You might not know Cindy Skrukrud, but if you’ve ever canoed the Nippersink Creek or fished in the Fox River, you have benefited from work she’s done.
The Solon Mills resident chairs the Water Resources Protection Committee of the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, serves on the board of the Nippersink Watershed Association, and participates in the Fox River and Kishwaukee River ecosystem partnerships.
And that’s only a few of the volunteer projects Skrukrud is involved in.
To pay the bills, she works full time as the clean water advocate for the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club.
“McHenry County is blessed with very high-quality water features, high-quality wetlands and unique fens. All those things have drawn me to focus on water,” she said.
A history of volunteering and easy ways to get involved drew her to focus on conservation in McHenry County.
Skrukrud was exposed to recycling and volunteering at an early age. As a child growing up in Colorado, her Luther League Youth Group raised money through newspaper recycling.
Skrukrud also watched her parents volunteer, and in high school she got involved in projects that raised environmental awareness.
The journey to a doctorate in biochemistry led Skrukrud away from volunteer work for a while, but a move to McHenry County in 1988 sent her back into it.
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh, now this is my chance,’” Skrukrud said. “I saw the [then-]McHenry County Defenders newsletter and said, ‘Hey, this is a group I want to be involved with.’”
Starting out slowly, Skrukrud first spent time at the Defenders’ recycling center in McHenry. Soon she was on several committees and named president of the board of directors for the nonprofit group.
In 1993, Skrukrud was named executive director of what is today the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County and served as such until 1999.
“I think people get engaged when they volunteer. We get fun out of doing it, and we see the need,” Skrukrud said of fellow volunteers and herself.
“You see the results of the time you’re putting in and you work with such great people that you just keep doing it,” she said.
Skrukrud believes that the state of McHenry County’s water is a measure of how its residents live on the land.
“The only way we’re going to have good water quality is if we live lightly,” she said. “And I’ve really seen more communities embracing that idea.
“Twenty years ago, I don’t think people really realized and appreciated the quality of the streams in McHenry County, but I think the Defenders’ efforts and the Friends of the Fox and others’ efforts have gotten people to realize the quality of their water.”
– Katie Anderson