Executive Director Transition Announcement

July 28, 2021 – Erie Neighborhood House announced today that Kirstin Chernawsky, Executive Director, will step down later this summer. She will join the Pritzker administration as the Division Director of the newly created IDHS Division of Early Childhood. A staunch and passionate advocate and professional in the field, Kirstin’s appointment is a testament to her leadership in early childhood education.

Kirstin is just the ninth individual—and fourth woman—to serve as the Executive Director of Erie Neighborhood House; Chicago’s oldest still-operating settlement house providing comprehensive support to immigrant and low-income families through early childhood education, school age programming, mental health services, adult education, workforce development, and legal services.

During her eight-year tenure, Kirstin has led organizational strategy and fundraising for Erie House. She first joined the organization in 2013 as Senior Director of Development and Communications where she effectively led and grew Erie House’s fundraising and communications strategy.  In 2016, after an extensive search, the Board of Directors named Kirstin the organization’s new Executive Director.

Kirstin has overseen Erie House’s expansion of mental health and community wellness, as well as legal services through the creation of both the Legal Services and Proyecto Cuídate departments. She has worked to stabilize the agency’s financial position, securing the lease to the organization’s historic West Town site, and increasing the budget by $3M.

Under Kirstin’s leadership, along with other accomplishments, Erie House has been recognized with the UnidosUS Midwest Affiliate of the Year award, Chicago Run’s Go the Distance award, and The Chicago School of Professional Psychology’s Chicago Social Impact Leaders award. Kirstin herself has been awarded Executive Service Corps’ Executive Director of the Year, Axelson Center for nonprofit Management’s 20 Years & 20 Leaders award and was named one of Crain’s Business Chicago’s 40 Under 40.

Erie House’s continued growth and success over the past eight years has been a testament to Kirstin’s compassionate and community-focused leadership. To maintain continuity for board, staff and stakeholders, the Board of Directors has named Cristina De La Rosa, Sr. Director of Programs for Erie House, as the Interim Executive Director. Cristina joined Erie House in 2011 as an Outreach Coordinator and held various roles until assuming the Senior Director of Programs position in early 2020. In this role, she oversees daily operations, direction and scope of all Erie House programs. During her tenure, she has helped develop and expand the organization’s programs including growing Proyecto Cuídate from a one part-time position program to a robust, multi-staff department.

The Board of Directors will be forming a search committee in the upcoming weeks in preparation for the selection of Erie House’s next Executive Director.

“This is a bittersweet transition for all of us at Erie House. We are proud of Kirstin’s accomplishments and thankful for her leadership,” states Nick Guzman, President of Erie House’s Board of Directors. “Kirstin has been a passionate, dedicated, and fierce advocate for our families, especially our children. She has helped Erie House navigate unprecedented challenges, always persevering. We are grateful that Illinois will soon benefit from her dedicated leadership and are fortunate to have her as a continued champion for Erie House and our youngest learners.”

Mr. Guzman added, “We’re also grateful to have strong leadership in Cristina, who brings 10 years of experience at Erie House to this role. We are confident that Cristina is well positioned to lead and move Erie House’s mission forward during this transition.”

Last April, Governor Pritzker announced the creation of a new Division of Early Childhood as part of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS). This new division will strengthen and centralize child care, home visiting, and early intervention services within IDHS.

Kirstin’s last day with the organization will be August 20, 2021. For additional information, please contact Board President Nicolas Guzman at Nicolas.guzman@faegredrinker.com.

Additional Inquiries

Programs: Cristina De La Rosa, cdelarosa@eriehouse.org                                                   

Finance: Leslie Okamura, lokamura@eriehouse.org                                                      

Fundraising and External Communications: Lorena Alonso, lalonso@eriehouse.org

About Erie House 

Erie House is a social services nonprofit offering comprehensive services in West Town, Little Village, Humboldt Park, Back of the Yards, Berwyn, and the Near West Side, encompassing legal services, children & youth programs, adult education & training, mental health & community wellness, and community resources & empowerment. Through its work, Erie House empowers the people they work alongside to build powerful communities. To learn more about Erie House, visit their website at eriehouse.org.