The current president of the Illinois Jaycees, a Crystal Lake native, hopes to restart the Crystal Lake chapter by the end of this year.
Eric Hiatt, who became president of the state group said one of his initiatives this year is to try and bring the Jaycees – short for the Junior Chamber of Commerce – back to McHenry County.
“Crystal Lake had a very active chapter back in the day,” Hiatt said. “Sometimes people move into different areas, there’s a year nobody joins, so there are some chapters where things temporarily fall off. But once we get a new group of leaders, we can start things back up.”
The Jaycees last had a Crystal Lake chapter in 2013, Hiatt said.
Although Hiatt was never part of a local Jaycees growing up, Hiatt said he received a scholarship in high school from the McHenry area Jaycees and ended up founding the Champaign-Urbana chapter after college.
The Jaycees are an organization for adults 18 to 40 years old that hosts community events and helps develop community leaders, Hiatt said.
While there are Jaycees chapters in McHenry and Cary, the most active Jaycees chapter in the northwest suburbs is in Palatine, Hiatt said, adding that they do big celebrations and fundraisers throughout the year, including on July 4.
The Jaycees have held several informal meet-and-greets over the past few months, Hiatt said, and he’s had a few people show interest in a Crystal Lake group so far.
Overall, the Illinois Jaycees have 30 chapters and 800 members across Illinois, Hiatt said.
The Jaycees were founded in 1920, the national website states; the oldest chapter in Illinois, the Springfield Jaycees, have been around for 75 years, Hiatt said.
“I really enjoy seeing the growth of individuals that join,” Hiatt said. “They improve their speaking skills, and they become engage active citizens.”
This year, the Illinois Jaycees have focused on projects related to food insecurity, Hiatt said.
There will be another event on Saturday, Nov. 12, at Nick’s Pizza in Crystal Lake, Hiatt said. The event, scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m., will be a Thanksgiving-themed food collection drive for the Crystal Lake Food Pantry, and attendees can get up to $10 off a $30 annual Jaycees membership if they bring up to 10 canned goods.
Those interested in joining or helping start the local chapter can contact Hiatt at 217-529-5379 or go to illinoisjaycees.com/crystallake.