BY MARY WICOFF
DANVILLE — The four Rotary clubs in Vermilion County are pooling their resources to make sure children get a good foundation in environmental education.
Members recently presented a check for $6,000 to help buy furniture and supplies for the new Environmental Education Center at Kennekuk County Park on Henning Road.
Using grants and individual club money from fund raisers, the clubs hope to present a total of $20,000 to the Vermilion County Conservation District by fall. The money will be used to buy desks, tables, chairs, computers, microscopes, and educational materials for the classrooms.
“Everybody is working together to make sure this school room will open,” said Judy Story, chairman of the project. “I’m excited about this.”
The four clubs involved in the project are: The Rotary Club of Danville with president Amy Hoose; Downtown Rotary with Jennifer Dixon as president; Danville Sunrise with Chuck Kasper as president; and the Rotary Club of Hoopeston with Greg Anvick, president.
Mike Wilkinson, treasurer for the project, said, “It’s good to see a dream come to fruition.”
Story said the clubs have heard Ken Konsis, executive director for the Vermilion County Conservation District, discuss the project over the last three or four years. Finally, Story said, “This is the year we can talk about what Rotary can do. It’s been on our back burner waiting to get the sign from (Konsis).”
The project was too big for just one club, so they banded together. In her time as a Rotarian, Story said, this is the first time the clubs have come together to help fund a project.
When Rotary District Gov. Gordon Bidner visited, he thought it was a “once in a lifetime deal,” she said, and suggested she write for a Rotary grant of $4,000. The clubs did fundraisers to get $6,000, and are working toward the $20,000 goal.
If they reach that goal, the classrooms will be named the Rotary Educational Classroom.
Members of the public may donate, too, noting that their donation is part of the Rotary effort.
Konsis is pleased with the Rotary’s donation, and the conservation district will try to get matching funds. Once the district sees how much money it has, it will prioritize which items need to be bought.
In addition, the district will use money from other clubs, as well. For example, the Oakwood Men’s Club donated $2,500, he said, and other groups have donated. The total bill for the center’s wish list is $50,000.
Construction on the building is expected to be done by the end of July, and he hopes to have a grand opening after Labor Day. The building will be used by school children in the fall.
The idea for a new education center has been brewing since 1995, and work began last year.
Phase 1 calls for two temporary classrooms to be built as part of the 7,500-square-foot facility, replacing the current Outdoor School classrooms set up in a converted garage. Staff offices, a basement and a reception area will be part of the new building.
Later plans call for a conference room that can hold up to 500 sit-down guests.
“It’s such a good project,” Story said. “All the children use the facility from Vermilion County.”
Story said she also will apply for more grants.
To donate to the new Environmental Education Center, contact any Rotary member or send a check to: the Vermilion County Conservation District Foundation, 2296-A Henning Road, Danville, IL 61834.
For more information, call Ken Konsis at 442-1691.