All eyes were on a 23-year-old Bill Hansen, a first-year teacher on his first day of a summer Head Start program circa 1980.The wide orbs belonged to the preschool children of migrant farmworkers and cannery employees in the central Illinois town of Hoopeston.
Between 15 and 20 three- and four-year-olds listened to Hansen, learned from Hansen.
He discovered something transformative in that classroom.
“It touched my heart that summer, being there, teaching, helping children develop,” recalls Hansen, now 62 and the executive director at Family Service of Glencoe (FSG) since the middle of 2015. “There was a time when I thought I’d get a master’s in Spanish and teach Spanish at a college and call that my career. There was a need in Hoopeston. Down there I got in touch with my social-service side, something I got from my mother [Barbara, 89]. My mother served as a social director at a retirement community [Covenant Village of Northbrook] and worked at Whitehall of Deerfield [a healthcare center].
“I visited the students and their parents at their homes. I went to the migrant families’ gatherings, events like parties and dances. It was eye-opening.”
Hansen had attended Harper College in Palatine for a year and Northern Illinois University in DeKalb for three years before enrolling in graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.The former cross country runner at Loyola Academy rediscovered his love for running and quit smoking at NIU. He ended up getting his Master of Social Work degree at the University of Illinois-Jane Addams College of Social Work.
Hansen, of Deerfield, had accrued more than 35 years of non-profit leadership and management experience in human services when FSG welcomed him. His last stint before the first day of his six-mile commute to Glencoe was that of executive vice president at Aunt Martha’s Youth Services Center in Chicago Heights.
FSG, a 105-year-old organization funded exclusively by donors and grant programs, promotes a stronger community by meeting individual and family needs through services that identify, prevent, and resolve social and emotional problems. A fire that burned down a house in Glencoe in 1914 sparked the formation of the Glencoe Relief and Aid Society, FSG’s first precursor. A group of citizens rallied to support the displaced family. FSG’s services today— from counseling to parent consultations to youth and family outreach to senior assistance—are avail- able to anyone, but people who live or work in Glencoe are eligible for a sliding-fee scale.
FSG responded to teens’ needs by convening the Glencoe Youth Council in 2006. FSG staff members offer consultation and education services to help Glencoe Public Safety manage domestic and mental health emergencies.
“A woman came to us and needed our assistance,” recounts Hansen, who grew up in Northbrook and attended Loyola Academy for two years and Glenbrook North for his junior and senior years.“She was struggling, struggling, struggling. She was worried. Our case manager in senior housing assistance eased her concerns and connected her with organizations. The woman then came back and told us, ‘I never thought I’d ever need this kind of help.’ You could see how grateful she was.”
In early February, hours after we had met at Hometown Coffee & Juice in Glencoe, FSG partnered with Glencoe School District 35 to host a parents education forum. Attendees watched the 2017 documentary Angst. In it mental health experts discuss the causes of anxiety,it’s sociological effects and what can be done about it. A panel discussion followed the viewing.
“There’s so much anxiety on the North Shore,” Hansen says. “It’s pervasive. High school students, middle school students.Many are suffering, have been for years. Too many. Parents have anxiety, too. Parents get caught up in making sure their child is taking all the right steps to get into that best college.They want nothing more than to have their child
get the right job, the best job, so that the child will be self-sufficient and highly successful. It’s there, that pressure to succeed in affluent communities. Children feel it. Adults feel it.
“Anxiety,” he adds, “is an issue Family Service of Glencoe must continue to address.”
The musical Next to Normal— book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey; music by Tom Kitt;and directed by David Cromer—centers on a mother who struggles with bipolar disorder and the impact that managing her illness has on her suburban family.
It addresses grief, suicide, drug abuse, ethics in modern psychiatry. It’s a two-time Tony Award- winning musical.
It’s also an integral part of Family Service of Glencoe’s annual Glencoe Under the Stars annual benefit on June 14. The evening at Writers Theatre in Glencoe begins with appetizers, food stations, and drinks for FSG supports, followed by a production of the musical at WT’s Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre. “It’s going to be awesome,” Hansen says, adding funds generated by the event’s silent auction and paddle raise will subsidize the cost of FSG counseling. “The musical, with a mental illness theme, fell into our lap. We’d been looking to have a different type of benefit event compared to previous years. I’m excited about the opportunity to use the musical to promote FSG’s commitment to strengthening our community. Eliminating the stigma of mental illness is an essential part of our mission, and we think featuring the performance of such a musical is a step toward that goal.
“Our former clinical director Al Ross said at one of our benefits,‘You don’t choose mental illness; it chooses you.’”
Hansen opted to treat his future wife, Polly, to a night of bowling for their first date.They were in their 20s; they had known each other as teens. Polly, at the age of 16, had lived in Baltimore for more than 10 years before she and her family moved to Glencoe.
“I did not have enough money to pay for that first date,”Hansen says.“But she did agree to go on a second date with me.”
Polly teaches private flute lessons at the Hansens’ home studio and writes and pro- duces radio programs for MediaTracks Communications in Des Plaines. Bill and Polly have two children, 29-year-old Ian and 27-year-old Kelsey, who teaches elementary school at a private British school in Chile.
Bill Hansen enjoys running, though he doesn’t see his number of marathons com- pleted (12) reaching 13 anytime soon. He’ll stick with half marathons, local runs with his group, relay runs from Madison, Wisconsin, to Chicago, runs with his daughter.
The man loves to move, move, move. And steer FSG’s vital programs and services.
“Everybody needs help from time to time,” Hansen says. “It’s OK to ask for help. Many people don’t think a community like Glencoe is home to low-income residents; they think of affluence, happy people every-where. But low-income folks live in our village and need assistance. Folks who need good mental health services live here.
“We’re here for them.”
Visit familyserviceofglencoe.org for more information and glencoeunderthestars.com for ticket information about FSG’s annual benefit at Writers Theatre in Glencoe on June 14. FSG’s phone number is 847-835-5111.