who we are
Our team is passionate about making the world a better place for children and families by harnessing the strengths and ideas that live within communities. As our name states, the first 5 years of life are fundamental. Our role is to support cross-sector leaders in early childhood, to help make their collective vision for children and families a reality.
Our mission is to support community-based initiatives in achieving their collective goals for children and families.
what we do
We support initiatives by mobilizing funding, providing staff for facilitation and project management, building community partnership, managing marketing and branding, supporting research & data, and building public will.
We actively pursue these values and foster their thriving, internally and externally.
Anti-racism, Equity, and Social Justice
We commit to building systems and programs that support all children and families, and to rebuilding and replacing systems and programs that cause systemic oppression. We believe that diversity is a strength worth celebrating. We believe fair does not mean equal, and regularly examine our privilege and power dynamics.
we currently support the following initiatives
Help Me Grow (HMG) Pierce County is a linkage, resource, and referral system that connects families of young children to community supports. Over 130 individuals representing more than 50 organizations have come together to promote the healthy development of all children pregnancy through 5 by: connecting families to information, activities, and community-based resources; nurturing family relationships and offering individual supports; and partnering with families and communities to improve the availability and quality of services.
Northwest Early Learning Coalition is an established regional coalition linking five county coalitions (Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom), which include more than 100 organizations and professionals in Northwest Washington state. The Coalition exists to make excellence in early learning achievable and sustainable for every child in northwest Washington.
Project Child Success (PCS) is a collaborative movement to improve the wellbeing of children and families in Pierce County. Since 2008, community partners have come together to achieve a vision that all children thrive in nurturing relationships and environments. Today, we proudly cultivate community action with over 175 partners including parents, licensed child care providers, health care providers, school districts, business leaders, and family/youth-serving community organizations, to name a few. PCS is a space for partners to come together and share resources and ideas, co-design projects and programs, and advocate for policies that support children and families.
The Washington Communities for Children (WCFC) is a ten Region coalition network with a mission to connect local and statewide efforts to improve the wellbeing of children, families, and communities. WCFC regions have trusted relationships with over 750 local organizations and individuals including early learning providers, social service agencies, child welfare organizations, libraries, school districts, public health agencies, higher education, families, and many others.
Meet Our Team
Meet Our Team
Susan Barbeau (she/her)
Susan has led the F5F team as the chief executive for the past 7 years. She is passionate about changing systems by harnessing the power that resides in communities. When not at work, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen, skiing down mountains, and challenging her son to board games.
Cheri Beavers (she/her)
Program Manager, Child Care Voice
Cheri oversees the Child Care Voice Program, helping providers & families to thrive and connect with needed resources for success. She is passionate about networking, raising community voice, and establishing lasting equitable systems to ensure accessibility for her Pierce County neighbors. Cheri is the founder of My Reclaimed Life, an organization focused on education for anti-human trafficking work in Washington. She has spent the last 12 years running programs and creating systems of change for men in addiction recovery, foster children, veterans, and families in transition. When she is not working, she enjoys playing guitar, singing, writing books, reading, and heading to the beach with her family.
Cecily Croskey (she/her)
Program Manager, Pierce County Early Childhood Network
Cecily is a native of Tacoma who brings with her over 12 years of experience partnering with children and families through community programs. She has a passion to see all families grow and thrive. Cecily is the founder of Girls Hearts on Fire, an organization focused on the empowerment of young women. She serves on the Board of Directors for Impact Schools, and as a committee member for the City of Tacoma's Events and Recognition Committee. Cecily's vision as a mother, professional, and entrepreneur is to empower our community's children, youth, and families to walk boldly in their passions and create the life of their dreams. Life is a great balancing act, so to refuel Cecily enjoys adventuring in the PNW and traveling to beaches both near and far.
Carrie Duffy-Pearce (she/they)
A lifelong Washingtonian, Carrie is passionate about nonprofit work and has spent many years volunteering and working with local organizations. With a heart to see their community grow and thrive, and a deep personal commitment to creating an uplifting and inclusive environment for children and families, Carrie supports the F5F team as Administrative Coordinator. Outside of work, Carrie loves spending time with their three rescue horses, playing piano, and enjoying the native plants and wildlife in their backyard.
Mirna Fritz (she/her)
Mirna has been managing the finances and business operations of F5F for 3 years. She loves numbers and the thrill of balanced accounts. She is passionate about learning new things every day and solving perplexing puzzles. She loves the water. Whenever the weather is nice, you’ll find her exploring waterfalls or sitting by the bay.
Kate Ginn (she/her)
Chief Operating Officer
Kate is a social worker and advocate who has been with First 5 since 2018. She is a Tacoma resident who participates on the Pierce County Birth to 25 Advisory Board for District 4. Kate is passionate about supporting caregivers with young children, and ensuring that programs and policies are designed by the families who use them. Outside of work, Kate enjoys singing, dancing, studying herbalism, and eating her husband's cooking with her daughter.
Rachel Hall (she/her)
State Lead for Washington Communities for Children
Rachel is the State Lead for Washington Communities for Children. She believes deeply in the beauty and power of relationships, and that only together can we truly improve the wellbeing of children and families in our community. When not at work, Rachel enjoys cooking, exploring the great Pacific Northwest outdoors, and spending time with dear family and friends.
Muriel Herrera-Velasquez (she/her)
Program Coordinator - Pierce County Early Childhood Network
Muriel values community advocacy and collaboration. She is passionate about breaking down barriers and building bridges for present and future generations. She believes in manifesting positivity and that there is no better medicine than laughter. You will most likely find Muriel, iced coffee in hand, following her rambunctious toddlers around. Deeply connected to her Mexican roots and heritage, most weekends are spent with family and good food.
Masa Kawamura (he/him)
Program Coordinator, Pierce County Early Childhood Network
Masa is a firm believer in change and the power of community to come together for a collective better future. In his down time, Masa enjoys taking his puppy to the park and on hikes, exploring nature, and creating art.
Penny Larkins (she/her)
Program Support Coordinator
Penny has been caring for the office needs of F5F since 2016. She supports team projects, fundraising, and events with enthusiastic attention to detail, all while nurturing community connections. When away from the office, Penny enjoys gardening, home projects, and being a grandmother.
Melissa McPheeters (they/them)
Program Coordinator, Pierce County Early Childhood Network
Melissa McPheeters is passionate about advocacy and equity-driven work in both policy and practice. Originally from Southern California, they moved to Tacoma in 2016 and fell in love with the PNW. Melissa has a Master of Education with an emphasis in Trauma and Resilience and a Bachelor of Social Work degree. They have worked with children of all ages, with a focus on early learning in Head Start/ECEAP since 2016. Melissa has independently provided trauma-informed coaching and consulting services to educators, parents, and other caregivers. The National Head Start Association named Melissa a BOLD Game Changer of 2020, reflecting their courage and risk-taking solutions in response to COVID-19. In their spare time, Melissa likes taking naps, hiking, and eating mac and cheese.
Linden Obel (she/her)
Linden leads the Northwest Early Learning Coalition and hosts the Family & Community Outreach State Action Team as part of Washington Communities for Children. She is an advocate of catalyzing community voice, building cross-sector partnerships, and moving ‘at the speed of trust’ to drive equitable health outcomes for children, families, and communities. Outside of work, Linden loves spending time outdoors (especially trail running, hiking, biking, and downhill skiing), listening to a podcast or audiobook, and perfecting her family’s favorite breakfast foods.
Emily Poncik (she/her)
Program Manager, Family Connects Pierce County
Emily oversees the Family Connects program in Pierce County, which provides nurse visits to families of newborns. She is a proud foster mama who is passionate about surrounding new parents with a community support system, with hopes to reduce the incidence of child welfare involvement in Pierce County. When not trying to save the world, Emily is an outdoor enthusiast who spends her free time exploring new trails with her wife and son, traveling the world, long-distance cycling, and drinking copious amounts of coffee.
Zach Sokolik (he/him)
Communications & Development Manager
One of the newest members of our First 5 team, Zach is responsible for planning, managing, and executing strategic marketing and communications activities. Fueled by creativity and kindness, he is passionate about making a positive impact in the community. A PNW native and Japanese-maple enthusiast, Zach enjoys spending time in nature and in the garden with his partner, Rebekah, and Rottweiler puppy, Mr. Blue Bear.
Timieka Travis (she/her)
Timieka Travis leads our Equity Action team and oversees First 5 FUNdamentals internal equity processes. Timieka also works part-time as the Program Support Specialist for Family Connects with Answers Counseling. While she will be busy juggling her multiple part-time roles (and being mom to a newborn and a toddler!), she is an incredibly gifted advocate for the community.
No openings at this time.
Meet Our Board Of Directors
Jen is a former pediatric intensive care nurse and Co-author of two books to help parents navigate the hospital experience with their critically ill children, she is also passionate about promoting the awareness of behaviorally-challenged children and their relationship with the adult leaders in their lives. Jen is married to Matt and is the mother of two daughters, Sadie (14) and Cora (11). Jen sits on the board of the Zenith West Gymnastics Foundation, which also supports the growth and development of children.
Board Vice President / Northwest Early Learning Representative
Jennifer is the Child & Family Health Manager at Skagit County Public Health. She was one of the original co-chairs of the NW Early Learning regional coalition when it formed in 2005, and has remained active ever since. Supporting lifelong health and well-being, starting before birth, has long been a passion for Jennifer. She is dedicated to building a sustainable, equitable system of support for children and families in Skagit County and beyond. Jennifer and her husband Bob have four adult children and are new grandparents.
Board Secretary / Treasurer
Diane Kroll is an Early Learning Professional who has worked in the field for over 45 years. In her role as Director of Early Childhood Services at Puget Sound Educational Service District, she was responsible for overseeing the Education Component for ECEAP as well as managing multiple grants supporting the Child Care Community in King and Pierce Counties. Diane is currently co-founder of Imag(e)ine, an educational collaborative committed to offering professional development opportunities to EL Educators. Diane is a founding member of First Five Fundamentals.
Tom Herron is a pediatrician, who for the past 35 years has been helping families in the Gig Harbor community. He appreciates how communities impact children and their families. Outside of work he and his wife love cycling and indulging their grandchildren.
Rodrigo is a leadership professional with over 20 years of experience in strategic program planning and evaluation to ensure performance standards are balanced and managed efficiently. As a Government Lead for CECOM and currently as the Owner of Integrated Vitality (Health Facility), he focuses on fitness, life-style coaching and day to day mentorship to youth, young adults, and middle aged patients/clients. Maintaining Healthy platforms (e.g. Mind, Body, Spirit, Emotion) is his passion, having been a competitive athlete and deployed to austere locations as a Soldier and Civilian. He believes a sustainable life is supported by health and balancing values is a priority.