Hinsdale mom works to bring help to struggling families

The Willowbrook Corner program, run by The Community House, provides life-impacting academic and social support to youth and families in an underserved community about 10 minutes south of Hinsdale.

Hinsdale's Trayce Biancalana, a longtime volunteer, said the pandemic's repercussions have taken a particularly heavy toll on residents there.

"They have absolutely been hit a lot harder," she said. "The whole issue of child care for people who were able to maintain their jobs has been a struggle. And they continue struggling with just the whole food insecurity situation."

The Willowbrook Corner summer program provides two meals a day for children, and the after-school program is very popular. To ensure the survival of the multi-dimensional outreach amidst uncertain times, Biancalana and fellow village resident Alyssa Guido have started a crowd-funding campaign.

"We want to provide (the programs) at low to no cost to the families," she said of the "Willowbrook Corner Learning Program Family Support" effort (see Page 18 for details), "so that the families can still have access to all of the various programs without worrying about the cost."

The goal is $20,000, of which a little more than 25 percent had been raised by Tuesday. Biancalana, who has been a trustee on The Community House Board for six years, said she aims to raise the profile of this overlooked nearby need.

"It's to spotlight that there are needs and there are kids out there that are under-resourced and have potential," she said. "The program brings kids together in a fashion that they can socialize and be around organized activities. Kids need structure. They need to be around other kids."

Biancalana is heartened that people seem more catalyzed "to really stand up for specific things that they see going wrong in their community," referencing recent protests concerning racial justice.

A fluent Spanish speaker thanks to time spent in Venezuela in her younger days, Biancalana has taught English as a second language in Chicago. She serves as chair of the missions committee at Union Church of Hinsdale and volunteers at the People's Resource Center food bank.

"I do a lot of food shopping," she quipped.

Giving back is a ways the 20-year Hinsdalean expresses gratitude for the joys her family has known living in the community. Despite disappointments brought on by the pandemic, Biancalana has appreciated the unexpected family bonding time.

"It's been wonderful having everyone together and being able to spend a lot of good times with each other," she said.

Those looking to volunteer during this unique time should check out Willowbrook Corner.

"We really want to help bridge this gap between us and our neighbors, and we believe relationships on the ground is the best way to do that," she said.

- story by Ken Knutson,

photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean