Children’s environmental group merges with Hoosier Environmental Council

Improving Kids’ Environment, a 20-year-old not-for-profit that works to reduce toxic risks for children, has merged with the Hoosier Environmental Council, the groups announced Thursday.

IKE will now operate as part of HEC, a 36-year-old statewide environmental advocacy group with 14 staff members.

“Though most of the environmental issues we have been working on at HEC benefit children in some way, we are looking forward to this merger as an opportunity to focus specifically on environmental threats to children’s health,” Dr. Indra Frank, environmental health director at HEC, said in written remarks.

IKE’s mission is to reduce toxic risks to children from lead, particulate matter, pesticides, household chemicals and more.

None of IKE’s staff will join HEC. The organization typically operated with no more than three staff members and was down to one before the merger.

Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of HEC, said IKE’s importance couldn’t be measured by the size of its staff.

“I’ll emphasize that what makes IKE’s merger an expansion for HEC is that IKE, over its 20-year history, has cultivated innumerable relationships with educators, health professionals, and local community groups that will enable HEC to expand the breadth of coalitions that we are able to create,” Kharbanda said in an email to IBJ.

Margaret Frericks, executive director of IKE since 2012, won’t be joining HEC but will continue to help out on a volunteer business, Kharbanda said.

IKE’s office at 1915 W. 18th St. has closed, with assets moving to HEC’s main office at 951 N. Meridian St.

With IKE now in the fold, HEC said it will be able to focus on three children’s health initiatives:

— Sustaining & building on IKE’s online portal for families, educators & health professionals;
— Advancing efforts to reduce lead poisoning;
— Ensuring children have clean water to drink and clean streams to play in by focusing on bacterial pollution.

“The legacy of IKE to protect Hoosier children from environmental threats is in good hands with HEC,” Frericks said in written remarks. “HEC’s steadfast commitment to protecting Indiana’s people and environment made this merger a perfect match. I am excited about the children’s health initiatives to come under the leadership of HEC.”

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