TrainingGrounds Expands to New Orleans East with New Orleans Public Library Location

NEW ORLEANS, LA –– November 29, 2023 – TrainingGrounds’ second We PLAY Center will open at the New Orleans Public Library’s East New Orleans Regional Library (5641 Read Blvd.) on December 13, 2023, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled on December 8 at 10am.

The We PLAY Center is a free, safe neighborhood learning space focused on PLAY. It supports parents and caregivers in creating nurturing bonds and fostering healthy brain development, language, and social and emotional skills while playing with their infants and toddlers. Very few places in New Orleans East provide free learning opportunities for children from birth to age three, and the We PLAY Center aims to fill that void.

This expansion represents a significant milestone in TrainingGrounds’ ongoing commitment to New Orleans. With two We PLAY Center locations, TrainingGrounds is expanding its village to ensure more parents with infants or toddlers receive support, information and knowledge during the first five years of their parenting journey so their children can thrive.

“We are thrilled to partner with the New Orleans Public Library to locate a We PLAY Center inside the East New Orleans Regional Library,” said Melanie Richardson, co-founder and executive director at TrainingGrounds. “This expansion reflects our vision for communities where sustainable, effective, child-centered early learning experiences engage parents, families, and caregivers with young children in ways that lead to healthy social development and educational success from birth to adulthood.” We look forward to working closely with our supporters and the local community to ensure a village of care exists that nurtures both caregivers and children so our community can prosper.”

Christine McCourtney, head of early childhood literacy for the New Orleans Public Library agrees that this partnership is a natural one.

“The Library believes in helping parents and caregivers raise readers together. We are committed to providing support from the very beginning of children’s early learning to years beyond. When partnering with organizations that are focused on early childhood learning, we are able to increase access to quality programs, services, and resources that support the early literacy practices and the development of pre-reading skills. We understand the importance of play and providing engaging and educational environments for parents and children to learn together. Which is why we could not be happier partnering with Training Grounds to open their We Play Center at our East New Orleans Regional Library. Their mission aligns perfectly with our strategic goals to strengthen early childhood literacy. We cannot wait to see how positively this partnership impacts our city’s children.”

More than 3000 children and their caregivers from every zip code in New Orleans and surrounding parishes have participated in We PLAY programming since TrainingGrounds opened its doors at Corpus Christi-Epiphany Catholic Church in the 7th Ward in 2017. With the second We PLAY Center, capacity will double to offer Play and Learn sessions. Like the We PLAY Center in Treme, this new location will be equipped with developmentally appropriate toys and play stations and staffed by a team of dedicated and skilled parenting educators passionate about supporting parents with young children. We PLAY families also have access to free in-person and virtual programs and connections to community resources.

The opening of the second We PLAY Center location was made possible through the generous support of donors, volunteers, and partners. TrainingGrounds would like to acknowledge GNOF Impact 100, Baptist Community Ministries, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Metropolitan Human Service District and the Louis Calder Foundation and extend its gratitude to all who have played a role in making this expansion a reality.

To learn more about TrainingGrounds and its mission, please visit For inquiries, please contact

About TrainingGrounds:

Co-founded in 2017 by Melanie Richardson and Christine Neely, TrainingGrounds is a non-profit organization that provides evidence-informed programming focusing on the first five years of life. We work with families, caregivers and professionals to ensure everyone has access to resources to improve early childhood outcomes, supporting parents in their roles as teachers and ensuring children meet developmental milestones. TrainingGrounds has created an effective We PLAY Center model to support families while positively impacting children’s cognitive, physical, and social development during the first five years of life. Research shows that disparities in academic, language, social and emotional skills are apparent as early as 9 months of age, and by the time some children enter preschool, these gaps are deeply entrenched. Increased support in areas of maternal health, parenting practices, child health and nutrition and positive quality early learning opportunities are what tip the scale.

About New Orleans Public Library:

With origins dating back to 1843, the New Orleans Public Library has grown from a single French Quarter house with a few volumes into a city-wide system serving all of Orleans Parish with 15 locations throughout the City. The Library’s mission is to transform lives, enrich neighborhoods, and preserve history.

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