We look forward to meeting you at the Literacenter!

The Chicago Literacy Alliance’s team members are readers, writers, entrepreneurs, and cheerleaders for the cause.

Stacy Ratner


Fortysomething years ago, Stacy learned to read. This life-changing experience led to degrees in law and literature, allowed her to help take three startup companies from idea through a combined total of $30 million in committed venture funding, and finally brought her to the cause of literacy in 2006. She began by founding Open Books, a nonprofit social venture that now serves 5,000 students each year through a spectrum of exciting programs funded by the sale of used books in its two Chicago stores. Three years later, she co-founded the Chicago Literacy Alliance…and could not be more excited about what it has become.  Stacy has received a Chicagoan of the Year award from Chicago Magazine, an Emerging Leader Fellowship from the Chicago Community Trust, places on NewCity’s Lit 50 and the national 40 Women To Watch Over 40 list, the Social Enterprise Alliance’s Innovation award, and recognition on the White House’s official blog for “spreading the infinite and awesome power of books.” She writes a novel every year, eats ice cream every day, and is always starting something. And, yes: her hair really is green.

Alison Hanold

Program Director

Alison joins the Chicago Literacy Alliance from the documentary world. Prior to her work with the CLA, Alison was the Director of Development with Kartemquin Films (a 50 year old social justice documentary film organization), the Director of Development and Communications at Critical Exposure (a D.C.-based non-profit that teaches youth to use documentary photography to advocate for school reform and social change), and the Associate Director of the Center for Social Media at American University (a social justice media think-tank). She holds a bachelors degree in Digital Cinema from DePaul University and a masters in Arts Administration from American University. In her role as Program Director at the CLA, she is excited to combine her non-profit experience with her passion for creative and effective partnerships that create meaningful change. Alison is an animal lover, a pie enthusiast, a survivor of a childhood spent in a haunted house, and a believer that education and literacy are the keys to solving a majority of our great city’s challenges.

Jimmy Martin

Operations Director

Jimmy is thrilled to be a part of the Chicago Literacy Alliance, bringing with him a love of technology and logistics and an inherent drive to help others.  He spent the last ten years in the world of corporate audio-visual and event technology management-his favorite experience from his previous work being the production of President-Elect Obama’s first press conferences here in Chicago.  The product of that endeavor was the most memorable handshake he’s received to date.  Jimmy holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts from the University of Central Oklahoma, and a Bachelor of Science in Recording Industry Management from Middle Tennessee State University.  He is a loyal fan of the Chicago Cubs, and hopes to pass on that sense of healthy optimism to his daughter.  He credits his wife, Lauren, for most of the good things in his life.

Heather Bronson

Communications Manager

Heather comes to the Chicago Literacy Alliance from an internal agency where she not only was an editor for the last 5 years but also helped launch her company’s social media brand. She is a co-chair of the Mad Hatters, a children’s performance group that promotes literacy in Chicago public libraries and schools through singing and acting out children’s books. Heather holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia where she majored in Journalism with an emphasis in magazine editing. Books have always been a big part of Heather’s life, from her insistence to read every Babysitters Club book in order when she was 8 (there are 131 books in the series) to writing and illustrating her first book, Ghost Flight, in the fourth grade. Heather is excited to bring her passion for literacy and service to her role as communications manager in which she can serve as a resource to help CLA members promote literacy.

Jen Daniels-Lake

Membership Manager

Jen joins the Chicago Literacy Alliance with a diverse background in non-profit management and a focus on community and membership engagement for cultural and arts organizations.  Her prior employment has included working with longstanding institutions like Congregation Solel, Ravinia Festival, and the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.  Literacy and education have played a large role in Jen’s professional pursuits, and she has also worked as a Restorative Justice Mentor with Black Star Project and a volunteer tutor with 826Chi.  She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from Northwestern University and a masters degree in Non-Profit Management from Spertus Institute.  In addition to her dedication to making Chicago the greatest city on the planet, she is a theatre, film, and music lover with an insatiable appetite for local, organic vegetables!

Erin McCann

Community Manager

Erin first came to the Literacenter as a volunteer who worked at the welcome desk for the Literacenter’s grand opening. She has experience with customer service and event planning through both the YWCA and the Loyola University Office of Public Affairs. Erin holds a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University where she majored in history and minored in anthropology. She is also very proud to have attended Cottey College in Nevada, MO, an independent liberal arts and sciences college for women that has alumnae who are fiercely loyal. Erin lives in Rogers Park with her husband, Stephen, and a very small wiener dog named Wednesday. With her free time, Erin enjoys visiting museums and historic sites as well as working on anything crafty: sewing, painting, crocheting, etc.  Erin is immeasurably grateful to be a part of the CLA team and have the opportunity to use her sociability to facilitate CLA members as they work toward their impactful missions.

chelsea dowty

Chelsea Dowty

Development Coordinator

Chelsea joins the Chicago Literacy Alliance with a background working with non-profits and NGOs. She believes that a holistic approach when working at a non-profit can be incredibly beneficial. She has held roles in development, donor relations, gift processing and project management. Chelsea has a degree in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts and has worked for notable organizations such as Heifer International, Amnesty International and the Peace Corps. She speaks Spanish and holds a professional level SCUBA Diving certification. She and her husband have a (mostly) inherited library of over 800 books that they are (slowly) working their way through and have on display in their studio apartment that they share with their two precocious dogs, Bella and Roux.

Cassandra Rose

Community Coordinator

Cassandra comes to the CLA by way of the theatre world. She’s a playwright who has had more than 200 of her plays performed in Chicago over the last 9 years. That’s slightly less impressive when you find out that about 170 of those plays were part of her self-produced Dictionary Project (Volumes I, II, and III), an annual short play marathon/fundraiser she created so that she can attend the Kenyon Playwrights Conference every summer. She is also a published author thanks to her Simone the Private Fly radio plays, as featured in Spider Magazine. Cassandra honed her community coordination skills by doing front-of-house work for such prestigious companies as Blue Man Group, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Strawdog Theatre Company, and the Tennessee Williams Play Festival. She is an eternal optimist who firmly believes that everyone has at least one story the world needs to hear, which is why she is tickled pink to be of service to all of the brilliant organizations that make up the Literacenter community. Cassandra has a BA in playwriting from Columbia College Chicago.