Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Whitaker Center to build out new STEM lab, thanks to sledgehammers, fundraisers, wine

Whitaker Center CEO Ted Black with artist’s renderings of the new STEM Design Studios.

When it opened two decades ago, Whitaker Center faced an issue that all nonprofits have to reckon with—how to raise money to continue its mission.

Soon, Bill Kohl and several other supporters stumbled on a fundraising idea that they had seen work elsewhere. How about a high-end wine event?

On Tuesday, Kohl introduced the 19th annual Très Bonne Année, which is French for “a very good year.” To date, this annual series of wine events, held each October, has raised more than $5.5 million for Whitaker Center, Kohl said.

“We look to add to that total this year,” said Kohl, chairman of the eight-member Très Bonne Année board.

Chairman Bill Kohl today introduced 2019 Très Bonne Année, which will feature wines by Verity Wine Group.

As an example of this money at work, Whitaker Center CEO Ted Black earlier in the day had announced the latest planned improvement to the downtown Harrisburg arts and sciences facility.

Over the next two months, Whitaker Center will turn tired, 20-year-old classroom space on the lower level of the Harsco Science Center into the new, 3,000-square-foot STEM Design Studios, which will feature STEM-based (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) labs, classes and activities.

Black said that Très Bonne Année, which last year raised $268,700 for Whitaker Center, is underwriting a large portion of the $450,000 cost of the new STEM studio.

“It was about this time last year that we started working with Très Bonne Année on a funded need,” Black said. “We wanted something that was very tangible.”

Black said that the idea for the STEM studio arose from brainstorming with his staff about how to enhance both the science center and the educational mission of Whitaker Center. This idea rose to the top of the list.

“We live in a STEM economy,” he said. “There is a gender gap pertaining to women and girls in STEM jobs. Our hope is that we spark an interest in STEM that carries through.”

State Rep. Patty Kim takes a swing as part of Whitaker Center’s “sledgehammer” event, which began construction of the new STEM Design Studios.

Black expects a Nov. 4 opening date for the new STEM facility.

On Tuesday, Kohl also announced that Très Bonne Année this year will feature wines from New York-based Verity Wine Group.

Jennifer Brown, regional state sales manager for Verity, said she was interested in participating in Très Bonne Année because it enables her and her company to contribute locally to the Harrisburg area.

“I feel it’s important to give back to the community I live in,” she said.

For more information about Whitaker Center, visit For more information about Très Bonne Année, visit

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