For as long as she can remember, all 19-year-old Audrey Connelly has ever wanted to do is work with children and spend meaningful time with families.
After all, she comes from a large, blended family — she’s the youngest of five siblings and in the middle between one older and one younger stepsister.
“From the time I was able to speak, I’ve always wanted to be a mom, and I’ve been so interested in children and working with kids — especially babies,” said Connelly, a Riverside resident and 2020 graduate of Riverside-Brookfield High School.
Since middle school, Connelly has been able to fulfill that dream, working in various capacities as a babysitter, nanny, camp counselor, coach and tutor.
But over the past year, another goal began tugging at her, a drive to not only help nurture children, but educate and encourage them to learn the importance of stepping up and helping take care of others — something Connelly calls “conscious childcare.”
Enter NannyNonProfit, a venture geared toward providing opportunities for children and families to get involved with nonprofits in the Chicago area, both through volunteering and donating essentials to families in need.
Launched this past summer, NannyNonProfit is Connelly’s way of introducing the children and families she works with to nonprofits, whether through donated goods, monetary donations or hands-on participation.
Essentially, Connelly says, NannyNonProfit acts as a bridge between families and nonprofits to help forge new, service-based learning opportunities.
According to her website, NannyNonProfit was launched to inspire children to live a life of service, lead with a heart of compassion and exercise human kindness whenever possible.
“As a childcare worker, I truly believe that conscious childcare is the future in terms of raising children’s social awareness, because when we teach our children about social issues, we are forming literally the next generation of change-makers,” Connelly said. “I think that’s such a powerful thing, because when you give them education, you give them the power to literally change the world, and I think that’s just such a cool connection with a nonprofit world.”
Currently, Connelly is nannying full-time for a newborn and holds a regular babysitting schedule for families throughout the Riverside area. But through NannyNonProfit, Connelly advertises that if families reach out to her a few weeks in advance with a date and time in mind, she is typically able to commit to adding new families to her babysitting schedule.
While the nonprofit is still in its early stages, Connelly says right now, her vision of success is bringing children along on service-based outings, hosting donation drives and drop offs and creating space to talk about service organizations.
Connelly says any money donated by families goes directly toward organizations she’s working with. While she personally keeps money earned by her salary, Connelly says she does donate as much as she can to charity.
Eventually, Connelly hopes to create a network with other area nannies and babysitters to help with this endeavor. As NannyNonProfit launches, she is navigating the ins and outs of the nonprofit world with help from family friends who are involved with nonprofits.
So far, NannyNonProfit has partnered with four groups, including Share Our Spare, a Chicago organization which collects new and gently used baby items from those with extras to spare, distributing them to families living in poverty through volunteers and social service agencies; New Moms, a Chicago and Oak Park-based organization with partners with assists young moms facing housing and economic instability; Chicago Period Project, a grassroots organization which distributes menstrual products to local shelters, schools and crisis support networks; and the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which works as a hub for a network of more than 700 food pantries and shelters throughout the city and suburbs.
This summer, Connelly volunteered with Chicago Period Project, packing and delivering menstrual products to women in need, and subscribing to their recurring monthly donation queue.
Along with helping coordinate postpartum and baby item drop-offs with New Moms, Connelly says the mother of the infant she’s currently nannying for also helped with donations, providing an extra breastfeeding pillow, breastmilk storage bags and other supplies for nursing moms and babies.
With the families she works with, Connelly says the parents have been supportive of her nonprofit concept.
“It’s been really cool to see parents super excited and eager to get involved,” she said. “The hope is that parents will share this idea with their kids, and I’ll be able to work with their kids on volunteering.”
Connelly hopes families will become interested in learning more about NannyNonProfit and recognize the power of giving back to children and families outside of the immediate Riverside area who are struggling.
“I feel like since we come from an affluent and privileged area, I think it’s our responsibility as a community to give back to those in need,” she said. “With the families I work for, they have so many items they don’t need anymore or have so many items in excess, and I think that’s just telling us that our excess items can be someone else’s essentials and a treasure to them.”
For more information about NannyNonProfit, visit nannynonprofit.squarespace.com