Defenders 40

The McHenry County Defenders was formed forty years ago, the press release below reminds folks. I joined that first year.

This past year it has been re-named the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County.

It was a spin-off of the Fox Valley Defenders, which formed to fight (successfully, obviously) the Fox Valley Freeway through Barrington Hills. (Rumor is that then Lt. Gov. Paul Simon’s sister lived near the proposed “freeway,” which anyone with a brain knew would end up a tollway.)

Earth Day was 1969 and the members in McHenry decided they wanted to create a broad-based environmental organization and, since the organizers were from McHenry County they did so and changed the name.

And the group survived, although after municipalities took over re-cycling, the flow of income to the organization dipped so much that a full-time executive director became impossible to finance.

25 Year Members, taken in 1994. In the photo in the back row are Bill Wingate, Bill Howenstine, Lon Huml, Larry Lane, Cal Skinner, Jr., Brian Koukol, Sherry Anderson; front row, Florence Seda, Ardith Wingate, Alice Howenstine, Margaret Marchi, Anne Carroll, Ward Duel, Lou Marchi and Bill Carroll

The Defenders has been involved in all the garbage dump fights with scientist Lou Marchi arguing persuasively,

“All landfills leak, it’s just a matter of time.”

Protect of the shallow aquifers from which much of McHenry County’s water flows has been a key goal.

When people thought inappropriate use of land was threatening their neighborhoods, who you gonna call?

It wasn’t Ghostbusters. It was the Defenders.

Maybe some folks will reminisce about some of the fights, the most recent of which I remember was opposition against building a minor league baseball stadium on the watershed of Crystal Lake.

Below is the press release:

Environmental Defenders Celebrate 40 Years
of Protecting Natural Resources in McHenry County!

Anniversary Celebration planned at Saturday, March 13 Dinner Meeting
& Awards Ceremony in McHenry

WOODSTOCK – The Environmental Defenders of McHenry County will celebrate the 40th anniversary of their grassroots, not-for-profit organization at their Annual Defenders’ Dinner Meeting and Awards Ceremony – this Saturday, March 13, from 5:30 – 9 p.m at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, 404 North Green Street in McHenry, IL.

Founded in 1970, this locally based volunteer organization has grown from a few dozen concerned citizens into the McHenry County Defenders, a well-respected not-for-profit organization with hundreds of members throughout the county, dedicated to preserving and protecting a healthy environment in their communities.  Recently, the group became known as the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, to better reflect its purpose and mission.

Re-cyclers in Woodstock

Each year, Defenders members gather together for an organizational meeting, an awards ceremony for local volunteers, and a fantastic potluck supper.  This year’s program also includes “A Walk Down Memory Lane,” a retrospective look at 40 years of Defenders’ accomplishments, and a presentation on the proposed Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in northern McHenry County.  A photo slide show will also feature Defenders’ members and  activities throughout the years.

The Defenders’ 40th Anniversary Celebration and Annual Dinner Meeting is open to members and their families.  Those who are interested in learning more about the organization are also invited to attend, and media representatives will be welcome.  There is no charge to attend the potluck dinner, just bring a dish to pass and your own non-disposable tableware.  The evening also includes several raffles, volunteer awards, and 40th Anniversary displays.  (A complete schedule is attached.)

For more information, visit or contact the office of the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County at (815) 338-0393, e-mail:

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