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Program: Human Relations Council, McHenry County, Woodstock, Ill
Contact(s): Dianne Klemm, Chair, McHenry County Board of Commissioners, and Joel Blanco, President: (815) 334-4221
Purpose: To create an environment that is free from prejudice, discrimination, persecution and racism for all McHenry County citizens

Background Program Operations Outcomes


The Human Relations Council (HRC) of McHenry County, located about an hour northwest of Chicago, began in October 1995 in response to the growing diversity of the county's population. Originally an agriculture-based, white community, the county has witnessed a transformation from a rural economy to an increasingly urban one, with a growing Hispanic community. McHenry County is the fastest growing county in Illinois and the fifth fastest growing county in the country. The catalyst for the formation of the Human Relations Council was a Ku Klux Klan demonstration in one of the county's parking lots. The County Board of Commissioners formed the HRC to educate and build awareness of racial diversity.

Program Operations

The Human Relations Council consists of 17 members of diverse ethnic and professional backgrounds who possess practical skills for improving race relations and managing diversity. The County Board appoints all 17 members, three of whom are board members and 14 are citizens-at-large. As a group, the HRC meets once a month, but smaller education, research, and ad hoc committees meet as needed. The HRC has pursued a number of initiatives to foster an environment that is free of racism and persecution. Their many activities include working with county schools to identify curricular resources, textbooks and other reading material that do not portray racial stereotypes. They are also developing a diversity-awareness video to distribute to various fraternal organizations and schools and are putting together a resource booklet containing a bibliography of relevant diversity materials, curriculum resources and a list of local and national diversity organizations. HRC is currently planning a workshop on managing differences and facilitating communications to work together to improve human relations. The workshop will target teachers and local city and village human relations groups. Finally, HRC hopes to create a database of race-related incidents to create awareness around racial discrimination.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

While no formal evaluation has been conducted, participants involved in HRC's activities and recipients of the materials have provided positive feedback. Additionally, the council has reported that other county boards have approached the McHenry County Board of Commissioners about developing their own human relation councils, and villages within McHenry County are considering starting their own councils.

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