Glen Ellyn couple pledge $100,000 in 'green' donations for DuPage Forest Preserve
A Glen Ellyn couple are pledging $100,000 to help renewable energy efforts for the DuPage County Forest Preserve District.
Ann Boisclair and Jeffrey Jens were honored by forest preserve officials during a Saturday ceremony at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn. That property received a $25,000 donation from the couple in 2020 for the installation of solar panels.
"We've been concerned about global warming for years, and we finally started doing something," Jens said in an interview before the ceremony. "We've been fortunate in our lives and wish to share our good fortune with those who want to bring more solar to the world."
The $100,000 donation goes toward a solar power project at the fleet management building at Blackwell Forest Preserve on Mack Road in West Chicago.
"It will be the district's most ambitious solar project to date," said DuPage Forest Preserve District President Daniel Hebreard in a statement. "It will be a great benefit for the environment and to DuPage County taxpayers by helping us manage long-term operating costs."
The district's other solar projects are at Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton and The Preserve at Oak Meadows in Addison, which has a solar-powered fleet of golf carts.
The Blackwell project is estimated to produce 384-megawatt hours of electricity a year, save about $22,000 annually and offset 100% of the fleet building's electrical energy consumption, according to Kevin Horsfall, manager of the district's planning department.
"It's a new building, and there are no problems with the roof," Jens said. "Unfortunately, it doesn't face south as beautifully as at Willowbrook."
Jens said his environmental worldview was crucially shaped as a 12- and 13-year-old employee at Willowbrook in the early 1960s. Jens and Boisclair also initially focused their forest preserve philanthropy on Willowbrook to honor Jens' fond memories of its former resident caretaker, Dorothy Hoger.
Jens said Willowbrook's large, south-facing rooftops were "incredibly perfect, especially when they were not built with solar power in mind."
According to Horsfall, Willowbrook's solar panels are expected to offset 30% of the center's total electrical demand and provide an $8,000 annual savings for about 25 years.
Boisclair and Jens have also provided seed money for solar projects for other organizations. For example, Jens and Boisclair work with the Illinois chapter of Faith in Place, a national group that helps religious institutions to focus on environmental issues.
Jens' alma mater, Dennison University in Granville, Ohio, also benefitted from donations to kit up one student apartment building with solar panels. Jens said the savings prompted the university to install solar panels on three neighboring buildings.
"For those who are contemplating putting up solar projects, it's really hard to resist that money," Jens said. "It's very clear that it provides a nudge to get a goal for solar power."