If there were a modern-day poster girl for Barrington Junior Women’s Club (BJWC) and the profound impact the nonprofit organization has had on our community over the last eight decades, it might be Courtney Quigley.
The Barrington native and winner of the BJWC’s 2014 Janice Clarke Presidential Scholarship says she has benefited from BJWC-sponsored programs and initiatives all her life. “Whether I knew it or not, I have been touched by BJWC since I was a little girl. Yes, I am a proud graduate of Safety Town!” laughs Quigley, who used her $6,000 scholarship to go on to New York University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in nonprofit organization management with a minor in Spanish.
Given Quigley’s philanthropic mindset and early interest in service, the connection to BJWC that continued through her teen years was only natural. After all, one of the things that put her at the top of the list for the BJWC scholarship was her unwavering devotion to giving back.
“By the time I had graduated from Barrington High School, I had logged more than 1,000 hours of community service,” she says, explaining how one of the projects she worked on with Potters House Association (PHA) in Guatemala City inspired her to take action locally. “I met a young woman named Monica when I was 16 years old through an internship at Potters House, an organization that works with families living in the city’s garbage dump communities. She was a bright, sweet young girl who lived with her mom, grandmother, and four siblings in a metal 10×10 Tom shack. When I found out that her older sister, who was my age at the time, was pregnant, I was heartbroken. There was no way I wanted to see that baby grow up facing the challenges Monica had in her family’s living conditions.”
While still juniors at BHS, Quigley and her twin sister Ashley created a fashion show fundraiser, “Hope’s in Style”— involving more than 50 students and raising $15,000. And it was then, a year before she even applied for the scholarship, that Quigley once again found her life touched by the BJWC.
“I was mentored by some of the amazing women who are part of BJWC, as they too do a fashion show fundraiser, and their members were so willing to help guide me and my sister through hosting ours,” she says. “My main mentor, Cindy Cowdrey, has become like another mother to me and she has walked with me through many of life’s adventures through Hope’s In.”
Today, Hope’s In is an established nonprofit agency that is responsible for recruiting more than 300 volunteers (including many from Barrington) to build 29 houses in Guatemala. And this is the just one of many stories, the many triumphs of the organization that started in 1936 as a “sister” organization to Barrington Women’s Club.
From Barrington Giving Day drives to Meals on Wheels through Barrington Area Council on Aging (BACOA) to literacy programs at Sunny Hill Elementary School—from grants given to such local groups as Barrington Youth Football to supporting seniors to nurturing kids with Safety Town, the BJWC touches every part of our community.
And they often do it quietly, sleeves rolled up, because they care.
“Barrington Junior Women’s Club has been committed to improving the lives of women, children, and seniors in the Barrington community for 80 years,” says Marvin Husby, a Barrington resident and volunteer coordinator with Barrington Youth Football, one of several organizations that receives regular grants from BJWC. “Through the generosity of BJWC’s members and community supporters, Barrington Youth Football has been able to offer dozens of scholarships for young boys and girls in our community to play the game we all love. Without these donations, many of those players would not have had the financial ability to play.”
The praise for the women’s efforts and mission is resounding.
“At Sunny Hill Elementary, the Barrington Junior Women’s Club’s continual and myriad forms of support positively impact both our students’ academic growth and social-emotional development,” says Cynthia Armendariz-Maxwell, who works with BJWC on the group’s book drive and tutoring program at the Barrington school. “Our entire community benefits from the Barrington Junior Women’s Club’s time, efforts, kindness, and compassion.”
The organization is one of those groups that attracts those with like minds and like hearts. Stephanie Jameson, who is co-chairing BJWC’s March fundraiser with Ali Swingruber, says once she discovered the organization in 2015, she knew she had to be involved.
“I found an opportunity to volunteer through BJWC for The Community Meal. I arrived not knowing what to expect, not realizing that this was an organization that existed in Barrington, much less that there was a need for a service like this in Barrington,” says Jameson, who has lived in the Barrington area for more than 30 years. “We worked with other members of the community to make BLT sandwiches and salads out of donated food from businesses in town. It warmed my heart to be part of an organization that rolls up their sleeves whenever they are needed.”
Swingruber had a similar experience, joining BJWC the same year as Jameson. She continues to see why it’s so important to give her time to BJWC, but there were two moments last year that were particularly poignant.
“One was the annual scholarship dinner in June and the other was the 20th birthday party for Safety Town in August,” she says. “The money given to the selected departing high school seniors was astounding and it was exciting to hear how they planned to use it. Then, the Safety Town birthday party made it clear to me just how many families reap the benefits of that program. Like Courtney Quigley, many of the scholarship recipients mentioned that they had attended Safety Town so it was really special to see BJWC’s reach come full circle.”
Quigley, who plans to move back to the Chicago area this summer to become Hope’s In’s first employee and serve as Executive Director, says she can see herself joining the group someday and giving back what she received from them as a young girl. In the meantime, she is scheduled to speak at a meeting this month to talk about the difference the Janice Clarke Scholarship made in her life.
“They are truly an amazing group of women that young people like me can find inspiration and guidance in,” she says. “The Barrington community can’t recognize their efforts enough as their care and kindness creates ripples that shape young students, like I was, to be more effective and bold leaders in the world.”
Barrington Junior Women’s Club initiatives touch every sector of the Barrington community. Since 1936, the women have raised money to help those in need.
For 20 years, they have run the Safety Town program, a two-week educational summer program for children that teaches safety lessons through hands-on activities and demonstrations. BJWC also offer a series of scholarships for students at Barrington High School, including six $3,000 scholarships and the $6,000 Janice Clarke Presidential Scholarship—open to those in the top 25 percent of their class who have completed at least 100 hours of community service and demonstrate leadership skills.
“Janice Clarke was an outstanding leader in the Barrington community. Sadly, she lost her battle with cancer in 2007,” explains BJWC member Suzy Mogler. “We started the Janice Clarke Presidential Scholarship in 2008.”
Just last year alone, BJWC’s 175 members served 385 families through Barrington Giving Day activities, delivered 270 meals through Barrington Area Council on Aging (BACOA), raised money to help build Splash Pad, and awarded an unprecedented total of $105,065 in grants to nonprofit organizations through the community.
“BJWC helps fill a huge void in our community,” says Stephanie Jameson, BJWC member and co-chair of the March 8 fundraiser.
“The reach is far,” adds her co-chair Ali Swingruber. “There are bigger initiatives like Giving Day and Meals on Wheels and then smaller scale ones like collecting clothing donations for WINGS. This group never stops thinking of others and BJWC members have no problem stepping up. When it comes to donating time and resources, all you have to do is ask.”
Here are just three of BJWC’s ongoing projects:
Barrington Youth Football
Marvin Husby can’t say enough good things about the support BJWC gives to Barrington Youth Football (BYF).
“Our kids are always watching and imitating what we do as adults. BYF could not think of any better role models for our players than the women of Barrington Junior Women’s Club,” he says. “The Barrington Youth Football program helps teach our young boys and girls the lessons of discipline, dedication, hard work, sacrifice, and teamwork. We also take pride in instilling character traits such as courage, honesty, compassion, and generosity.”
Everything about the program instills a feeling of team and family. In addition to the scholarships that BJWC makes possible, coaches and other parents pitch in to make sure everyone gets what they need.
“Many of our coaches pick up kids and drive them to and from games and practices every day because their parents cannot. Others buy spikes and equipment that kids may be lacking,” he says.
An example of what this means to students is best illustrated by a story Husby’s wife often tells about driving a scholarship player home. She asked the student if he was enjoying the season and he said “I always dreamed of playing football. I can’t believe I get to play this year. I love it.”
Even more rewarding, Husby continues, is watching the young players go on to play football in high school and in college.
“While our players deserve the all the credit for their accomplishments which are achieved through their hard work, BJWC does deserve the credit for helping to create the opportunity to play through their donations to BYF’s scholarship program.”
While grants make it possible to provide scholarships for young people in Barrington, the Barrington juniors also love visiting their senior friends.
Barrington Junior Women’s Club hosts visits and events at Alden Estates that include treats and visits to brighten the days of residents.
“We hosted a festive holiday event this past December with live holiday music and trivia with prizes and bingo,” explains Marcy Sparr, who works on BJWC’s senior services committee. “We also brought homemade cookies and punch for them to enjoy. The seniors all had smiles on their faces as we sang songs and talked with them.”
This month, seniors will be treated to a Valentine’s Day party.
BJWC member Cindy Galley says the group also does things like bake bread and cookies to deliver to the seniors—for no other reason than to brighten their day.
“They really look forward to our time with them,” she explains. “We have done everything from hosting holiday-themed events to just sitting with them and playing games. It’s truly a rewarding experience.”
Sunny Hill Elementary
Children are our collective future, and BJWC knows this more than anyone. That’s why one of their key community partners has been Sunny Hill Elementary, where volunteers from BJWC work on a tutoring program as well as a book drive.
Long-time BJWC member and Sunny Hill volunteer Cali Bergold says volunteers work with students at Sunny Hill every week. “I think the tutoring program is so important because we are helping the teachers by giving targeted attention to students the teacher has identified as needing more help. And importantly, the student is receiving a really high level of personal attention and interaction.”
The tutoring program is available to students who are in kindergarten through 5th grade. Volunteers work one-on-one with the children or in small groups on such tasks as reading, number games, puzzles, sentence structure, and math.
“I know from my personal experience as a tutor that even though I may only work with a student for an hour, there can be some real “a-ha” moments in that time,” adds Bergold. “I often tell the children I am a mom with kids and when my kids were small like them, they too had some trouble understanding how to multiply double digits. This helps them to know they are not alone. We all have a common bond and are all here to help each other through this thing called life.”
The book drive at Sunny Hill is another project that Bergold says has become a labor of love—one that spilled beyond the school’s borders.
“In the beginning of this school year, my co-chair and I put out the word to juniors that we would like to collect new or used books to donate to the students at Sunny Hill. And in true junior’s fashion, we were flooded with books!”
More than1,000 books had been collected by October 1. After talking to Principal Cynthia Armendariz-Maxwell about the volume of books collected, Bergold says they learned that there were even more boxes of donated books that had been stored at the school.
“Between the donations from juniors and the books at the school, we estimated we had more than 5,000 books. We got volunteers to move all the boxes from Sunny Hill to my house. The idea of a small book fair has now blossomed into the awesome task of sorting the books by grade/reading level—once the books were sorted, we have now begun making a bag of books for each student at Sunny Hill to be able to take home so that they can build their own home library.”
At some point this spring, each of Sunny Hill’s 400 students will receive a collection of about 10 books to take home with them.
“This is just one example of the power, imagination and passion that makes up juniors,” Bergold adds. “What started as a small project has become this awesome, wonderful sense of community and just a really great feeling of service.
Armendariz-Maxwell says she could not be more grateful to the contributions that BJWC has made to Sunny Hill students, staff, and families.
“The Barrington Junior Women’s Club’s continual and myriad forms of support positively impact both our students’ academic growth and social-emotional development,” she says. “Our entire community benefits from their time and efforts, kindness and compassion.”
JOIN THE JUNIORS. SAVE THIS DATE.
All the programs and initiatives highlighted on these pages are only made possible through the generous support of Barrington Junior Women’s Club. The nonprofit organization will host one of its biggest events of the year on Saturday, March 3, with “Luck Be A Lady,” a Mad Men-inspired cocktail casino extravaganza at the Biltmore Country Club in North Barrington. Stephanie Jameson, who is co-chairing the event with Ali Swingruber, says the theme evolved into something they thought could offer a fun and different twist for the group’s annual spring fundraiser. “We knew early on that we wanted to set a theme in the 1960s to incorporate the glamour and sophistication of that era,” she says. “We started off with ‘Luck Be A Lady’ and the Man Men show was such an authentic depiction of the 1960s that it seemed to fit perfectly.” The evening will start at 6:30 p.m. with a welcome drink and a live pianist will play through cocktail hour browsing of silent auction items. A theme-inspired dinner menu then sets the tone for the adult-only gaming and music to follow. “With one of Chicago’s favorite entertainment groups, Greenlight, taking the stage, it will be time to get in on the action at your favorite casino table,” says Swingruber. “Table play will go uninterrupted for the duration of the evening, so come ready to roll.” She and Jameson also encourage guests to come wearing their favorite Mad Men-inspired cocktail attire. Tickets are on sale now.
“Luck Be A Lady” will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, at Biltmore Country Club, 160 Biltmore Drive, in North Barrington. For tickets, bjwc.ejoinme.org/luckbealady.