Earth Day: Environmental Defenders of McHenry County honors award winners

Defenders Board President Kim Hankins (L) and Defenders Executive Director Erin Kennedy (R) presented Nancy Schietzelt (M) with the Theta Award at the annual dinner on March 3, 2024

The Environmental Defenders of McHenry County presented five awards at its annual dinner in March at 31 North Banquets and Catering in McHenry. The dinner raised money to support the organization’s paid summer interns.

The organization’s highest honor, the Theta Award, was presented to Nancy Schietzelt for serving on the Defenders’ board as president for more than 10 years. Schietzelt’s service also includes teaching students the importance of science and conservation; co-hosting Water and Natural Resources Protection Team interns; contributing volunteer hours to the Defenders, The Land Conservancy of McHenry County and other organizations; being instrumental in the formation of the county’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan; and recruiting hundreds of members to the Defenders.

The Government Award, which is presented to a governmental group that has made significant contributions to the environmental health of the county in the past year, was presented to the village of Bull Valley for engaging its community in the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, adopting the first Dark Sky Ordinance in the county and for the preservation of Thompson Road Farm.

The Business Award, which is given to a business that has gone above and beyond to prioritize environmentally friendly practices, was given to American Ad Bag in Woodstock for supporting efforts to reduce single-use plastic bags by donating excess bags to bookstores and other local nonprofits.

The Volunteer of the Year Award was given to the Water and Natural Resources Protection Action Team for recruiting 14 governmental bodies to sign on to the National Wildlife Foundation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge and for its work to make the Defenders’ solar project a reality.

The Young Defender Award was given to Isabelle Gregory for her work as a 2023 spring micro intern for the Defenders at its Earth Day celebration, the McHenry County Fair and as president of the Environmental Club at Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake.