Christ Child Society meets needs of children, single moms

.- Being a single woman in need and pregnant can be scary, but for more than 100 years the Christ Child Society has been there to help, offering financial and practical assistance.

Pittsburgh featured a story on the volunteer organization, which assists women and children in 16 states and the District of Columbia, and has grown to 7,000 members since its founding in 1887.

Mary Virginia Merrick, a native of Washington, D.C., founded the organization. Born into a prominent family, Merrick suffered a serious fall in her teens, leaving her confined to a wheelchair.

Rather than withdrawing from life, the young Catholic decided to dedicate her energies to helping needy children. “Nothing is ever too much to do for a child,” Merrick is famous for saying.

She sewed clothing for infants and one Christmas, learning of a needy mother, encouraged friends to help prepare a layette. This was the beginning of the organization’s focus on layettes, which include all that mothers would need for newborns or infants, including diapers, sleepers, bottles, blankets, etc. Over the years, the society has donated innumerable layettes for new infants and developed complementary programs for children.

Now deceased, Merrick recently gained Vatican recognition when the Congregation for the Saints named her a Servant of God, the first step toward canonization, two years ago.

Acting locally

The Pittsburgh chapter is one of the 40 chapters of the Christ Child Society. It dates back 13 years and was formed after Bishop Donald Wuerl recognized it as an official diocesan organization with permission to operate under the auspices of the diocese.

Currently, its 80 volunteers give their time to the “Adopt a Cottage” program at the Holy Family Institute in Emsworth, reported Pittsburgh They help with the program’s education and recreation efforts, playing games with the boys, hosting picnics, celebrating birthdays, and taking them on outings.

Pittsburgh’s Christ Child Society members also maintain the Angel’s Closet at their headquarters in the former St. Augustine high school building.

The Angel’s Closet is stocked with new winter coats and gloves for kids, which they purchase at reduced prices off-season. In 11 years, they have distributed more than 2,600 sets of clothing.

They have also donated about 2,000 complete layettes for young women at the Roselia Center, a home for single mothers, and expanded their outreach to Mercy Hospital.

The Pittsburgh chapter plans to hold its eighth annual Red Wagon Fare Oct. 8 at 10 a.m. at the Pittsburgh Field Club in Fox Chapel. The day will include lunch, an auction and music by the Sweet Adelines’ Raze Quartet. For tickets, call (412) 963-9033.

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