New children's play center coming to Woodlawn

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FOX 32 NEWS - The Woodlawn neighborhood will soon be home to a new children's play center, thanks to a Wrigleyville woman with a generous heart and a well-known architectural firm.

Behind the clouded windows of a storefront in Chicago's Woodlawn neighborhood, a transformation is underway. Come June, what was once a day care center will become what its founder hopes will be a magical gathering place for infants up to three years old. It'll be called “Hello Baby.”

“We wanted to support families who are raising children, young children, in under-resourced neighborhoods,” said Debbie Frisch.

Hello Baby is the creation of Debbie Frisch, a Northside Chicago woman who has taken in dozens of foster children over the years.

“Instead of the babies coming to me one at a time, and working with one family at a time, I thought, what would be a way to reach more families? And how about I go to them, instead of making them travel to me,” Frisch said.

The center's services will be available at no cost to parents and caregivers who want to stop by with the kids.

“I have two grown daughters on the North Side of the city, and there's these drop in play spaces when the weather's bad, you can burn off some steam, with this one little way I take care of it, over and over it saves my life, And they really don’t have this in many neighborhoods, I thought, and they almost need it more,” Frisch said.

The play space will include a special area for non-walkers, an art table, a climbing structure, toys, and books. The architectural firm of Perkins and Will donated its services for the project.

“What we're doing here is really honoring the children and families of Woodlawn. Bringing engaging, warm play space filled with discovery to help grow brains and grow bodies and build a really joyful community,” said Shannon Gedey of Perkins and Will.

Two doors down, Josephine Askia has helped run a food pantry for nine years. She says a play center, offered free of charge, is a nice addition to the neighborhood.

“Sometimes people just need something where they don't have to always come out of their pocket, so yeah,” said Askia.

“I'm really hurting by what's happening in part of this city, and this is just a small way to try and help the city I love so much,” Frisch said.

Frisch says she hopes someday the Woodlawn community will take ownership of the center and have a big say in the direction it's headed. She also hopes to establish similar centers in other neighborhoods.

Frisch has worked as a volunteer on issues regarding mothers and young children for 20 years.