesses her organization routinely works with.

“It’s extremely important to have the support from the community,” Stevens said. “We are working with them consistently.”

Headed into 2021, Stevens expects to conduct a needs assessment survey with business owners to better allocate resources and identify gaps in services that might be needed post-pandemic.

“We want to do a deeper dive on what business owner needs are and how their needs have changed,” Stevens said.

Stevens is a marketing strategist at Belwah Media and strategic planning consultant at Belwah Strategy, both based in Madison.

To view the Madison365 “Black Power 2020: Wisconsin’s 51 Most Influential Black Leaders” series, visit Madison365.com.