That’s why the new 501(c)3 nonprofit was launched – to help address those pressures on a local level.
“This will be a safe, positive, encouraging, empowering environment,” co-Executive Director Chad Mihevc said at an open house Sunday afternoon at the center, 4105 W. Crystal Lake Road. “These are the things we stand for.”
Mihevc said the pressure placed on teens is showing up in the increasing substance abuse and suicide rates among young people.
“We can do something about it in McHenry,” Mihevc said. “This is an ideal place to start something like this because McHenry always steps up. We have a family value-driven community.”
The center will offer free programs for kids in sixth through 12th grades from 2:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday beginning Feb. 26. That’s in addition to a meal ministry effort already underway that provides less-fortunate McHenry School District 15 students with meals during the weekend.
Hailey Ullett, a sophomore at McHenry East High School, said she tends to be an introverted person, but Mihevc and his wife, Ignite co-Executive Director Jenny Mihevc, have helped her branch out through their work at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church.
Ullett, one of the organization’s student leaders, is looking forward to assisting kids who might struggle with transitioning from middle school to high school.
“If middle school kids come here and see high school kids, it might help them adjust faster,” Ullett said. “Maybe they’ll see more familiar faces when they get to high school.”
Becca Beaman, a freshman at McHenry County College, said the location is ideal because it’s halfway between McHenry East and McHenry West high schools. There also is a bike path and park nearby.
The two-floor building once was a mill, and it has brick walls and high ceilings with open floors for kids to move around freely. Ullett was struck by the history and character of the building, which dates to the 1800s. From the looks of it outside, she wasn’t expecting much.
“I almost lost my breath when I walked in,” Ullett said. “I didn’t think it would look like this at all.”
Some of the sit-down restaurant-style booths inside might look familiar. That’s because furniture was donated when a Panera Bread restaurant in Buffalo Grove closed.
“Rather than sitting in a junkyard, we’re making good use of them,” Chad Mihevc said.
All of the adult leaders have an outside job, and everybody comes from a different professional background. Together, they each bring a unique set of skills and expertise to the table, Chad Mihevc said. But the main thing they share in common is the will to work and make Ignite and its end goals a reality for the community, he said.