Love is in the bag: Christ Child Society expands service programs
LEWISVILLE — In 2018, Patricia Gonzalez and her mother planted the seeds for a local chapter of the Christ Child Society by holding an introductory meeting for interested people in her living room.
In less than four years, the apostolate has taken root, grown, and is bearing fruit for children in Denton County.
The nonprofit, aligned with St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Lewisville, has grown from a handful of members to about 55 and has expanded how it fulfills its mission to challenge poverty, one child at a time.
Christ Child Society continues its core service, the Layettes and Literacy program which provides infant clothing, diapers, and nursery items to newborn patients at PediPlace in Lewisville. Plus, members of the Christ Child Society strengthen reading skills of elementary students at Central and Mill Street schools in Lewisville with tutoring and mentoring.
That’s where the members started, but they didn’t stop there. Through prayer, brainstorming, and planning, the organization has added several other ongoing community service programs, all to improve the lives of children in need in the local community.
According to Gonzalez, this philosophy — “to find a need and fill it” — exemplifies the vision of Mary Virginia Merrick, who founded Christ Child Society in Washington, D.C., in 1887 and sought to recognize the Christ Child in each child she assisted.
Since then, 45 communities, including three in Texas, have established chapters of the Christ Child Society.
SERVING LOCAL CHILDREN
While distributing layette bags at PediPlace, a pediatric medical clinic for patients without health insurance or with Medicaid or CHIP benefits, staff mentioned that many of their families arrive hungry. Now, Christ Child Society brings about 100 bags of healthy snacks each month along with its “baby shower in a bag.”
Gonzalez explained that childhood literacy is a goal of the national organization, because “literacy is a means of ending poverty.” To foster a love of reading, the local chapter solicited book donations and conducted free summer book fairs for the students at Central and Mill Street.
Also, because “literacy starts from Day 1,” she said, the group also assembles early literacy bags for parents at Loreto House, a pregnancy help center in Denton. The bags have board books, toddler games, and literacy-based activities to promote parent-child bonding.
Another new service program is particularly close to Gonzalez’ heart: bags of comfort items such as blankets, pajamas, toiletries, and activity books for foster children. A former social worker for children in foster care, she remembers the trauma experienced by children who are removed from their homes to be placed with foster parents. “We hope that this will maybe lessen some of that burden that they are carrying,” she said.
Along with growth in membership and service has come growth in faith. Gonzalez said, “We are doing God’s work. We are trying to spread the love of the Christ Child.” An unintended benefit she has found is the holy friendships that have developed. “For the most part, we’re all anchored in the same Catholic faith,” she said.
Father Ray McDaniel, pastor of St. Philip the Apostle Parish, is the chapter’s spiritual advisor and celebrates Mass with the apostolate annually.
Gonzalez is quick to note the generosity of St. Philip parishioners, who support the Christ Child Society by donating items and funds. The society responds in gratitude with themed hospitality socials after Mass each month. Gonzalez said, “This [parish] is our family, and they need to be taken care of. Like the children we help need to be taken care of, the parish needs to be taken care of as well.”
Plans are underway for its second major fundraiser, the Christ Child Fiesta, to be held September 18 at the Courtyard by Marriot Hotel in Flower Mound. Funds raised at that event will support the layette bags, the early literacy bags, and the foster care comfort bags.
The energy and vision of the Christ Child Society of Dallas-Fort Worth continue to flourish. About 90 percent of the members are from St. Philip, but the group hopes to attract participants from nearby parishes.