ECA News

ECA Development Officer, Center Administrator Named

Tricia Willard

Tricia Willard has been named Chief Development Officer for Early Childhood Alliance (ECA). She is responsible for grant writing and administration, annual fundraising events, and development of partner/sponsor relationships. Willard moves into the position with several years of experience within the organization, including Learning Center Administrator and Director of Family Engagement Services.

Shannon Gage, Chief Program Officer, has expanded responsibilities as Learning Center Administrator. She now oversees an expanded management and support team at ECA’s two nationally accredited Learning Centers in Fort Wayne in addition to oversight of ECA’s family support services and food program. Gage has served in several positions with ECA, including Child Care Resource & Referral Program Director and Center Director.

Tricia Willard
Shannon Gage

ECA Welcomes New Staff

ECA’s Downtown Learning Center, 516 E Wayne St, recently welcomed Tiffany Blevins as the new teacher for before/after school care classroom; and Tammy Spillers in the infant classrooms.

New to ECA’s Beacon Learning Center, 2125 Beacon St, are Makayla Hickle and Dionne Starks, in preschool classrooms; Shelly Meredith, Nicole Waters and Jayma Muston in toddler classrooms; and Ashley Olson in an infant classroom. Sheryl Deyer also joined Beacon as food service staff.

Tiffany Blevins
Tammy Spillers
Makayla Hickle
Dionne Starks
Shelly Meredith
Nicole Waters
Jayma Muston
Sheryl Deyer

Food Program Coordinator Recognized with State Award

Lisa Bradley, Coordinator of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) for Early Childhood Alliance, was honored with the Farm to Early Care and Education Champion Award (Farm to ECE) during the Department of Education’s annual CACFP training in Indianapolis.

Farm to early care and education connects childcare providers to locally grown, healthy foods. The result is children having increased nutritional awareness while parents are engaged in issues related to child nutrition.

Board of Directors Welcomes Intern

Early Childhood Alliance (ECA) Board of Directors welcomes William Ennist, Canterbury School, to serve as a Board Intern from Leadership Fort Wayne.

ECA also welcomes Gwyn Eastom, BKD CPAs and Advisors, to its Development Committee.

Young Grads Celebrate

Caps, gowns, tassels…yes, it was a graduation ceremony, but the grads are only five years old. Early Childhood Alliance celebrated preschool graduation with more than 40 preschoolers on July 31 (Downtown Learning Center) and August 1 (Beacon Learning Center). Some of the grads have attended ECA Centers since they were six weeks old and are now getting ready to leave the familiar hallways of ECA to make the move to kindergarten.

Walking into the gymnasium to traditional graduation music, the little ones shared smiles and waves to the audience. Families and friends snapped pictures of their special grads during a ceremony of songs and recognition. Also recognized were the teachers and Center managers for their hard work in preparing the children for success in school.

Both ECA Centers are now enrolling. Contact Leesha Culp at, or 260-758-0080.

Children are inspiration for Spark a Future

Warm welcomes by a banker, doctor, veterinarian, chef, astronaut, and fire fighter helped raise more than $120,000 at the annual fundraiser for Early Childhood Alliance (ECA). These “professionals” were actually children in costumes, reflective of possible future careers, serving as inspiration for ECA’s event, Spark a Future: Invest in our Workforce. Among the 200 guests were many more professionals learning and having fun during an evening designed to help build better futures for young children, ECA’s mission.

Funds raised from the annual event support projects at ECA’s two Learning Centers in Fort Wayne along with a wide range of programs serving families across northern Indiana, which directly impact employers as well. ECA programs and services impact 40,000 children and their families annually.

While learning about the importance of early childhood education, guests also had some fun with a lively auction and games for vacation get-aways, jewelry and dining experiences. Top level sponsors were The James Foundation and Parkview Health.

ECA Learning Center Celebrates Quality Standards

Downtown Center - Exterior Corner View

Congratulations to ECA’s Downtown Learning Center, 516 E Wayne St, for earning accreditation status for another five years. In celebration, this dedicated staff was treated to a celebration lunch.

Accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is the highest credential for an early childhood education program. NAEYC promotes high-quality early learning for all young children, birth through age 8, by connecting early childhood practice, policy, and research.

The reaccreditation process requires early learning programs to demonstrate their commitment to high quality early childhood education by completing onsite visits and thorough documentation that meet NAEYC’s stringent requirements for quality.

NAEYC accreditation is also a requirement for Level 4, Paths to QUALITY, Indiana’s quality rating and improvement system.

Applications are available for On My Way Pre-K

Know a four-year-old who is not in preschool? Now is the time to apply for free pre-kindergarten education for the 2019-2020 school year through On My Way Pre-K.

On My Way Pre-K is a state-funded program available in 20 Indiana counties* for four-year-olds of eligible families. Nearly 8,000 Hoosier children have attended preschool through a grant from the On My Way Pre-K program since it began in 2015. Allen County was one of the five original pilot counties. Early Childhood Alliance has two pre-k managers who work with On My Way Pre-K early learning programs.

Families must meet the following criteria to apply:

  • The family must have an income below 127 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • Their child must be 4 years old by August 1, 2019, and starting kindergarten in the 2020/2021 school year.
  • Parents/guardians in the household must be working, going to school or attending job training.

Links to electronic applications, in both English and Spanish, as well as a printable paper application, are available at

For more information, contact Early Childhood Alliance Pre-K managers:

*Allen, DeKalb, Elkhart, Kosciusko, Marshall, St. Joseph served by ECA in northern Indiana; also Jackson, Lake, Marion, Vanderburgh, Bartholomew, Delaware, Floyd, Grant, Harrison, Howard, Madison, Monroe, Tippecanoe and Vigo Counties.

Once a family has met eligibility requirements and has been awarded a grant for its child, the family may choose any of the eligible programs participating in the On My Way Pre-K program. Families can search approved providers at or call 1-800-299-1627, for assistance.

Early Childhood Alliance marks Week of the Young Child

Week of the Young Child Logo

If it’s spring, it’s time to celebrate Week of the Young Child, April 8-12. This annual celebration hosted by NAEYC (National Assoc. for the Education of Young Children) focuses on early learning, young children, early learning professionals, families and communities. This year NAEYC has designated the theme, Step It Up, to showcase the importance of high-quality early learning, and the critical role early childhood educators play in a child’s development and learning.

Celebrations come in all shapes and sizes across the country, organized by individual early learning programs and community organizations that provide programs and services to young children and their families. At Early Childhood Alliance Learning Centers, each day has been assigned a fun way to celebrate:

Photo Ops Early Childhood Alliance Learning Centers (April 8-12; 9-11 am)

  • Monday – wear purple
  • Tuesday – hat/sunglasses day
  • Wednesday – dress-up day
  • Thursday – crazy hair day
  • Friday – pajama/silly sock day

Early Childhood Alliance Selected

Vroom Logo

Early Childhood Alliance (ECA) is one of 10 Child Care Resource and Referral (CCRR) agencies selected nationally as a Vroom ambassador by Child Care Aware® of America (CCAoA). Vroom is an initiative that encourages parents and caregivers, including early care and education professionals, to boost children’s early learning and development through tips and activities provided by CCAoA. Through technology, including an app and collaborations with other organizations, Vroom encourages families and caregivers to use routine interactions, like during bath time and grocery shopping, to engage with children, strengthening their brain architecture. Ambassadors will use the brain science of Vroom to help families and providers build stronger communities

Lanissa Maggert, ECA’s Family Engagement Coordinator, and Maricela Madden, ECA’s CCRR coordinator, are coordinating ECA’s Vroom program. “We continually share with parents that they are their children’s first and most influential teachers, so it’s critical they recognize the importance of early experiences on children’s brain development,” said Maggert. “Vroom is an easy-to-use tool to help parents nurture early learning.”

Parents and caregivers can sign up for Vroom by visiting

Child Care Aware® of America is our nation’s leading voice for child care. We work with state and local Child Care Resource and Referral agencies (CCR&Rs) and other community partners to ensure that all families have access to quality, affordable child care. To achieve our mission, we lead projects that increase the quality and availability of child care, offer comprehensive training to child care professionals, undertake research, and advocate for child care policies that improve the lives of children and families. To learn more, visit Follow us on Twitter @USAChildcare and on Facebook at