Hello Baby: Building an Oasis in a Play Desert

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Local success story and a storytime partner of Bookish Chciago, HelloBaby founder Debbie Frisch is sharing her story with the world!




"A warm and heartfelt account of establishing the treasured childcare institution HelloBaby."-Kirkus Reviews

"Frisch addresses with insight and sensitivity the dynamics of a white woman working with communities that are predominantly Black and Latino, and her commentary on systemic racism and her own mission to combat the white savior complex is its own act of antiracism that brings critical awareness and integrity to Frisch's book and organization. . . . Readers curious about community organizing and the sociological and scientific importance of play will find Frisch's guide to be a valuable resource."-Publishers Weekly BookLife

"As you read this remarkable book, I know you will find hope emerging and resolve that we-all of us and each of us individually-have the capacity to heal the world. Tikkun olam."-From the Foreword by the Rev. John M. Buchanan, Pastor Emeritus of the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago and Former Editor/Publisher, The Christian Century

"From the first time I heard about HelloBaby, I knew it was a breakthrough approach to helping children and families in low-income communities. In this book, Debbie Frisch and Isaac Simonelli explain the magic behind this organization. It offers essential lessons for anyone working for a just society where all people can thrive."-Alex Counts, Founder, Grameen Foundation and author, Changing the World Without Losing Your Mind

"It has been such an honor working with and getting to know HelloBaby. Now Debbie Frisch has told the story of this remarkable organization in a vivid, compelling book. It makes wonderful reading for anyone who cares about babies, families, and what communities can do to nurture them."-Bud Porter, President, Porter Pipe & Supply Company

"This readable, provocative narrative is a practical, effective, and exciting guide to implementing a visionary approach to the needs of our most vulnerable children and families. Whether you are working at the household, neighborhood, or community level, this essential book will inspire and guide you."-Edward L. Quevedo, Head of Practice and Director, Regenerative Design, The Foresight Lab, and President's Professor of Practice, The College of Global Futures, Arizona State University

"Debbie Frisch shows us that what is necessary is also possible: creating loving spaces that solidify the foundations of empathy and compassion within babies and toddlers that will last them a lifetime. Her delightful book Hello Baby explains how."-Alderman Raymond Lopez, 15th Ward, Chicago

"Debbie Frisch's passion for helping young children and their families is truly inspiring. Her book offers more than a real-life story-it's a fairy tale come true, complete with a fairy garden (and a happy ending)!"-Barry Klassy, President & CEO, Kroeschell Inc.


Child's play is serious business. Experts know that the games babies and toddlers play, from make-believe and block-building to rough-and-tumble horseplay, are crucial to their physical, social, and emotional development.

No one knows this better than Debbie Frisch. Raised in an abusive home, she never experienced the joy of carefree play in a safe, nurturing space. Grown up, she struggled to do better as a mom to two daughters and then as a caregiver for the 56 short-term foster children to whom she opened her home. Along the way, she discovered how our society short-changes kids and their parents, especially those in underserved communities.

Debbie decided to do something about it. With the help of family and friends, she launched HelloBaby, the nation's first free-standing, free of charge, drop-in play space for babies, toddlers, and their caregivers.

Nestled in a specially-designed storefront space in a former "play desert" on Chicago's south side, HelloBaby welcomes families of every background, offering creative, fun, enriching activities from bubble-blowing and finger painting to story-telling and music time. Unexpectedly, it's also become a place where overworked moms and dads (and grandparents and other caregivers, too) can escape the stresses of solitary child care, make friends, and get access to comfort, advice, and other forms of support. Now a second HelloBaby space is under development-and Debbie and her friends have dreams of many more.

Debbie Frisch is a mother, foster mother, spiritual director, volunteer, community activist, and philanthropist. In 2017, she opened HelloBaby, our nation's first free-standing, free-of-charge drop-in play space for babies, toddlers and their caregivers. In 2022, Debbie was awarded Champion for Children Award from the Bright Promises Foundation.Prior to opening HelloBaby, Debbie was actively involved with many not-for-profit organizations that serve economically disadvantaged families and children. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan and a Master's degree from the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University, Chicago. Her first volunteer experience was at Christopher House in the daycare and Head Start programs. She was named their Volunteer of the Year in 2005. Debbie's first board service was for On Your Feet Foundation, an organization that serves birth mothers who have placed children for adoption. She has served as Board President for Adoption Center of Illinois, Chicago Lights, and Geography of Hope. She has also been a Deacon and Elder at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago. She was a foster care mother for Adoption Center of Illinois and a respite care provider for Safe Families for Children. Through these two organizations she has had 56 babies and toddlers in care. One of these children, Jayce, came to her for respite care at 6 months old. Since then, he became her godson, and 10 years later they still see each other regularly.Debbie lives in Chicago, where she enjoys long lake front walks with her dog Teddy. She loves crafting, knitting, reading, exercise and time outdoors.

Isaac Stone Simonelli is an award-winning investigative journalist who has covered a myriad of topics from oil and gas industry emissions to domestic extremism and threats to democracy. He was a Roy W. Howard fellow at the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting after earning a master's degree in investigative journalism from Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism in December 2021. Previously, he was editor of the Kodiak Daily Mirror in Alaska, following his year-long independent project "Dice Travels." He also served as the managing editor of the Phuket Gazette in Thailand, where he transformed the newsroom into a digital-first publication that focused its resources on enterprise reporting. He has written for publications such as Alaska Business, Climbing, and ADVMOTO, and his investigations have been published by organizations including MSNBC, Inside Climate News, and the Associated Press.