HJWC 'Disco Dreams' launches Hinsdale into spring

It's around this time of year - when the green shoots of tulips are looking promising, daffodils are already bursting open, and bees are thinking seriously about waking up - that your social calendar might also be starting to feel like it's equally blooming with activities. It's spring in Hinsdale.

With so many events around the corner, I wanted to draw your attention to one event that's getting extra buzz this year: the HJWC ("Juniors") benefit gala, "Disco Dreams." This year's event, which falls on Saturday, April 20, at Pella Signature in Burr Ridge, promises to be the most talked-about event in April. With live entertainment, plus a DJ, heavy passed hors d'oeuvres, a silent auction and raffles, there is sure to be something to catch everyone's eye. Additionally, Juniors has curated a "VIP experience" that includes a private bar with dedicated servers, complimentary champagne and access to premium spirits.

However, beyond the sparkle of what will no doubt look like a high-end fashion show in real time, the mission of HJWC really takes center stage. A few years ago in 2018, Juniors changed the way it distributed funds, moving from a one-nonprofit-takes-all model to a grant-based system. In this new(ish) style, organizations apply for a grant (not to exceed $50,000), in which they detail the request and include three quotes from outside sources that would meet their needs.

The HJWC Philanthropy Committee then thoroughly vets the grants for financial stability, need and mission. Grant finalists are invited to present their requests to groups from the larger Juniors organization. From there, the attending Juniors score how dire they feel the need is based on the grant presentation, and make note of whether the grant could be partially awarded instead of fully funded. On voting night in May, after the final tally from benefit is revealed, the Juniors vote to distribute the money, down to the last penny.

As a longstanding member of HJWC (although an associate member this year), I've personally been to voting night many times and I can tell you that it's my favorite night of the club year. It's easy to lose sight of the service when so much media focus goes to the social, but philanthropy is at the very heart of HJWC.

Unfortunately, the need continues to exceed what the Juniors raise - which is saying something, considering that last year's benefit raised nearly half a million dollars. This year, the total of requested grants exceeds $1.3 million. Some of the funded grants in the past have included musical instruments for schools in at-risk neighborhoods, refrigerated trucks for food pantries, improvements in living conditions for domestic violence shelters and beds for children in

low-income housing.

"We have new organizations applying for grants each year, and we do as well this year," HJWC President Lauren Markham said. "In fact, we have more organizations asking for $50,000 grants than ever in the past. It's clear that in this economy, our communities need us more than ever and we hope to help fulfill their needs as best we can."

Tickets are still available for "Disco Dreams" through http://www.hjwc.us - where you can also find information on grant applications and scholarships, as well as service work and social opportunities for HJWC members.

For those unable to attend, sponsorship and donation opportunities exist, as well as the chance to bid on silent auction items. Either way, we'll all be looking forward to the social media posts of Juniors dancing the night away.

- Allison Peters of Hinsdale is the paper's society columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].