Science Education Takes a Step Forward in McHenry County

The following email was received on Monday from Jeff Gerhardt. I’ve written about his efforts to engage kids in science here.

An open house is planned for March 25th, 2-7 PM. The address is 7518 Hancock in Wonder Lake.

You can get a sense of his enthusiasm in the letter below:


Today is a pretty significant day. It is certainly cause to celebrate, and not just for being St Patrick’s Day. But even days of Victory like today also give one opportunity for taking pause to look at our next steps. Momentum can be a pretty tricky thing. If we hesitate too long in taking those next steps, they may not happen at all. So celebration and evaluation must also be tempered with a firm eye on the goal.

Sometime today (Monday March 17th) I will take possession of a set of keys for our new facility in Wonder Lake. For all those of you that have helped to make the first few steps for the Wonder Lake Community Center possible and indeed, my efforts to promote STEM programs in the county; I thank you with all my heart. You share in this good news.

Friday was the closing on the purchase of our first facility at 7518 Hancock Drive in Wonder Lake. Today as we actually pick up the keys, we take stock in the effort as we have been working toward this day for almost a year

in earnest, and many years in the making. Now the work of rehabilitating the facility begins.

I am going to ask all of those that get this email to PLEASE pass on the word.

Momentum is starting to move in a forward direction that should please us all and the achievement of many of our goals are now is site. It is a proof of the simple concept that great goals can be achieved if we all share a common vision for McHenry County and indeed all of Illinois.

Indeed, in a situation like McHenry County where money is tighter and harder to come by than in Urban counties, or concentrations of wealth like Naperville; we must start out on this road with the common knowledge that ONLY by helping each other achieve the goals of the many, can we find the critical mass and support for our own communities. This is oh so very true of a small community like Wonder Lake.

I would like to take a few moments to point out just a couple of the many that have helped to make these first steps possible.

Wonder Lake Village President Tony Topf and indeed the entire Village Board of Wonder Lake for their support for this project from day one.

Tom Cooper of Wonder Lake for giving me the support I needed, when I needed it most. The success we have had in recent months is in no small measure due to Tom and his influence.

Carl Martin the Executive Director of the McHenry Workforce Investment Board and Julie Courtney Director of the McHenry County Workforce Network, who both understand how important STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education can be to developing an educated workforce in the county, and how joining forces to create Computer Technology Centers (CTCs) and STEM Centers can help many organizations in the county achieve their goals, including WIB.

Tina R Hill of the County Board and Mike Tryon’s Office for being an evangelist talking to people in county government about our programs and the need to find common goals if not a county wide policy on the development of STEM programs for our youth.

Wayne Kurchina, the real estate agent who was the broker for the bank/property owner. Wayne showed great patience and put in a great amount of work for a project that will have benefit to the community with as far as I know, NO compensation.

Joel Green of the McHenry County Cooperative for Employment Education for two things. First, in recognizing the successes my program development group had in Chicago and then being an evangelist to the education community in the county as we moved from Chicago to Wonder Lake. Also, this past week Joel told me he would be willing to have his organization step forward to take an over site role for helping set a county wide agenda and policy for STEM Education. This is a key and needed role for us to move forward with having an organization that county government (the county board) can recognize of representing the needs of all the county; as well as the organizational strength to be trusted by the county.

And last Lt Governor Pat Quinn and his Broadband Deployment Council where I have found great support. The contacts and open minded people I have met through that association has been invaluable.

There are tons of other people I should thank, especially my family members, but I just do not have the space to do so in one email.


At present we now have a building, about $15,000 in pledges and are filling out grant applications as fast as we can to begin developing programs. But we can achieve many of our goals if we can support from the local community and the county as well. We have come up with a very solid business model that should allow the facility to run at about 70% WITHOUT grants, once the facility is built out. This is a very low grant to income ratio as most agencies that are not tax supported are at the whim of grant support. We can reach MOST of our goals just based on program income because of the partnerships we have built over the last year. In doing this, grant monies become an accent and improvement, and not the reliant source of income.

However, we still need to raise a good deal of money to rehab the facility, get the equipment needed, and initial staffing. We could also save a good deal of money through in-kind donations. An example of some of our needs include:

1) $25,000 in basic rehab expenses- could be an in kind donation from home center and/or construction company
2) $6,000 in electrical improvements- could be in kind donation from electrical contractor
3) 40 new or used computers for computer 3 labs (we have already had 50 monitors donated)- could be in kind donation from any business
4) $4,000 kitchen equipment for Snack Shop
5) $50,000 for first year staffing
6) $1500 for security system
7) $10,000 for HVAC improvement
8) $15,000 for building enclosed heated (3 season) patio
9) $8,000 Basic Utilities Fund
10) ADA costs ?????????

So, as you can see we still have quite a way to go. We need cash or in kind contributions to keep moving. We also need VOLUNTEERS, as many as we can get.

I am planning on having to doors open on Tuesday the 25th for people to stop by for open meetings and talk about the plans. The times of these meetings are 2:00pm and 7:00pm. The place is a disaster as it has been unused for over 4 years; so you will get dirty from the dust alone. Again the address is 7518 Hancock in Wonder Lake.

Jeff Gerhardt

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The new building is seen on top. The head shots are of Wonder Lake’s Jeff Gerhardt and McHenry County Board member Tina Hill. Except for the map showing where the building is, the rest of the photos come from an article I wrote on Gerhardt’s Focus on NASA program.

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