Local Nonprofit Spotlight: How One Nonprofit Strives to Put the Child Back In Childhood | Chicago North Shore Moms

A parent’s job today is exponentially more difficult than when we were growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. This is a fact that no one needs to prove with academic resources, but can be proven simply by having been a kid in the 80’s or 90’s and now having kids of our own. For one, it’s tough (simply exhausting) to convince our kids to just be kids and play. Right?


This addition of Chicago North Shore Moms’ Nonprofit Spotlight introduces you to an amazing local resource that you simply must take advantage of because it’s all about play! The Alliance for Early Childhood brings play to our local communities with events and workshops each month all over the North Shore created for families, parents AND educators. Special thanks to Executive Director, Stefanie Maiuri for chatting with us about (actually she gushes about) this wonderful nonprofit!


Let’s Play! Fort Building (Day 1 of 2)


Hi Stefanie! please introduce yourself! Tell us about where you were born and raised; where you currently live; are you a mom and if so how many children, genders and ages…


Hi! My name is Stefanie Maiuri. I am a Michigan transplant. I moved here after graduating from Michigan State University (Go Green!) to live a city life in Chicago. I obtained my first teaching role in Highland Park. My role evolved out of the classroom, to instructional coach, and then district administrator. Eventually my husband and I moved to Northwest Evanston. We now have a 22 month old son and we are expecting our second boy at the end of January!



What is the nonprofit that you serve and what is your position? 


I am Executive Director of The Alliance for Early Childhood. I am The Alliance’s third executive director in 30 years and am extremely proud to be leading this organization! The Alliance for Early Childhood was founded in 1989. We are excited to be celebrating thirty years!



What is the The Alliance for Early Childhood’s mission and who does it serve?


The Alliance for Early Childhood is a collaborative, community organization that supports and guides families and educators to nurture the healthy, well-rounded development of children from birth to eight years old.



The Alliance for Early Childhood serves families, parents and educators. Our vision is that as a community, we can “put the child back in childhood” and build a strong developmental foundation for our children’s lifelong learning, accomplishment, and joy.



What life event(s) led you to working for this nonprofit?


When pregnant with my first son, a health complication arose at my twenty-week scan. Dominic was diagnosed with Congenital Pulmonary Airway Malformation (CPAM). My care was escalated and we knew that eventually he would need surgery when he was strong enough. My leave was pretty isolated since he was susceptible to infection and needed to take extra precaution to keep him healthy. I chose not to return from my leave to care for my son.


One of my first events out of the house as a new mom was to an Alliance for Early Childhood Parent Program. We had been involved in The Alliance as a school district, and I was very familiar with the high quality programs and resources offered to parents, families, and educators. It was so exciting to be on the other side as a new parent and attend a program from this new lens. I got to take a shower, grab a Starbucks, connect with other adults, and grow my toolkit as a new parent! I knew quickly that I wanted to get involved in this organization, but I didn’t know how at the time. Fast forward a few months later, Dominic’s surgery was wrapped-up with a bow and he was thriving. I was ready to return to work, but didn’t exactly know what that would look like. I did know that as a new parent, I was looking for flexibility.


The Alliance for Early Childhood had posted an opening for Executive Director, and I went for it because it felt right. The stars aligned, bringing together all of my worlds, education, leadership, and my lens as a new mom. I always joke that I am running a science experiment at home, and I truly am lucky to be able to learn as my children grow during this critical time of development in early childhood.



Tell us about the person who founded The Alliance for Early Childhood. Where is she today?


Blakely Bundy was the founding Executive Director of The Alliance for Early Childhood. She has been very involved as Director Emeritus and Senior Advisor to our organization and we are grateful for her support over the years.



What was the inspiration behind forming The Alliance for Early Childhood?


The Alliance for Early Childhood was founded in 1989 as the Winnetka Alliance for Early Childhood. During the late 1970’s and early 1980’s birth rates dropped and early childhood programs were impacted by lower enrollment numbers and the future of the programs were in question. A few leaders of the early childhood community, including Don Monroe, superintendent of the Winnetka Public Schools, and Catherine Reichelderfer, a long-time board member at Winnetka Public School Nursery, called together a group of early childhood leaders in the community. They met a few times and discussed whether they could pool their resources during these hard times, in hopes of retaining at least some of these programs. As it happened, people began having babies again, enrollments increased, and none of the programs had to close down. The immediate crisis was over, so the need for collaboration was temporarily dropped.



Then, in 1988, Kenneth Montgomery, a philanthropist and friend of Catherine Reichelderfer, offered to donate $50,000 in Catherine’s name to any cause or charity of her choosing. Catherine remembered those earlier discussions about an early childhood collaborative. She met with Don Monroe and together they decided that Mr. Montgomery’s money would help make their dream of an early childhood alliance become a reality. Don and Catherine assembled a distinguished group of early childhood advocates, our “incorporators.” The incorporators met for several months, discussing the goals and structure of an early childhood alliance. Fast forward to 2011, The Winnetka Alliance for Early Childhood changed its name to The Alliance for Early Childhood, in recognition of its growth well beyond the borders of Winnetka. Currently, we serve Winnetka, Northfield, Kenilworth, and neighboring communities on the North Shore of Chicago.



How can parents learn more and participate in your wonderful, fun and awesome programs?


Parents with children ages infant to eight years old AND educators can join events each month because we have so much going on!



What’s on the horizon for The Alliance for Early Childhood?


We are thrilled to launch our 2019-2020 Let’s Play! Ongoing Community Program! Building upon our historic, commitment with families to completely halt screen usage, we acknowledge that screens are our backdrop and current reality today. We are committed to supporting our community in finding balance in everyday life with screens and getting back to the basics with our youngest children. Rather than a one-week commitment in the spring, The Alliance will provide ongoing opportunities at “Let’s Play!” events for families to engage and interact with their children in child-directed, creative, free play.



This year we published a year-long Let’s Play! Program Guide (with offerings September-June) Please visit our website for more information about this exciting launch https://theallianceforec.org/lets-play.



What keeps you inspired at work every day? What inspires you to keep doing the job you’re doing?


It’s quite remarkable to think that 30 years from our founding in 1989, our vision as an organization is needed more than ever today. What were you doing 30 years ago? I was in kindergarten. Looking back, I have fond memories of playing outside until it was dark in my neighborhood and feeling absolutely free. Rapidly life and our current backdrop has become increasingly more complex and is not slowing down anytime soon. As I raise my own family now, the research is everywhere, and the headlines are abundant… our children are moving farther and farther away from being kids. The Alliance for Early Childhood is committed to bringing our lofty vision to life with hope that our parent, family, and educator programs will empower those serving our youngest community members. As a mom to a toddler, I am learning everyday and motivated by the need for our mission and vision. Our youngest children need us now more than ever to be present and connected. That is the mission of The Alliance of Early Childhood and we hope to see you at our many events!



The Alliance for Early Childhood Executive Board picture below.

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