Hope’s In Style

Story by Jeffrey Westhoff | Photo: Susan Mcconnell

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Barrington teens make a world of difference

Three years ago, two Barrington teenagers–twin sisters Courtney and Ashley Quigley–founded a charity designed to raise money to build homes in an impoverished section of Guatemala. That charity, now called Hope’s In, continues to grow even though the sisters graduated from Barrington High School last year and moved to opposite ends of the country.

The charity originally was called Hope’s In Style, the same name the sisters gave to the fashion show they established to raise funds to aid Guatemalan families living at the edges of the largest garbage dump in Latin America. “I was trying to figure out how to get my friends to help me with fundraising, and a lot of them were into fashion,” said Courtney Quigley, 19, who is finishing up her first year at New York University.

“A lot of girls in our school were really interested in fashion. … It seemed like a good fit for Barrington,” said Ashley, currently a freshman at Santa Clara University in Northern California.

The sisters were juniors at BHS when they started the fashion show. They were in charge of it for the first two years, even though they weren’t into fashion themselves. “We’re not the most stylish people you’ll ever meet,” Ashley said. Knowing they would be out of state for this year’s show, they picked BHS junior Laura Mena and sophomore Erin Crowther to succeed them as co-chairs. This year’s show, which took place March 8 at the Stonegate Conference Center in Hoffman Estates, was the most successful yet, raising $45,000.

“It was really awesome to see that she [Mena] did better than we did,” Courtney said. “Because of that, we’ll be able to build more houses and empower more families.” Courtney added that the fashion shows have raised more than $100,000 over three years.

The Quigley sisters discovered their passion to serve less fortunate people during a family
vacation to Spain while they were in grade school. Their parents, Jim and Jennifer, decided to take a day trip to Morocco. Courtney was stunned to see children her own age begging in the streets. “That was the first time I was exposed to poverty,” she said. “We were so overwhelmed and didn’t know what to think of it.”

Back in Barrington, the family pondered how they could help impoverished people overseas. A friend at church told them about a Rockford-based charity called Kids Around the World that sends volunteers to build playgrounds in poor neighborhoods. In 2006 the Quigley family took their first trip to Guatemala to build two playgrounds. “I really, really fell in love with Guatemala the first time I went there,” Courtney said.

Subsequent trips with Kids Around the World took the Quigleys to Ecuador, the Dominican
Republic and New Orleans, but Courtney longed to return to Guatemala. She got her wish when, at age 15, the family again traveled to Guatemala to build a playground, this time in the garbage dump communities. The following summer, Courtney traveled to Guatemala without her family to serve as an intern for the Wisconsin-based charity Potter’s House. The group focuses on building cinder-block houses in the Guatemala City communities where 13,000 people live on the edge of a ravine filled with garbage. Courtney became devoted to the residents of the garbage dump communities.

“The people who live in those communities are incredible. The families we have met have been so loving and very joyful,” Courtney said. “But they live in pain.”

People forage through the trash for food and supplies. They can get ill breathing the foul air. They also face common dangers such as drug addiction and gang violence. “When you’re talking to these families, you really see the needs that they have,” Courtney said.

During her internship, Courtney befriended a younger Guatemalan girl named Monica. She decided to sponsor Monica through Potter’s House. When she learned Monica’s older sister, who was the same age as Courtney, was pregnant, she grew fearful for the baby. “I had heard horror stories of how mothers of newborns would stay up all night to keep their babies safe from rats.”

Courtney was determined to raise the $7,500 needed to build a cinder-block house for

Monica’s family. That is why Hope’s In Style, which operates in conjunction with Potter’s House, was born. Although Courtney and Ashley were in charge of the fashion show, they turned it into a family project. Their parents provided support and guidance. Big brother J.D. and younger sister Chloe pitched in.

“Courtney and Ashley have always felt the calling to service,” said J.D., 21, who is a first-year graduate student at the University of Notre Dame. “My sisters were able to spark up my town, and it’s [Hope’s In] really grown,” added Chloe, 16, who is a sophomore at The Governor’s Academy, a boarding high school in Byfield, Mass.

Besides the fashion show, the Quigleys continue to make the annual trip each August to build homes in Guatemala. They have inspired other Barrington residents, including high school students and physicians, to accompany them.

“Our family has just been fortunate to be able to connect with something that’s been so meaningful for our family as the kids were growing up,” Jim Quigley said, “and what a thrill it is to see it continue and grow.”

While working on the second year’s fashion show, Courtney and Ashley realized new leaders would be needed for the event to continue after they graduated. “We tried to pull more underclassmen and juniors into the planning,” Courtney said.

Laura Mena participated in the 2014 trip to Guatemala, and the Quigleys were impressed with her passion. She was chosen to organize the 2015 fashion show.
The Quigleys soon knew they made the right choice. “She took it and just ran,”
Ashley said.

Mena also has high praise for the Quigleys. “They are the most inspiring family I think I have ever encountered in my life.”

Following the success of this year’s fashion show, the group’s organizers decided to shorten its name to Hope’s In so it won’t be associated exclusively with the fashion show. Having operated under the auspices of the Barrington Area Development Council, Hope’s In is pursuing its own 501(c) 3 nonprofit status.

“Hope’s In is growing bigger and bigger as a charity,” Mena said.

Several events are in the works. A proposed 5K charity run would be called Hope’s In Stride. Students at Loyola Academy in Wilmette and Fremd High School in Palatine may mount their own Hope’s In Style fashion shows. So many people have signed up to travel to Guatemala this August, two trips are planned as they anticipate more than 80 volunteers.

Ashley said Hope’s In will remain devoted to Guatemala. “The goal is to just keep growing the organization so we’re able to fund anything that may be of need there.”

To learn more about Hope’s In, visit the charity’s website, hopesinstyle.com, and Facebook page, www.facebook.com/HopesInStyle.