Who We Are2021-11-17T17:42:04+00:00

Our Mission

The mission of the Maternity and Early Childhood Foundation, Inc. is to provide leadership, education, and resources to community-based agencies in New York State that support new and expectant parents from pregnancy through early childhood.

Our Vision

Our vision is to provide leadership in developing, supporting and promoting best practices in the field of maternal and child health benefiting those most in need.

Board of Directors

Edward G. Watkins, Esq.,
Board President
Assistant Deputy Counsel
Bureau of Child Care Enforcement
New York State Office of Children and Family Services

Lauren Benz
Clinical Account Manager
MVP Health Care

Maureen A. Cavanagh
Manager, Ethics Services
St. Peter’s Hospital

Lisa McCarthy Clark, DNP, CPNP-AC
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Stony Brook University Medical Center

Jill Ensminger
Nursing Educator
Excelsior College & Ellis School of Nursing

Duncan Kerr
Retired State Tax Compliance Manager

Shannon Forkin
Certified Public Accountant
Dannible & McKee LLC

Susan Marie Grady, LMSW
Retired Social Work Administrator

Rev. Fr. James Kane
Ecumenical and Interfaith Director
Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany

Ashley Ozemba
Middle School Teacher
Schenectady Central School District

Katie Poole
Associate Director of Analytics
MVP Health Care

Bernadette Willis
Author, Entrepreneur


Mary Pieper MECF
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Mary Pieper

Executive Director

With almost 30 years of nonprofit experience, Mary brings expertise in organizational development & strategic growth, relationship-based donor cultivation, community engagement, and a dedication to collaborative leadership. She has held a variety of executive and development director roles in education, the arts, community-based human services, and public health. Mary’s early career included working as a therapist. She has also been offering consulting services to organizations for many years.

Mary holds a BS in Psychology from Mount Saint Mary’s University in Maryland, and an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to serving on a range of community boards over the years, Mary is passionate about gardening, music, finding ways to be outdoors during each season, and spending time with family and friends.

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Erin Donahue

Assistant Director

Erin joined MECF in June 2018 as the Foundation’s Administrative Coordinator and served as the Interim Executive Director from July 2019 until February 2020. As Assistant Director, Erin works closely with the Executive Director to help the Foundation achieve its mission, with a focus on education and advocacy. Her passion for this work is fueled by the idea that all children deserve the community investment and support that they need to thrive at home and to succeed at school and beyond.

Erin holds a BA in Linguistics and Spanish from SUNY University at Albany. She is passionate about writing, cooking for loved ones, and volunteering in her community. Erin also serves on the board of the South End Children’s Cafe in Albany.

Healthy Birth Outcomes

Optimal Child Health & Development

Positive Parenting


The Maternity and Early Childhood Foundation (MECF) was founded in 1983 in connection with the efforts of former Assemblyman Denis Butler to obtain a $300,000 grant from the New York State Legislature for assistance to pregnant women, especially low-income women and single women, to enable them to have healthy babies and raise their families with dignity. Assemblyman Butler advocated with his fellow members of the Assembly for funding for the Foundation for many years, raising more than $17 million dollars for MECF during the time he was in the Assembly.

During the first year of MECF’s existence, 13 grants were awarded to agencies across the state and a part-time Executive Director was hired. The initial priority for funding was to support services for high need pregnant and parenting teens living in areas where those services were limited. Over the years, bipartisan support of the New York State Legislature increased and with it, the amount of funding also increased. As the funding level increased the Foundation was able to widen its priorities within its initial focus and fund many more programs throughout New York State. Approximately 10 years ago, MECF was added as a line item in the Governor’s Budget.

Each year, MECF provides funding for services for thousands of families. Most of the parents served are below age 21 and enroll prenatally. Without this funding, many expectant and new parents would not receive services.

As it has done since its beginning, the Board of the Foundation strives to distribute funding for programs to all parts of the State.

I never thought that having a baby would teach me so much and the people I met along the way would change me so much!


When it comes to us first time teen parents, we have a lot to learn about being a parent. There are some people that need help but are afraid to ask.

Service Provider

Sometimes you don’t know you need support until you are feeling alone. It helps to have someone to talk to and be there.


Supporting expectant and new parents will last a lifetime.

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Support the mission of the Maternity & Early Childhood Foundation