EKB pavilion project checkGrant from Matt & Kathryn Wilhelm Family Foundation (EKB Kitchens)

Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y. -- When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum to suspend educational programming in late March, the leadership and board looked to play to its strength of nature based outdoor learning and play to support its mission of creating future stakeholders of our shared community environment.

The first opportunity to do that came in July.  By scaling back the overall size and creating individual age group pods, the museum’s Director of Education Jenny Brinker successfully planned and ran a healthy (and infection free) eight week summer camp for children.  The response by their families was overwhelmingly positive with parents thankful their children could safely interact with other children after months of social isolation. 

In September to restart the highly regarded Young Naturalist (YN) program serving almost one-hundred mid-Hudson families with a nature based preschool, the Nature Museum planned to build two outdoor pavilions so that classes could spend much more time outside, even when the weather was less than ideal.  Kerrilee Hunter, the Nature Museum’s YN Director, has a saying that underlies her learning and teaching philosophy, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”  This mantra can now be extended to outdoor classroom space.  In a happy coincidence, just as the Nature Museum leadership was developing their plans for new outdoor classrooms, Cornwall-on-Hudson residents Matt & Kathryn Wilhelm (proprietors of local business EKB Kitchens) reached out to encourage the Nature Museum to apply for a grant from their modest family foundation.

The Wilhelm’s have been giving back to the community in this way for several years.  Prior to this year’s grant Mr. Wilhelm completely rebuilt a footbridge at the Nature Museum’s Wildlife Education Center (WEC) that had been destroyed by a fallen tree.  He provided both the materials and labor for the new bridge, but at the time was reluctant to be identified as the benefactor.  Of note Mr. Wilhelm said that he and his son, “regularly hike the new Nature Museum’s new Nat Stillman Trail and especially love the extraordinary view from the bench at the summit of Round Top.”  In a similar way the Wilhelm Family Foundation gives to their community, the new trail was recently completed with the generous support of the trail’s namesake, Nat Stillman who lives in Massachusetts, but was raised in Cornwall-on-Hudson. 

Within several weeks of submitting the grant application the Nature Museum was informed that they had received a generous $5,000 donation and that check was presented to the Nature Museum’s Executive Director on December 10th at the EKB Kitchen offices in New Windsor.

For this extraordinary support the Nature Museum will name one of the pavilions in honor of the Matt & Kathryn Wilhelm’s Family Foundation.  The Wihlem’s have also provided additional funding to area organizations and are a model of how local businesses can give back to the community they do business in.

Founded in 1959, the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum is a premier nature center with a focus on Environmental Education with a mission to develop responsible caretakers of the environment. Over the years it has developed quality educational programs for students and the public that focus on the unique ecology of the Hudson Highlands and promote knowledge and appreciation of our natural world.  The Museum is home to Grasshopper Grove, the Hudson Valley's first Nature Play area. The Museum's Outdoor Discovery Center and Grasshopper Grove are located in Cornwall and the Wildlife Education Center in Cornwall-on-Hudson.



Photo Caption: Matt Wilhelm of EKB Kitchens and the Matthew & Kathryn Wilhelm Charitable Fund presents a check to the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum to build outdoor classroom pavilions


Thomas Bregman