“Do not consider that in order to be great either in the eyes of men or God, it is necessary to do great deeds. It is an error; to do well the little duties of everyday life, to perform well the duties of our station is to be great.” Mary Virginia Merrick
Seasons of Love…
At our recent Convention in Milwaukee, where I became your new National President, I was so impressed with our chapter members who were able to attend. I especially noticed the variety of backgrounds and ages. Christ Child is made up of 5500 members in different seasons of their lives. We have those members just starting their families, where the focus is on diapers, preschool and yearning for adult conversation. Or maybe we are starting new careers and work means there is no such thing as free time or “me” time. We all then transition to that time where we seem to always be in the car, juggling work, schools, sports and homework while trying to fit in a romantic weekend – heck, we’d even settle for one night out! Of course there is also the fact that we may never sleep again after our teenagers begin to drive. And once again, work gets in the way of our volunteering and making time for ourselves.
As years go by and kids leave (come back and leave again…) and we retire or cut back on our workload, we have more time to devote to volunteering and service. We also travel more and we try our hand at different activities. We stretch ourselves, quite excited about finally having time to do all of those things we promised, all the things we enjoy. We spend time with grandchildren, but know that we can give them back when we are done playing. And finally, we move to that season when the spirit is always willing but the body may be telling us it is time to slow down. We continue to enjoy life, but may focus on small acts of kindness or memories of a life well lived. We may also have obligations that prevent us from giving of ourselves as we had done. And let’s just say it, we may be tired after years and years of service to others. We have done our part and happily pass the baton to others.
We find this on the National level as well as in our chapters. We look to older, more “seasoned” members for their history and chapter wisdom and we welcome new members with their enthusiasm and new energy.
This fits right in with our National Board theme for the next two years: Energize…Inspire…Advance! We will be calling on our Board and chapter members to develop some creative ideas to continue to energize our membership, inspire our partners, donors and local communities by telling our story and advance
our mission with productive and successful programs in conjunction with great community partnerships.
As I mentioned in my Convention speech, I would love for Christ Child to be the 3-H Club, (similar to the 4-H Club however farm animals are not needed…). I want all of our members to have Christ Child in their head, their heart and their hands. A thoughtful head, a listening heart and kind hands. Imagine the possibilities…
So whatever season you may be in, thank you for continuing to support and contribute to Christ Child in whatever way you are able. I am proud of all of our seasons…seasons of love!
“The coming year, oh my God, I give to Thee. I welcome all it holds and I am glad!”
Mary Virginia Merrick
A wonderful convention and a fond farewell
First I have to apologize for the gap between this blog and my last. On July 28th, I fell down one simple step and fractured my ankle in three places. Surgery followed a week later and that was followed by basically bedrest for 5 weeks then moving with the aide of a wheelchair for several more. As of today, I can still only partial weight bear with a walker. But that did not stop me from attending convention in Milwaukee in September!! My family thought I should stay home. My daughter and mom were so worried about me traveling but my husband knew how important it was to me so he did not give me any grief! So, my knee scooter and I traveled to Milwaukee and I am so glad that I did!
Convention 2018 was fantastic! The Pfister Hotel was such a perfect setting for our meeting and dinners! Truly beautiful (and very kind to handicapped individuals!) The Milwaukee chapter was so generous to us with the wonderful reception they hosted on Thursday evening, making Mass arrangements at the Cathedral and dinner plans at the Wisconsin Club on Saturday evening. Also, it was wonderful to see so many chapters represented and especially the large number of attendees from our Wisconsin chapters!
We wanted to make sure we were not all work and no play so once again an excursion was planned for all interested attendees-a Milwaukee sightseeing tour! Although I was not able to experience it first-hand (not handicap accessible!), from the pictures I saw and the stories told, everyone really enjoyed seeing the culture and breweries of Milwaukee!
The theme for 2018 was “Sustaining our Mission” and the seminars offered were all geared to helping our chapters do just that. Our seminars began on Thursday and centered around communications. Our Immediate Past President at the time, Anne Kelley’s seminar “What Makes a Photo Great” taught us how to take a great photo that will tell our story well and encourage action when people view them. This was followed by “Let’s Communicate” presented by incoming President, Carol Pickle and President-Elect, Molly Fanning. This seminar covered how to post to social media effectively and here is where those great photos you learned to take will come in handy! They also taught the attendees how to plan and organize more effectively using and a communications calendar.
After breakfast Friday, our day began with our Keynote speaker, Matt Deevers, PhD, whose seminar “Seeds to Trees: Cultivating Persistence in Ourselves, Our Chapter and Our Programs, was innovative, interactive and very well received. Our Program committee led by Beth Barrett, VP, presented “Beyond the Book Drive” which was geared to help chapters understand what a literacy program should be, how to start one or how to improve the one you have. Their workshop that followed used chapter representatives from the Sarasota, Albany and Washington, DC chapters to share with the attendees how their chapters took their literacy program to the next level and members just love hearing from other chapter members about their successes!
Friday evening’s reception is always highly anticipated due to the raffle display we always put on and this year’s raffle was no exception! Thank you, Past National President, Maureen Wesley and to all the chapters and board members who donated raffle items!
Saturday morning began with our Annual Business Meeting. Congratulations went to the Monterey Bay, CA chapter as they received their charter. The Monterey Bay chapter, led by Anne Kelley, has grown and become so much more impactful in their community in two short years! The first seminar of the day was “Don’t Stop Believing: Successful Strategies to Grow Membership” facilitated by Loretta Haugh and presented by the founding members of our three chapters in formation: Patricia Gonzalez of Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, Rebecca Smayda of Greater Binghamton, NY and Chuck Alfano of Western Massachusetts.
They were truly an inspiration to listen to and we could all tell that we have three very strong chapters forming that are doing all the right things to succeed and we wish them the best of luck! The membership committee led the next seminar, “Invite, Involve and Invest: Mobilizing Members to Get New Members”, facilitated by Mary Jo Dawson, Melanie Mbuyi and Jean Phelan. Again, it was a chance for chapter members to work in small groups, talking to each other, sharing what is working or what they need help with then sharing this information with the larger group. Always a great way to share ideas and learn from each other!
The last seminar of the day was “How to Fundraise Like a Pro” presented by myself and Carol Pickle. We aimed to address all the issues you need to be informed on when starting a new fundraiser or adding to an existing one. This was followed by a “Speed Dating” session with chapter representative from Akron, Denver, Pasadena, South Bend, Toledo and Tucson sharing information on their very successful fundraisers! I want to say thank you again to all our chapter representatives that presented at Convention 2018. We appreciate all the hard work you put into your presentations and we know that all the attendees loved hearing from you!! And just a reminder that all the convention seminar material is posted on our website if you were unable to attend the convention or if you want to use any of the material within your chapters-which we hope you do!
Saturday night was the culmination of not only our convention but of my presidency as well. Bittersweet to say the least…we attended a beautiful Mass at the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist. I must say thank you again to the Milwaukee chapter’s spiritual advisor, Reverend Robert Gloudeman for con-celebrating the Mass with Archbishop Listecki and installing our new 2018-2020 Board of Directors on Saturday evening. It was a beautiful celebration.
Dinner at the Wisconsin Club was wonderful but the real highlight of the evening was the various awards we gave out. The Mary Virginia Merrick Award was given to Roseann Anderson, Patty Myler and Joan Watkins. I have had the pleasure to work with all of these ladies and their awards are very well deserved. They are an inspiration to all of us! Congratulation to the Red Wagon Grant recipient, CCS of Fort Wayne, IN, for their fabulous Reading Rangers program, to CCS of Atlanta, GA, who received the Membership growth award and CCS of Central Illinois and Quad Cities as they celebrated their 10th anniversary, and CCS of San Diego, their 25th!
Then it was time for good-byes and thank you to the 2016-2018 board and hello and good luck to the new board, led by incoming President, Carol Pickle. I know how hard working all of you are so I have no doubt that the next two years will bring much growth to our organization. I look forward to working with another devoted group of ladies! Thank you for allowing me to serve these past two years-this experience has blessed me beyond words.
I want to end with a quote I found in a beautiful book that one of my board members gave me. The book is entitled “365 Saints Your Daily Guide to the Wisdom and Wonder of Their Lives”. I hope one day we will see Mary Virginia Merrick in just such a book!
“Celebrate each day as a new beginning and a fresh start”.
Through the good works of every CCS member, we will continue to grow and flourish like the mustard seed…
The Christ Child Society flourishes and grows because of the love, dedication and good works of its members.
This past Sunday, the parable of the mustard seed was the theme for the gospel as well as the homily. While listening to the reading, it struck me how the Christ Child Society was once like a mustard seed that was planted and nourished and continued to grow year after year. We, the members of the Society, are also like these seeds-some calling “planted” us in CCS, and as we learned more about it and flourished by taking part in programs and events, we grew and in turn reached more people through our example, helping them to realize and answer their own calling.
This past May, I met many members from the Albany and Utica, New York chapters who are all helping their chapters flourish and grow. I was honored to be invited to be a speaker at Albany’s Red Wagon luncheon where I spoke of Mary Virginia Merrick and the history of National Christ Child Society as well as where we are today and the impact the Albany chapter is having in their community. In fact, this past January, they received an award from Catholic Charities of Amsterdam, honoring them for their collaborative efforts with Catholic
Charities and their many hours of service to their community. Congratulations Albany!
I was able to meet and talk to not only board members but chapter members as well and learned about their many projects and how they responded to the literacy push from National by starting their own literacy program at St. Madeleine Sophie Parish. Not only do they collect and donate books, but they have also started a reading program with a related craft for the students. Members have mentioned that having a hands-on reading program has added a more personal dimension to their volunteering which makes the experience so much more rewarding!
Their luncheon was both a monetary success as well as a ’friend-raising” event! I was even lucky enough to take home one of the raffle items! One very generous board member won a beautiful hand-made diaper “cake” and because she knew I was planning on visiting the Utica chapter the next day, she told me to give it to them so they could use it as a raffle item or donate it as needed.
I was very touched by this gesture and it reminded me of how much our chapters support each other in these little thoughtful ways as well as when I see them interacting with each other at our national convention, sharing ideas and strategizing with each other to solve chapter challenges.
And as I mentioned, I drove to Utica the following day, meeting with several board members at The Seton Center of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, being able to put faces with names and learning so much about the working of their chapter. Last year, the Utica chapter celebrated 90 years of service! What an accomplishment! Because I was unable to attend their celebration event last year due to health reasons, they were kind enough to show me a video of their celebration. They have so much to be proud of! Congratulations to Utica for reaching this milestone anniversary – we look forward to your centennial celebration in 9 years!
Every month they work on one particular project, giving it their undivided attention, whether it’s packing or sewing for layettes, holding birthday celebrations for after-school children of Thea Bowman House at the DeSales Center, collecting books or working with expectant mothers at the Seton Center location. I was shown several beautiful hand-made items they include in their layettes, all of which were made by a woman who is well into her 90’s! I was in awe!
Both chapters are willing to support our newest chapter in formation in New York-Christ Child Society of Greater Binghamton! It is very exciting to see the Christ Child message spreading not only through New York but across the country as we continue to assist new chapters in formation. Through the good works of every CCS member, we will continue to grow and flourish-just like the mustard seed…
I hope to see many of you at this year’s convention in Milwaukee on September 27-29th!
Click here for Registration Information. We will make new friends-we will meet old friends-we will celebrate our programs-we will learn from each other-we will flourish and grow within ourselves and within our chapters and as a result we will “sustain our mission” for many years to come! Hope to see you in Milwaukee!
God does not always call the qualified; he qualifies the called. Be open to what God has planned for us.
Do you ever wonder why you have such a strong desire to volunteer? Have you ever been asked to do something for the Christ Child Society that is out of your comfort zone but you said yes? Or perhaps you said no because you weren’t sure you were up for the task. My guess is we have all experienced these feelings. Recently I was reading newsletters from our chapters when I came upon the following quote “God does not always call the qualified; he qualifies the called.” This quote really resonated with me because it reminded me that there is always a higher power in place, guiding us along, helping us through challenging times-giving us the strength to succeed, and to make a difference, through our work in the Christ Child Society.
In February, I visited board members from two chapters who answered the call to serve and as a result are making a difference in the communities they serve. Since I was going to Arizona to see the Cleveland Indians at Spring Training (an adventure that had been on my husband’s and friends’ bucket lists!), I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to visit our two Arizona chapters. I was invited by Chapter President, Angela Schneider, to Tucson’s monthly meeting/luncheon at a beautiful location called Hacienda del Sol. Tucson holds monthly meetings for their members and they are encouraged to bring friends along who may want to hear more about their chapter. They shared updates on all their projects and upcoming fundraisers. Their spiritual director, Lee Morrison, told the group about the upcoming Day of Recollection and Recommitment Ceremony she was planning to hold in March. Although they are a small chapter, you could feel their unity and the passion they have for the children they serve at San Xavier and Santa Cruz Schools and I wasn’t the only one feeling this because at the conclusion of this meeting, they signed up two new members to the Tucson chapter! It was a pleasure to meet with board members at the conclusion of their meeting to answer their questions and share ideas to continue to grow and sustain their chapter.
My second visit was with the Phoenix chapter. President, Johanna Warner, picked me up and we headed to breakfast with the Phoenix board at the Talking Stick Golf Club. Over a delicious breakfast, we discussed everything from literacy to leadership. Though they are a very well-established chapter, they continue to look for ways to improve their programs so they continue to be impactful. Johanna gave me a copy of their January newsletter and one of the features that really caught my attention was the “Year in Review” they do each January. It is a chance for chapter members to look back over the year, month by month, and see all their wonderful accomplishments! As I was reading through it, I was very impressed with the site visits they hold. Four to five chapter members visit the agencies that they supply bedtime bags and layettes to, which is about 12 agencies in all. Their goal during these visits is speak to them about the chapter’s accountability to the agencies and to assess the agencies accountability to CCS. What a great way to make sure their programs are meeting the needs of the agency and assess ways they may add to their established programs! I was honored to meet with this special, hard-working group of ladies!
As I returned home from Arizona, it was time to start planning for the National Board’s March in-person meeting! I invited them to come visit beautiful Cleveland, Ohio. Our weekend began with dinner at my home on Friday, March 16th. While thoroughly enjoying each other’s company, we discussed where our committees were in regards to our Strategic Plan goals and we realized that much has been accomplished!
Saturday morning saw an early start to our board meeting. Over the course of eight hours, we discussed what each of our committees are currently working on! We discussed the exciting potential formation of new chapters in Enfield, Connecticut and Dallas, Texas. The membership committee reviewed the data they compiled from their recent membership calls with a plan to get this information out to all the chapters. We continue to plan for our third National Make a Difference Day on Saturday, October 27th, this year again emphasizing literacy. More information will be coming to you in the weeks ahead. And we worked together to plan topics for the seminars at our upcoming 2018 convention, “Sustaining our Mission”, September 27th-29th, as well as extracurricular activities for all to enjoy! Our day concluded with Mass at my local parish, St. Francis of Assisi, followed by a delicious dinner and of course, a little wine since it was St. Patrick’s Day after all!
“God does not always call the qualified; he qualifies the called.” Keep this in mind as your chapters (and National) are looking for new members to step up to leadership positions. All you have to do is say YES! God will do the rest…
Thank you for all you do in the name of the Christ Child. Happy Easter! Happy Spring!
As we begin a new year, let us recommit ourselves to serve those who need us most.
February is upon us which means we are that much closer to spring! Last year I mentioned how much I disliked January-I didn’t even post a Blog this year! But I have been thinking a lot over the last month about how important it is to recommit to what you believe in. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions and even if we aren’t perfect in following those resolutions, it is important to make them and give yourself something to strive for! This led me to think about recommitting to the Christ Child Society. Continue reading Recommitting to the Christ Child Society
“Making a Difference” by attending the National Conference
We gathered together to learn and to share ideas with each other to strengthen our organization’s impact.
As the attendees all heard during the Recognition section of the Membership workshop on Saturday at our National Conference, you can never thank people enough. So, with that in mind, I want to again say “THANK YOU” to all the chapter leaders and members who attended Conference 2017!! To those chapters who could not attend, we missed you and I want to share with all of you the highlights of our weekend!
“Miracles happen. But prayer is needed! Prayer that is courageous, struggling and persevering, not prayer that is a mere formality.” Pope Francis
Never underestimate the power of prayer
Earlier this year, I discovered quite by accident, that I had a large tumor in my abdomen that extended down into my left thigh. I underwent several tests but was told they could not fully determine if it was cancer until they removed it and biopsied it. I am sure many of you have experienced similar circumstances either with yourself or a loved one. It can be a bit scary. I have a strong network of friends and family members around me-I am lucky that way. I knew from cards sent that people were keeping me in their prayers. I have always had difficulty praying for myself so I appreciated this.
Whether you are celebrating a “first” or a “70th” event, Christ Child Society’s legacy of love shines forth!
Patty Myler, Past NCCS President and NCCS Historian, recently found and shared with us the following quote from Leonide Delarue, one of the earliest Christ Child members who also served on the first Board of Managers – “Well so long as it lasts, it will have done good.” And for 130 years, we have done good!! This is especially evident to me when I see chapters gathering their members together to celebrate their accomplishments and the impact they are having in their communities!
This past May, I was honored to speak at the Christ Child Society of Duluth, Minnesota’s very first Red Wagon luncheon. This was an opportunity for Duluth to not only fund-raise but to also “friend-raise” and attract some new members for their chapter.
My presentation, “Serving in the Name of the Christ Child-National Christ Child Society Then & Now,” explored the history of our founder and formation of our organization as well as what we are doing today to spread the word about who we are and what we do in communities across the country.
Whether we are reading to our own children, grandchildren or children we serve, there is so much we can teach them!
School’s out for summer! Children love those words! Children want to swim, play ball, sleep in, go to the playground, watch movies-all great things to do! But both parents and teachers want to make sure that our children are also reading over the summer! I remember when my children were young and we joined the summer reading program at our local library. You kept track of how many books you read and if you reached certain goals, there was some type of prize given out! The emphasis was on the “number” of books read. I now know that the number of books read is certainly not as important as the comprehension of what is read! And where did I gain this knowledge? From reading “How to Make the Children You Love Really Good Readers” by Lillian Restaino Baumann, Ph.D., one of our featured speakers at this year’s National Christ Child Society Conference and a member of our Boca Raton, Florida chapter!
May the sunlight and the rain be reminders that God is at work renewing the earth. May He also be present in our lives, renewing our devotion to the Christ Child Society as we work to grow our impact.
Happy Spring! I am so glad to be able to say that! The NCCS board held an in-person board meeting on March 17th and 18th in Dearborn, Michigan, and we had the opportunity to visit the Christ Child House which is owned and operated by our Detroit chapter. The Executive Director, LaNiece Jones, shared the history of the house with us and took us on a tour of the facility. The Christ Child House was established in 1948 and provides residential treatment services for up to 31 boys, ages 6 to 16, many of whom suffer emotional, behavioral and physical impairment resulting from severe abuse and neglect. Often times, these boys have failed in foster home placements which adds to their emotional distress. The Christ Child House becomes their place of refuge and healing. The staff and Christ Child chapter volunteers are guided by the philosophy – “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood” and they work hard to make that mantra a reality for the children they serve. I think I can speak for all the board members when I say that we were all touched deeply by the boys themselves and the stories that were shared with us.
As we begin a new year, let us strengthen our resolve to challenge poverty one child at a time.
Happy New Year-even though it is the end of January! I don’t know about you but when January ends I am really happy because we are that much closer to spring time! Maybe I should say “Happy end of January!”
On January 11th, the Cleveland chapter celebrated the conclusion of their 100th anniversary year with a special mass at St. John’s Cathedral, followed by a tour of the cathedral and a luncheon.
“Nothing is ever too much to do for a child.” Mary Virginia Merrick
The years have passed and my children have grown and now I get to relive so many happy memories of their own childhoods through my grandchildren! This past Saturday, December 17th, was my granddaughter Stella’s first birthday. It is tradition that my husband and I host our grandchildren’s first birthday parties. And as I was helping my daughter plan and prepare for the day, Mary Virginia Merrick’s words kept coming to my mind, “Nothing is ever too much to do for a child”. I realized that my daughter and I would do anything for this child because of our deep love for her.
“Let not a day pass without having learned something, without having overcome yourself in something, without having performed a kind act, without having accomplished something.”
Mary Virginia Merrick
As members of the Christ Child Society, we are sometimes called upon to move out of our comfort zone to get something accomplished for our cause. Maybe it is seeking donations for an Annual Appeal or chairing an event or speaking to the media to get our story told. Whatever it is, we do it because we believe in what we do for the children who need us most.
In November, I traveled to the Toledo, Ohio chapter to attend their 22nd Annual Celebrity Wait Night event. I presented a seminar in 2013 that featured this event, and I have wanted to experience this fundraiser in person ever since! Due to the great turnout of 550 attendees, it was held in two restaurants, Real Seafood and Zia’s- beautiful locations in Toledo. Along with the “real” waiters, each table is assigned a ‘Celebrity Waiter” whose job it is to entertain the guests, make sure everyone is having fun and of course, seek donations for their effort! I was lucky to get Jane Larsen, the President of the Toledo chapter, as my celebrity waiter!! The evening included a delicious, relaxing dinner and a chance to meet many of the Toledo chapter members. This event raised nearly $41,000 for Toledo’s outreach programs. What a great success!
“I must not rush though my daily duties worrying that I cannot get all that I wish done. I must do but one thing at a time and by that one duty do my best not worrying over what will become of the others…”
2016-2018 Board members pictured with Fr. Ralph Wiatrowski left to right: Anne Kelley, Loretta Haugh, Melanie Mbuyi, Kaye Rowe, Beth Barrett, Marybeth Baucco, Jean Phelan, Linda Henry, Molly Fanning, Mary Jo Dawson, Lambi Newsham and Carol Pickle.
This quote by Mary Virginia Merrick marked the start of the first board meeting of the newly inducted National Board of Directors on Saturday, November 5th. I chose this quote to emphasize to the new board that although we have our work cut out for us, we will all work together, seeking guidance where needed, to begin to implement our new Strategic Plan. The Christ Child members who answered the call to serve on the National Board are a talented, resourceful, and hard-working group (not to mention, a lot of fun too!) I would like to share a little about them with you today.
Mary Virginia Merrick, Servant of God, established the Christ Child Society almost 130 years ago, when she inspired her friends and family members in Washington to join her in personal service to children in need. And she continues to inspire our organization today as do her visionary statements, which come off our lips as we seek to meet the needs of today’s children: “Nothing is ever too much to do for a child,” “Find a need and fill it,” and “To work is to pray”.
Which is why this year the National Christ Child Society and 30 of our chapters participated in our first ever national day of volunteering for National Make a Difference Day on or about, October 22, 2016, in honor of Miss Mary’s 150th birthday. Our theme was Layettes of Love since the packing of layettes goes back to our origin when Mary Virginia Merrick and her friends made and distributed the first layettes for babies born at Christmas time.