Betsy Wintringer isn’t interested in having her photo taken, having her makeup done, or having one second of attention paid to her personal life, her achievements, or all the things that have brought her to take on the executive director job at the nonprofit Barrington Youth and Family Services (BYFS).
She didn’t wear makeup for her wedding. Why would she start now? And why answer questions about herself when the media lens could be so easily redirected back to the children and the families she works every day to help and support?
This needs to be about them; not her.
Nevertheless, we persisted. And before the afternoon was over, we got to know more about the woman who leads an organization that helped many of her teen friends decades ago.
Founded in 1972, BYFS has a straightforward goal—to provide quality, compassionate counseling services and community outreach to support the myriad needs of Barrington-area youth and their families. For some, it’s counseling through a crisis. For others, it’s a helping hand to get out of a challenging life situation. From depression and peer mentoring to issues related to parenting, substance abuse, or life transitions, the agency has been doing the heavy lifting of keeping our community strong for more than 40 years.
“I have known about BYFS since my high school days,” says Wintringer one chilly November afternoon, days before the first winter snow began to fall. “I can recall walking with friend to the old BYFS building … that grayish house on the north side of the street before you get to the tracks … and dropping them at group therapy. They always shared how much they got out of their time there.”
Did she ever think then that she might lead this organization, no less move back to her hometown as an adult? Probably not. But if you rewind the camera on her life, and the random series of events that brought her here, there is a sense of kismet.
“We were a small family. It’s just my parents and my little brother, who is ten years younger and who towers over me,” says Wintringer, who went to Countryside through fifth grade, then Elgin Academy for middle school before going on to Barrington High School. “I had a fun, active upbringing. We had tons of pets. You name it, we had it. From dogs and cats to hamsters and guinea pigs … bunnies, a rat, parakeet, snake … we just to joke that we were the wayward home for lost pets. One extra special pup—Winston the beagle—was dropped on our doorstep Christmas Eve.”
She played many sports but like many Barrington natives, riding horses was her passion. “I have such great memories of the Fox River Pony Club and riding on the trails,” Wintringer adds. “I rode competitively through high school.”
College took her to Madison, New Jersey, where she stayed for a few years before moving back to Chicago. Before long she met her husband Harry, who’s childhood friend happened to be married to her best friend. The couple got married and moved to the northwest suburbs.
“I knew once we had our daughter that our next move would be back home to Barrington,” she says. “And we’ve been here since 2009.”
Today, the couple lives in an adorably decorated old house in the village’s historic district. Daughter Ellie is a freshman at Barrington High School; Harry (a fifth-generation Harry!) is a third grader at Hough Street School.
“We are so fortunate to live in an awesome, safe, and caring community like Barrington with really fun and supportive neighbors,” says Wintringer.
“We love living in the village and being able to walk everywhere.”
Like her parents, she has always been very involved in the community. One of her ongoing roles has been to serve as the PTO co-president at Hough for last three years. But that civic involvement took an unexpected—and very fortuitous—turn when a BYFS board member suggested that she apply for the executive director position. Her career up until that point had included a variety of roles that ranged from working as a group home leader for the former Maryville Academy to a stint in wholesale sales and training for Ralph Lauren Home Collection.
It was that unexpected opportunity that brought her to the position she has held for the past four months. “We have long appreciated the good work BYFS does in the community, and have supported it ever since. I suspect attending this year’s gala on April 13 will feel slightly different than previous ones we’ve attended.”
On the day that we meet Wintringer, Thanksgiving is on the horizon and holiday decorating has just begun. While the April gala is months away, she says the season of giving for this organization unofficially kicks off in December, as residents’ minds turn to giving and caring for those who may not be as fortunate.
“Program wise, we recognize that the holidays can be a source of stress and sadness for some. We are here for those in need,” she explains, directing residents to the barringtonbyfs.org website for helpful articles to navigate the season. “Fundraising-wise, we do run a winter campaign. The agency relies heavily on the support of local organizations, like the Barrington United Way, Barrington Children’s Charities, Barrington Area Community Foundation, Barrington Junior Women’s Club, and generous private donors to provide broad reaching services that touch the needs of all in our community. The Barrington community is so generous and their support allows us to offer counseling scholarships so that no family is turned away due to their inability to pay for services. “
That part of what she does is critical, and often misunderstood. While the Barrington area is typically thought of as being affluent, the community served by BYFS and partner agencies would be otherwise underserved. Whether it’s a job loss, divorce, or other life situation, sometimes even families that had it all can find themselves in need of a helping hand.
And as part as peer counseling and other mental health services provided to teens and children, Wintringer knows that part of the puzzle is essential to launch happy, healthy future citizens.
“The pressures our kids experience at younger ages is unbelievable. Academics, extracurricular activities, social media … the demands are never ending,” she says. “We must be there to be supportive, to teach them coping strategies, to teach them empathy, and to be kind to one another and to themselves. But most importantly, that it is OK to ask for help. This doesn’t just apply to our high schoolers; I see real benefit to stressing them with my third grader too.”
As one who benefited from BYFS as a young person, she recognizes the beauty of her life coming full circle.
“It truly is such an honor to be able work alongside great community leaders on our board, collaborate with other organizations, and to be able to give back to a community that helped shape who I am today,” says Wintringer, who will be spending the holidays here in Barrington with her family—engaging in traditions, old and new. “I consider myself very lucky.”