2014-April-AnneKelley-053The National Christ Child Society and its 43 chapters serve children in 19 states across the USA.  Our nearly 6,000 members volunteer their time in a wide variety of ways to meet local needs, often partnering with other organizations and always supported by friends.  Our founder Mary Virginia Merrick’s mantra inspires us today:   “Nothing is ever too much to do for a child.”  This blog is my attempt to connect both members and friends with who we are, the work we are doing, and what we strive to do in the future. And you might occasionally find a quote, a story, a recipe or a prayer here as well.  Please subscribe on the right side of this page to join the conversation!

Anne Kelley, President
National Christ Child Society
akelley@nationalchristchildsoc.org

Convention 2016 Wrap-Up and Passing the Pen with the Gavel

Well, this post is coming very close on the heels of the last, but yesterday really deserves a post all its own.  We had such an amazing day and evening, culminating with awards and the passing of the gavel to Marybeth Baucco, your new NCCS president, who will be introducing herself to you via this blog in the weeks to come!

The day started with a really interactive session on how to recruit, retain and reward members, led by outgoing NCCS board member Cheryle Mackie from the Stuart Chapter and Melanie Mbuyi, who will continue on the new board.  The session started such great conversations that we could barely get the ladies out of the room so it could be set up for the business meeting.

Our Newest Chapter, The Ladies of the Denver Christ Child Society

Our Newest Chapter, The Ladies of the Denver Christ Child Society

At the business meeting, probably the most exciting thing was the official chartering of our Denver Chapter!  Here’s a picture of the Denver ladies from just two weeks ago at their first ever–and very successful–fundraiser.  They are off and running!

Our luncheon speaker was Susanne Greenwood, principal of St. Peter Claver School, where the Atlanta Chapter operates a reading program and a garden.  A member of the Atlanta Chapter herself as well as a

Susanne Greenwood speaking at lunch about challenging poverty in the Atlanta inner city

Susanne Greenwood speaking at lunch about challenging poverty in the Atlanta inner city

professional educator, she spoke eloquently on how important the Christ Child interventions are at the school and broke our hearts a little with a story about how children routinely inquire of her, “Is my CCS partner coming today?”

Then we boarded buses and actually got a chance to see first hand some of the fabulous work of the Atlanta Chapter, who won the Red Wagon Award four years ago for its multisensory garden program.  We visited Elizabeth’s Garden at the Elaine Clark Center, about which we’d heard a bunch on Friday, and got to see the multisensory garden and how it benefits children who are developmentally challenged.  But, as the Center is in midst of construction, we were greeted with great hospitality by the Atlanta Chapter with themed hardhats and cool drinks, which were much appreciated!

 

Southern Hospitality at its best, courtesy of the Atlanta Chapter

Southern Hospitality at its best, courtesy of the Atlanta Chapter

 

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Mugging for the camera in our hard hats at Elizabeth’s Garden 

Layettes laid by attending chapters at the foot of the Christ Child at Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King

Layettes laid by attending chapters at the foot of the Christ Child at Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King

After visiting the garden, we piled back on the buses and went to Mass at the beautiful Cathedral of Christ the King, with Archbishop Wilton Gregory presiding.  The Archbishop really called out Christ Child’s work for children in Atlanta and across the country–and gave an amazing sermon on our need to continue to work to be ready to serve our neighbor.  As is traditional each chapter processed up the front isle of the church during the Offertory, placing their layettes at the foot of a stunning (and reminiscent) statue of the Christ Child.  Then, after Mass, the Cleveland Chapter’s Spiritual Director Fr. Ralph Wiatrowski installed Marybeth Baucco, of the Cleveland Chapter, and the entire 2016-18 NCCS Board

The new 2016-18 NCCS Board and Fr. Ralph

The new 2016-18 NCCS Board, with NCCS President Marybeth Baucco to the left of Fr. Ralph

 

After Mass, we experienced more Southern hospitality, thanks to Kathy Thompson of the Atlanta Chapter who hosted ALL OF US at her stunning home in Buckhead.

Walking up to Kathy Thompson's house at Sunset for a lovely cocktail party

Walking up to Kathy Thompson’s house at Sunset for a lovely cocktail party

Her beautiful home and the lovely food and wine made for certainly the most elegant cocktail I’ve had on Christ Child time.  Thanks so much Kathy!

And then back on the buses again where we celebrated our Red Wagon Award winner Baltimore, for their amazing literacy program, and the 25th anniversaries for Toledo and Boca Raton and 100th anniversary of the Cleveland Chapter–as well as the Boca Raton‘s Membership Growth Award, for growing 70% since the last Convention.

The Red Wagon Award goes to Baltimore this year!

The Red Wagon Award goes to Baltimore this year!

And then I highlighted our staff’s and board’s contributions, especially Cheryle Mackie, Deb Low, Paula Conrad and Maureen Wesley, who are moving off the board this year.  Then I passed the “gavel”  (really some roses)  with joy and excitement to Marybeth, who will be an amazing president AND blogger.  I’ll leave it to Marybeth to tell you a little bit about herself and her new board.  I am signing off as President from this blog with deepest gratitude for your following our important work through this medium.  Stay tuned for really exciting and impactful next chapters!

In the name of the Christ Child,

Anne Kelley, Immediate Past President

2016 NCCS Convention Days 1 and 2

Convention went so fast it was hard to collect the pictures and info between sessions, so I have divided my update into two posts!  Here’s what I wrote Saturday morning–and am sending now:

What whirlwind we’re in the midst of with half of Convention in the rearview mirror.  Here are just a few notes from Days 1 and 2:

NCCS Board Member Mary Jo Dawson presenting to the Gavel Club

NCCS Board Member Mary Jo Dawson presenting to the Gavel Club

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Linda Toth, Carolyn Mergel, Marlene Genovese, Mary Graves, Maureen Wesley, Roseann Anderson — and me!

 

 

 

 

 

First the Board met with the Gavel Club members attending Convention to brief them on the business of the society, as they are the Society’s most experienced and trusted advisors.  I was SO excited to get in my first picture with them, even with 2 days left of being President.

Then the educational seminars on Cultural Competency and Fundraising here held, followed by a welcome cocktail hour and dinner.

Votives ready for commitment ceremony

Votives ready for commitment ceremony

We capped off the evening with a Commitment Ceremony written by Monsignor Ronny Jenkins, NCCS spiritual advisor and former USCCB Secretary General.  Each participant in Convention took a lighted votive with the NCCS logo and joined together in prayer, as beautifully prepared by Monsignor Jenkins. What a great start!

 

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Julie Francavilla at Keynote on “Sharing Our Impact”

 

Then Communications Day” sailed past, with a great keynote on Sharing Our Impact by July Francavilla, with contributions from various NCCS Board and chapter presenters.  Julie charged us to “Be Bold” in sharing Christ Child’s impact–and really showed us how !  After the keynote, we heard about the impact the Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. chapters are making with their hands-on programs.

In the afternoon, during a presentation on our first ever National Day of volunteering, we heard a great video presentation on how to do loom knitting by Texas Capital Board Member Beth Watkins, as set up by her mother and Texas Capital President Elect Joan Watkins.  And everyone in the room was trying it out, even Fr. Ralph!  Check it out:

 

Looming Tutorial by Beth and Joan Watkins

Looming Tutorial by Beth and Joan Watkins

Dry Run of National Day! Looming Baby Caps Across the Nation in One Room!

Dry Run of National Day! Looming Baby Caps Across the Nation in One Room!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fr. Ralph, Cleveland's Spiritual Director, joins in the fun

Fr. Ralph, Cleveland’s Spiritual Director, joins in the fun

Ellen Ross of Boca Raton displays loomed hat she made at Convention

Ellen Ross of Boca Raton displays loomed hat she made at Convention

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last session of the day was a workshop in which we worked on messaging using the Brand Values Matrix, and then started posting real-time from our smartphones onto the new National Christ Child Society Facebook Account.  If you really want to know what went on at Convention, get engaged on Facebook with the National Christ Child Society page!

Half a Year in Half a Page

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St. Teresa of Calcutta’s Canonization Day in Lumieres, France, September 4, 2016

Blogging fool I have not been of late, but fool for Christ Child I remain.  In my last few days as NCCS President I would like to reflect here on my travels since spring, my spiritual inspiration coming from vacation, and set the stage for some every day posts with updates from the NCCS Convention, to begin in Atlanta this Thursday.

First, every trip to a chapter is worth “chapter and verse”, but here I’ll just lightly touch on the magic!

Boca Raton:  A nice welcome to Florida and dinner with leadership–and Agnes Gregory encouraging us to connect with Make a Difference Day for our first ever National Day!  We met at a restaurant and I was tired from my flight from the west coast, but was rejuvenated in their company!  Maybe it was the great idea!

Anne Kroha with Maureen Wesley and Me at Northern Michigan Bash

Anne Kroha with Maureen Wesley and Me at Northern Michigan Bash

Palm Beach:  Late night arrival at Anne and Dave Kroha’s, where I learned about Dave’s mother’s amazing role in Christ Child in Detroit and heard Anne’s experience as the unsuspecting wife of “son of Christ Child”.  She went on to be NCCS president and remains a force in the Palm Beach chapter with whom I had the pleasure of meeting over a cup of coffee, meeting the team that had gone forward with one of the first newly branded brochures in preparation for an upcoming membership drive.

Naples Co-Presidents and NCCS Board Members

Naples Co-Presidents and NCCS Board Members

Naples:  I drove as quickly as I could to Naples (across the entire width of Florida sort of the wrong way, which is rather far), where I met with new friends from the Naples Chapter and with Mary Jo Dawson, NCCS Board member and member of the Detroit chapter.  I gave a little presentation at their meeting and learned about their very significant abilities to communicate, raise funds and engage their volunteers in literacy programs.  Then was treated to a lovely dinner and even though I was only there briefly got a sense of the immense charms of the locale–and CCSers.

After Speech to El Paso Chapter with Unnecessary Darling Spring Gift Bag

After Speech to El Paso Chapter with Unnecessary Darling Spring Gift Bag

 

El Paso:  Phenomenal luncheon and spirit, where I was lucky to present.  A chapter that knows how to make things happen in a very special community on the border with Mexico.  Best memory:  Molly Reed, then president, driving me out to see the famous poppies on the hillside that hadn’t made themselves known (in direct contravention of reports she’d heard).  We should have just gone and had a margarita she said–and I didn’t say I agreed, but I kind of did since margaritas were apparently invented in El Paso.  I’m just sayin’ . . . .

Northern Michigan:  Nothing like Harbor Springs in the summer, and these gals know how to raise money!  A lovely opportunity to attend this “summer chapter”

With Maureen Wesley and Northern Michigan Chapter Leaders at Christ Child House

With Maureen Wesley and Northern Michigan Chapter Leaders at Christ Child House

 

 

fundraiser and see everyone just loving being “on vacation” and supporting the local community because of the great work and great event the Northern Michigan Chapter puts on.  Got a tour of their very special Christ Child House and a sense of how they interact there.  Great ladies and great fun.

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Poster Welcoming Guest’s to New Denver Chapter’s First–and Very Successful–Fundraiser

Denver:  This new chapter is now officially on fire.  What a privilege to watch the (gorgeous) mansion burn down.  Not literally but with great attendance, great response to fundraising, and superb dancing and cocktails (the “Christ Child Cosmo”, if you can believe it!).  Lovely to see 10 women multiply their forces and finances in a single night, after LOTS of hard work. . . And they raised $11K or more, lean and mean.  Loved the beer and wine cake walk–kind of hard to explain but fun . . . .

Monterey Bay:  OK, I’m going from President of NCCS to soon serving as President of a brand new chapter.  We are in formation, planning our Make a Difference Day coming out party, honing the bylaws and navigating our non-profit status.  We have children to serve and a fantastic group of founding members.  This summer we’ve done some real work to explore how we “find a need and fill it”.  If I said we were “stoked” would you think we were stoned and not get that we’re 50-somethings from Northern California where stoked just means “excited” ? 🙂

Our Newest Chapter, The Ladies of the Denver Christ Child Society

Our Newest Chapter, The Ladies of the Denver Christ Child Society

Not a chapter, but my happy place, Goult, Provence, in the Petit Luberon:  A week to take stock and rest up for the Convention and next chapter.  Very hot! But Mass two Sundays in a row at a very famous shrine where the apparition was actually of the Christ Child.

Crypt Sited Where Apparition of the Christ Child Occurred and Current Site of Church of Notre Dame de Lumieres

Crypt Sited Where Apparition of the Christ Child Occurred and Current Site of Church of Notre Dame de Lumieres

I got to attend the annual Celebration of the patroness, the Mother of the Christ Child, but also a celebration of Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s canonization–even better in a foreign language.  Truly great to be part of the global Church, and getting ready for National Christ Child!

I’m back from all the travels, and here in Atlanta, getting ready for our Convention.   In coming days, you, the faithful–and patient–will be hearing a daily report from Convention, because if you are not here, you’re missing out on a great educational and interpersonal opportunity.  And sometime around Sunday, I will be honored to transition this President’s Blog to our next President–and a great communicator, Mary Beth Baucco, of the Cleveland Chapter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deep Diaper Discounts: NCCS Pre-Qualifies Chapters for the New Jet Community Diaper Program

diapersWe all know diapers are a basic health necessity that no baby can do without. Yet federal assistance, which addresses nearly every other essential need, specifically excludes diapers. The sad truth is that 1 in 3 families lack sufficient access to diapers, with many paying as much as 70 cents per diaper at corner convenience stores or travelling multiple hours for multiple dollars to get diapers at slightly lower prices.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey’s Diary Survey, families in poverty may spend 13-14% of their household income on diapers–in vast contrast to higher income families who can easily access cheaper diapers at volume discounts.  As a result of this shortage, children are exposed to health risks and/or diapers crowd out food or other essential purchases for low income families.

To the rescue, the Community Diaper Program, operated by Jet.    Jet logoJet, an e-commerce shopping marketplace, has partnered with Cuties, a diaper manufacturer, to deliver high-quality diapers in the most cost-effective way possible.  Via this new program, the price per diaper will be reduced from as high as $.50 to an average of $.13 per diaper without sacrificing quality.  (Here’s a story on the announcement this March from the Washington Post).

As soon as she heard about the Jet program, NCCS Executive Director Carolyn Pumphrey alerted the board of this new opportunity to reduce the costs of our chapters’ many layette, crib club and other infant support programs.

NCCS Executive Director Carolyn Pumphrey

NCCS Executive Director Carolyn Pumphrey

She then immediately contacted Jet to explain our work across the country and to find out how we could help streamline the application process for our chapters.  Jet has agreed to provide NCCS with promo codes for all 43 chapters so that they can purchase Cuties diapers at the preferred pricing, starting later this month.  Once NCCS obtains the promo codes from Jet, each chapter will be able to work directly with Jet to place orders as needed–with free delivery to locations the chapters specify.

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Lynda Rittenhouse engaged in her family diaper sourcing and delivery project for Christ Child of Fort Wayne

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Rittenhouse boys in the diaper depot

A chapter already excited about this new opportunity is Fort Wayne, Indiana, which operates multiple crib clubs as well as its layette program.  According to Lynda Rittenhouse, who followed her mother Beverly McArdle as the chapter’s head of diaper purchasing, the Jet Community Diaper program “is a Godsend.”   Lynda has spent the last ten years working with her six sons as a sort of family community service team to source diapers for Christ Child at the lowest possible prices in the area.  Thanks to the new Jet program, Lynda estimates the Fort Wayne chapter will be able to save 3-5 cents per diaper on the 156,000 diapers a year they purchase today–and potentially allow them to purchase more diapers in the future.  For chapters who are currently purchasing diapers at an average price higher than Fort Wayne’s  $ .21 per diaper, the savings may be even more significant!

Hats off to Jet, Cuties and others behind the Community Diaper Program for truly “finding a need and filling it”, as our founder Mary Virginia Merrick would say.  12[1]And not just any need but a need that supports layette programs that are operated by all Christ Child chapters!  Keep an eye out for information coming to chapter presidents this week on how to get your promo code by working with the NCCS office.  And learn more about both the problem and the solution by going to Jet’s Facebook page and watching this video . . . .

Finally, pass this blogpost along to friends of Christ Child and within Christ Child and use the Comment fields to let us know what you think of this new program!

 

And the Greatest of These is Love . . .

Daddy and Anne early 80s

My Dad a couple of years before he died, loving me.


My father died early in the morning of Valentine’s Day more than 30 years ago.  His last words were, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Charlotte, I love you.  Let me hold you.”  My mother went to sleep in his arms and woke to him expiring.  So this day to me is so much sweeter than all the candy sold on this day, as true love is–whether the genuine love of a spouse, a child, a parent, a grandchild or a friend.  It’s about the license to love fully, like my Dad loved my Mom and like God loves each of us.

My favorite thing about this holiday is that society on this day encourages us to do something nice even for the bully in the grade school class or the prickly person at work.  And to literally wear your heart on your sleeve. . . .

A ginger I know giving his date her first corsage

A ginger I know giving his date her first corsage

Nancy Robbins valentine tree (2)

Cape May Past President Nancy Robbins repurposes the Christmas tree to celebrate love

Cape May Van

Van in New Jersey takes to the streets during the recent floods, an example of love leading to action

To just go a little over the top with gussies and frills . . .

 

To go out of your way to  turn someone’s day around . . .

 

 

 

 

 

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Pope Francis enthralled by a child with Down’s syndrome during his visit to Washington in September

 

Today, I’ll be brief, remembering that, for us, our love of the Christ Child is that powerful and embracing emotion that calls us to empower and embrace the children around us through our care for them.  In this virtuous cycle, love truly makes the world go ’round.

 

Anne Mom Oct 8 15

6 months after her stroke my Mom made birthday dinner for me last fall–after cleaning up from a bridge luncheon for 12 the same day! Now that’s love . . .

 

 

 

So, may every chocolate covered strawberry or fragrant rosebud or warm hug or loving kiss we enjoy today remind us that love is the one thing in life that can be infinitely shared. . . .

Enjoy what’s left of your Valentine’s Day,

Anne

 

 

Holy New Years Resolutions!

January is in the rearview mirror and my own new year’s resolutions are variously  progressing or in deep jeopardy.  New Year’s resolutions are very important to me and something I negotiate annually with my best friend Susan. I’ve made a slow start this year, and so it was quite humbling to read Mary Virginia Merrick’s spiritual diary on my way to visit the Tucson and Phoenix chapters in mid-January.

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Tucson Chapter January Meeting in a picturesque desert setting

I read Miss Mary’s diary hoping to find some inspiration for the remarks I had been asked to make to both chapters.  Both are focused on growing membership and a more robust leadership pipeline.  Both are advancing in age and have lost members or are poised to shrink in the future if they don’t recruit new members to help with their solid programs.  Clearly, whether of their own making or not, both are facing change.

The two biggest changes in Mary Virginia Merrick’s life were the injury that confined her to a recumbent wheelchair and the death of her parents, which left her with maternal responsibilities.   Handling both were the focus of her self-criticism and aspirations in her spiritual diary.  She had a bias for action–especially for Christ Child.  She fought hard to be able to revive her body to do more for children, with the help of her doctors, but it was not to be.  She was intent on creating a loving home for her younger siblings, but they did not always want or heed her guidance.  Her diary is full of how she both tried to overcome and accept these challenges.

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Tucson President-Elect Angela Schneider and President Frances Smith at the lunch meeting

Each summer she made her own annual spiritual resolutions on retreat in the country.  She set personal spiritual goals, focusing on improving her relationship with God, serving the poor, and being more loving to others–and checked progress over the year.  Her writings remind us that we can do great things ourselves–with God’s help–and that sometimes we need to let God or others take the helm for us.   “Fiat, fiat”, she would write:  “Let it be.”  It occurred to me that in the face of change there are always the change agents and those whose role is to let change be.  And in life there are different times when we must play both roles. There I found inspiration for my remarks in Arizona.

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Frances Smith, Treasurer Pat Lunsford, Angela Schneider and me, enjoying the January sunshine in downtown Tucson

What a joy it was to join virtually the entire Tucson chapter at their monthly luncheon meeting on a gloriously sunny Thursday.  I was so impressed with the commitment and cohesiveness of this small group of 20+ women so dedicated to layettes and reading.  I loved connecting with each member, strategizing how to grow  membership, and discussing a variety of topics with their board.  The future is theirs to capture, and it is clear Tucson is focused on recruiting new Christ Childers to take their mission forward!

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Soon-to-be Saint Mother Teresa watching over the Phoenix Chapter’s 30th Anniversary Gathering

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Phoenix President Grace Cooper, Msgr. Thomas Hever and me at the tea.  Msgr provided a blessing.

In Phoenix, it was all about celebrating their 30 years as a chapter at a well-attended tea at the Mt. Claret Center.  I loved the juxtaposition of the frilly teacup centerpieces and portrait of our next-to-be-canonized saint, Mother Theresa.  It was wonderful to raise a teacup to the five past presidents of the Phoenix chapter in attendance.  And wonderful to speak with two 40-something daughters of a current member about what it would take to bring her or her friends into Christ Child: activities that would provide volunteer opportunities for her junior and high school age kids, maybe knitting or packing layettes . . .  ???

Phoenix Past Preses at 30th

Phoenix Past Presidents in attendance at the 30th anniversary: Bette Laatsch, Judy Lauinger, Barbara Gallagher, Elaine O’Toole and Diane Scalise (also past NCCS President)

New approaches and new ideas should always stand together with appreciation of proven efforts in the past.  Aren’t the key questions:  who’s got the ideas and energy, who’s got the know-how, and how you can meld them together?  That’s our leaders’ job right now and they(you) need our support.  If you want to discuss this important issue, please make a comment here–or, of course, contact me directly . . .

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

Christ Child, Come Be Born in Us! Merry Christmas!

My Christmas will be merrier and more meaningful because my Advent packed a lot of Christ Child.  Everywhere I went it was about the incarnation. . . .

Happy Birthday, Chicago Chapter!

Dorothy Pauly welcoming members and guest to the 20th anniversary celebration

Chicago President Dorothy Pauly welcoming members and guest to the 20th anniversary celebration

A gift "From the Christ Child" is tagged as Mary Virginia Merrick tagged the earliest Christ Child Christmas gifts

A gift “From the Christ Child” is tagged as Mary Virginia Merrick tagged the earliest Christ Child Christmas gifts

First stop was in Chicago, where the Chicago chapter celebrated its 20th anniversary of its “reactivation” with a wonderful Mass and celebration dinner.  President Dorothy Pauly welcomed all the guests to the festive gathering and thanked members and supporters for their efforts to serve local Chicago children.  We heard about how the Christ Child Society of Chicago, after closing in the 1970’s, was born again in 1996 through a small group of women with connections to members of the earlier group.  And how a providential gift around that time enabled the chapter to restart programs and sponsorships.  Every detail was perfect, from the video to the inspirational speeches to the handmade programs and party favors wrapped “from the Christ Child”.  I was honored to share in the celebration and share some information about our founder and how she was inspired by the birth of Christ—and it was great fun attending with Maureen Wesley, Immediate Past President. 

Illinois Christ Child Chapters Make the “Christmas Edition”

Immediate Past President Maureen Wesley in front of Central Illinois Chapter's headquarters, provided by the Diocese of Peoria

Immediate Past President Maureen Wesley in front of Central Illinois Chapter’s headquarters, provided by the Diocese of Peoria

The huge footprint of the Central Illinois chapter makes requires "circles" of members in local areas, some more than an hour from the Peoria headquarters

The huge footprint of the Central Illinois chapter requires “circles” of members in local areas, some more than an hour from the Peoria headquarters

After a Starbucks “flat white with holiday spice” and a foggy, foggy drive, our next stop was Peoria.  We had lunch in Peoria where we learned about the chapter’s huge geographic

footprint and saw their layette items and assembly space, which is provided by the Diocese of Peoria.  We were joined by a reporter from The Catholic Post, the diocesan newspaper, who asked about the chapter’s work, our founder, the Follett donation, and about the needs of both the Central Illinois chapter and the Quad Cities chapter.  Check out the article (and the picture of Central Illinois President Judy Hayes) and see the fantastic promo for new members and layette items for both chapters!  A great example of strong diocesan support and great initiative in getting their story told by both chapters . . . .

A  “Plan Is Born” to Meet Increasing Local Needs

Quad Cities Chapter planning session at the Dockery-Jackson home

Quad Cities Chapter planning session at the Dockery-Jackson home

Maureen and I then moved on to Quad Cities, where we got a tour of their layette assembly location and enjoyed a tasty lunch at the home of President Joe Dockery Jackson.  Then we rolled up our sleeves in a planning session, where we worked on addressing Quad Cities’ challenges around membership and fundraising in the face of local requests that the chapter double layette output.  Our focus was on being forward-looking and ambitious, but also very realistic and clear about what can and should be done when in 2016 to ensure success.  Maureen and I left charged up and excited about Quad Cities’ new year, and enriched by the time we spent with its leaders.

Seeds of a New Monterey Chapter, Including a First Donation . . .

A small group of potential members came out on a rainy night to my house in early December to learn about the Christ Child Society and consider whether there might be a motivated

Blankets knitted by Joann Scanlon, a former parishioner at my church who just loved babies. Thanks to her daughter and granddaughter for giving them to the people considering whether to form a Monterey, CA chapter

Blankets knitted by Joann Scanlon, a former parishioner at my church who just loved babies. Thanks to her daughter and granddaughter for giving them to the people considering whether to form a Monterey, CA chapter of the Christ Child Society

group of people to meet the needs of local children in my new hometown.  We were so lucky to have  Lou Tatar and Sandy Sifferman of the nearby San Jose chapter join us and talk about their programs and what it means to be a member of Christ Child.  And then a serendipitous donation came our way.  Joann Scanlon of Pacific Grove, CA, was a prolific knitter of baby blankets, many of which she left to her daughters when she passed.  I met Joann’s granddaughter and told her about Christ Child and she immediately thought of her grandmother’s legacy in blankets.  She then got several from her aunt and delivered them to my house for the nascent Monterey chapter.  So even before our second preliminary meeting, we have beautiful start to a layette program!  Please pray for our discernment!

All this rebirth, inspiration and new birth leave me ready to accept the gift of Christmas and take it forward in my heart.  As Mary Virginia Merrick, Servant of God, said:  “Welcome, welcome, dear Jesus, I open wide my heart to You, come rest within my heart.”  Merry Christmas to each of you and may the Christ Child be reborn in you and yours this Friday and stay with you throughout 2016. 

Gratitude is “Happiness Doubled by Wonder”: Thank you, Follett Higher Education!

As we prepare for our unique American celebration of Thanksgiving, sometimes we need to remind ourselves to count our blessings rather than the number in people in line ahead of us in the grocery store.  Not so this year, because for the National Christ Child Society there have been so many amazing, ground-breaking blessings this year, blessings we never could have dreamed of even a year ago.

David Werda Follett

David Werda, Director of Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore accepting the South Bend Chapter’s “Heart of a Child Award” at South Bend’s annual “Let Love Shine” fundraiser

Let’s start with the most recent blessing.  As G.K. Chesterton said, gratitude is “happiness doubled by wonder.”  Those words really describe the joy and awe we feel because of the generous gift of Follett Higher Education Group of 6,000 Good Night Moon board books to be distributed to 27 Christ Child chapters across the country before the end of December, for inclusion in these chapters’ layettes. Follett_Vertical_RGB Follett has for some time been incredibly generous to our South Bend chapter, since 2008 donating these books for inclusion in the chapter’s layettes and donating many other books as well.  In fact, Follett has been so generous over the years that South Bend this September awarded the   Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore (a Follett Higher Education Group bookstore) its 2015 “Heart of a Child” Award.

GNM and layette

Follett Higher Ed duo with Deb

Carol Winter, Sr. Vice President of Merchandising, and Don Germano, President of the Follett Higher Education Group with South Bend chapter member and NCCS Board member Deb Low

In learning from Deb Low, who chairs grant-writing for the South Bend Chapter and serves on the NCCS board as development chair, that there are many other chapters around the country distributing layettes, Follett offered to extend its generosity more broadly.  Now, two-thirds of all Christ Child chapters will soon be able to pick up from local Follett Higher Education Group bookstoresenough Good Night Moon books to meet their full year’s layettes needs.  (Chapters benefitting from the Follett gift will be contacted directly by NCCS with the particulars).  Truly wonderful for the mothers and babies who will bond together while reading this timeless classic.  Wonderful for each of the 27 chapters receiving this gift this year, ensuring our ability to support early childhood reading which is so fundamental to a child’s ability to learn and progress in life.  Wonderful for us as a national organization to share this gift and be able to exclaim our gratitude from coast to coast to Follett Higher Education bookstores near us!  Thank you, thank you, thank you, Follett.

The Follett gift is pivotal in scope and size and because it is the first gift received to benefit such a large number of chapters at one time.  But this year NCCS also received several other unique and important donations:

  • The significant bequest to NCCS from the Estate of Patricia Bertrand. Patricia Bertrand died this past year after having been a member of the Cleveland and Palm Beach chapters and a founding member of the Boca Raton chapter. Having experienced Christ Child in three different communities, Patricia appreciated NCCS’ role to support existing and forming chapters. Her bequest has allowed NCCS to make a one-time investment in improved communications and public relations with the aim of helping chapters attract more members and funding, as well as a substantial donation to the Cause for Canonization as it prepares to move to the Roman phase. God bless and keep Patricia.
  • The Green Foundation’s lead donation to the Cause for Canonization of Mary Virginia Merrick. Based in Los Angeles, California, the Green Foundation made this donation to encourage other foundations and individuals to help make it possible to send the Cause to Rome. Their gift has encouraged significant giving, as have the major pledges and gifts of a number of chapters, including $25,000 by the Washington, D.C. chapter and, most recently, $5,000 by the South Bend chapter. What seemed an impossible task now seems more achievable as a result of these major gifts and the gifts large and small of other chapters and individual Christ Child members from across the country. Blessings and gratitude to you all.

Thanks as well to every Christ Child member and supporter, for each person’s gifts of time in leadership, in fundraising or in volunteering with children, and each person’s financial support to their local chapter, NCCS and/or the Cause. I ask Mary Virginia Merrick to pray for each of you and yours, and send warmest wishes to each of you for a Happy Thanksgiving full of gratitude and wonder.

“Saints are the ones who let the light shine through them” Happy Birthday, Miss Mary!

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Stained glass window depicting the Christ Child with Our Lady by Harvey Salvin at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., donated by the National Christ Child Society in honor of Mary Virginia Merrick’s 100th birthday in 1966

Mary Virginia Merrick, Servant of God, was born 149 years ago today.  Most people aren’t remembered 150 years after their death, but Miss Mary is, because of her holy inspiration to all of us, especially to those of us who are connected to Christ Child.

This Sunday, at  my church, Fr. Marc Rougeau, Salesian of Don Bosco, gave a beautiful sermon on the beatitudes and communion of the saints. He basically said that the poor and persecuted and hungry being “blessed” is counterintuitive until you understand that Jesus calls us to be close to them—and that the saints, and our current Pope, are our best examples on how to do this.

He then told a story, sort of a fable, about a father who took his child on a tour of a church with beautiful stained glass windows depicting the saints.  When the father and child returned home, the mother inquired what the child had learned from the tour of the church, and the child said: “The saints are the ones who let the light shine through them.”

Mary Virginia Merrick understood this. According to her autobiography, she first learned about St. Francis when she was 25 by reading a French biography:

“I have always loved the animal world [God] created and from them have gotten real pleasure, and I love and have always loved to be near them. I find a kinship with them in our common Father. When I first read of St. Francis . . . . I was so happy for I understood him and his love of the lower creation in which he found God. This life made a great impression on me and I thank St. Francis for emancipating my soul. St. Francis in Monmonier’s beautiful life came as a justification of the way God was calling me to love, and it was a keen delight to me to find that ‘I was a partaker with those who loved God,’ even through His saints.”

Our founder was inspired by many saints, but she also found inspiration from the holy men and women around her, including her parents and many religious.  She found particular inspiration for her life’s work in Fr. John Drumgoole whose orphanage she toured in New York with her father as a young woman. About that visit she said:

“Goethe says somewhere that the eye would not see the light if it were not lightsome. I believe the seed that God had planted in my heart found a like Heavenly blossom growing in those bare walls and like it struggle into light and life. This blossom was destined to become a great tree under whose shade many orphans found shelter. After that Father Drumgoole figured in all my dreams of helping children for the love of Christ. I would picture myself working with him. I never saw him again, nor did he know the good influence he had cast on my way as a beneficent ray of light.”

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Monsignor John Enzler, depicted at Mary Virginia Merrick’s home parish Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Washington, D.C., where he served as pastor prior to becoming Catholic Charities CEO and where NCCS celebrated Mass after our recent Conference.

Just as Miss Mary was inspired by the lives and examples of others, we are inspired by her today. At Mass following the recent NCCS Conference, Monsignor John Enzler, CEO of Catholic Charities and member of the Advisory Board of the Cause for Canonization of Mary Virginia Merrick, in his homily called us to strive to live our lives in ways that we can ourselves some day join the communion of saints and be with Miss Mary in heaven. He emphasized the importance Pope Francis places being with and serving the poor as Monsignor learned first-hand during the Papal visit Fr. John also encouraged us to celebrate Miss Mary as an example to others by supporting the Cause.  Here’s how he sent us forth, suggesting we let Christ’s light and Mary Virginia Merrick’s example shine forth just like the stained glass windows in Fr. Rougeau’s story:

“Let’s make it happen to be with Mary Virginia Merrick some day when God calls us home. And celebrate the wonder of the one who brings us here today and sends us forth in mission and evangelization to take care of the little ones, provide the gifts they need and let the Christ Child shine forth strong in our hearts–strong because she inspires us to do just that.”

So today, let’s celebrate and remember Miss Mary12[1] on her birthday, maybe even in some new ways:

  • Wish Miss Mary a happy birthday by “liking” her on  Facebook
  • Learn more about Mary Virginia Merrick and her life on the Canonization website or Wikipedia page
  • Pray for the Canonization of Mary Virginia Merrick
  • Read a quote a day from Mary Virginia Merrick, as Monsignor Enzler told us he does every day, either online or by ordering her desk calendar from the NCCS office
  • Donate to the Cause for Canonization
  • Do your Christ Child work today in her honor
  • Shine your light by recruiting a friend or acquaintance to become a Christ Child member

And think about how we can honor her next year on the 150th anniversary of her birth!

Postcards from Conference 2015

Beth Barrett and Kathy Warren

NCCS Board Member Beth Barrett from South Bend discusses the new Challenging Poverty Manual with Washington, D.C. President Kathy Norton Warren just before Kathy’s speech about the Washington D.C. chapter’s programs

I can’t believe it has been a month now since the National Christ Child Society Conference in Bethesda–and since Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.  Both events left me with a profound sense of purpose to serve our chapters in ways that help them reach more children.  And a deep sense of gratitude to be associated with people in 43 communities across this nation who are living the Gospel through serving today’s children.

There were so many wonderful moments during our short, but packed time together.  Attendance was great at every session and the topics about leadership, communications,

Thanks to the five chapters who provided scholarship funding for our 2015 Conference scholars!

Thanks to the five chapters who provided scholarship funding for our 2015 Conference scholars!

programs and membership got high marks.  We built in more time for networking as was requested in survey responses after last year’s Convention, and people really took advantage of that.  Duly noted for Convention 2016!

The theme for Conference this year was “Empowering Our Leaders:  Telling Our Story”.  As pictures are often worth a thousand words, I’m attaching a set of photos that I hope will give you a flavor of our time together.

An attentive group during the Friday mini-seminar on Onboarding Chapter Leaders

An attentive group during the Friday mini-seminar on Onboarding Chapter Leaders

Susan Ferraro Smith

Cleveland President Susan Ferraro Smith, who according to one survey respondent “lit us on fire” with her fantastic presentation on how to create a positive and respectful dynamic with chapter leadership

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But if you want to hear Julie Francavilla’s keynote, or download some of the useful educational materials created for chapter leaders and presented at the Conference, you will find numerous useful links at the 2015 Conference page on the NCCS Website.

NCCS Membership Co-Chair Cheryle Mackie from Stuart Chapter brings to life her chapter's reading program

NCCS Membership Co-Chair Cheryle Mackie from Stuart Chapter brings to life her chapter’s reading program

South Bend Chapter president Peg Riggs speaking about their literacy programs was one of four chapter leaders to share program information

South Bend Chapter president Peg Riggs speaking about their literacy programs was one of four chapter leaders to share program information

Ange and new baltimore president

Ange Anglade, professional social worker and director of D.C.’s Girls on the Rise was one of our Friday night speakers. Here she’s sharing with Maureen Flynn from Baltimore

Breakout discussion about the 3 Rs of Membership: Recruit, Retain and Remember following one of three Chapter presentations of best practices

Breakout discussion about the 3 Rs of Membership: Recruit, Retain and Remember

Keynote speaker Julie Francavilla with President-Elect Marybeth Baucco, who is explaining NCCS' branding work and in particular the "Brand Values Matrix" which all attendees received to help them tell the Christ Child story more effectively at home

Keynote speaker Julie Francavilla with President-Elect Marybeth Baucco, who is explaining NCCS’ branding work and in particular the “Brand Values Matrix” which all attendees received to help them tell the Christ Child story more effectively at home

Julie Francavilla with CCCCCC of Cape May who spoke from the heart to tell a great story about obtaining donations for diapers

Julie Francavilla with Marie Austin of Cape May who spoke from the heart to tell a great story about obtaining donations of diapers.  Marie was one of three great volunteer storytellers who had us in tears!

Our newest Christ Child Chapter, Duluth, gets its charter at the Annual Business Meeting

Our newest Christ Child Chapter, Duluth, gets its charter at the Annual Business Meeting

Reception following Mass at Hamilton House, the home of our founder's younger sister and where Miss Mary once lived for a short time

Reception and dinner after Mass were at Hamilton House, the home of our founder’s younger sister and where Miss Mary once lived for a short time (now the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart).

We crack ourselves up, don't we? A very fun table at dinner at Stone Ridge

We crack ourselves up, don’t we?  A very fun table at dinner at Stone Ridge, demonstrating that Christ Child members bring joy to our lives!