–by Mary Helen Darah
PUBLICATION DATE: Mar 15, 2021
“Nothing is ever too much to do for a child” is the mission and vision of Toledo’s Christ Child Society. The members of the nonprofit organization are dedicated to serving children in need, for the love of Christ. Cathy Nelson, president, and Jane Larsen, community outreach chair for Christ Child, are passionate about their commitment to serving the needs of children, regardless of race or creed.
Due to the pandemic, many of the 12 community programs Christ Child provides were limited but they were still able to serve children in need. “We are all women of ‘a certain age,’ but we were determined to move forward as we were able,” stated Nelson. “Some of our services, such as in-service tutoring, were put on hold, but our vital work continued during a very challenging year. For example, we supplied over 1,500 coats to children in need along with hats, gloves and books. Over 900 hats were donated by our members who crocheted or knitted them for children. I’m very proud that we overcame countless obstacles and continued our mission.”
The group hasn’t had an in-person meeting since last January. They continued to meet through Zoom, email, phone communication and newsletters. “Normally, we work with and interact with families personally,” said Larsen. “We have a Layette Program that was formed in 1989. The program usually distributes 1,000 layettes to hospitals and social service agencies in the spring and fall annually. In 2020 we were able to distribute over 1,200 from our program that is housed in the Mercy Professional Building. Last year, Mercy began holding a Covid Clinic and we were limited with how we were able to distribute coats and layettes. It is a tribute to our members that they were able to give out 1,400 books, and the first set of 600 Layettes.”
Another creative event that rose out of the COVID-19 chaos was the reworking of the organization’s annual luncheon. “We have a member’s luncheon called the Red Wagon Luncheon in October,” explained Nelson. “One of the main objectives of the gathering is to receive diapers for our Layette Program. The committee came up with a Diaper Drive-thru at the Inverness Club and were able to collect 40,000 diapers. We couldn’t meet in the traditional way, but we met our objective safely and it was fun to reconnect with members, even if it meant waving at them from their vehicles.”
Although on hold this year due to COVID-19, Christ Child also offers Theatre Vision, a program which provides funds for underserved children to attend the Children’s Theater program at the Valentine Theater. Educators, along with Christ Child volunteers, integrate the theater experience into the student’s educational curriculum. “We partner with four different schools,” said Larsen. “For many of our central city students it is the first time they have seen a live performance.”
The group is also implementing a program that was brought to them by a then, Doctoral candidate, Kati Hughes at the University of Toledo. The two-hour interactive seminar called HUGS, teaches basic parenting skills to parents and infant caregivers in small group settings led by Christ Child certified presenters and volunteer mentors. We have trained program presenters who work with five local agencies,” Larsen stated. “We are pleased we were able to continue our nine-week Parenting program through the Catholic Club successfully completing both the spring and fall 2020 sessions. Our members that participate in the school tutoring programs are waiting and ready to get going again. We have found a new community partner, Mosaic Ministries, that runs a plethora of services including a program called Baby University from their building. We can’t be on site with them right now but look forward to it in the near future.” Both Nelson and Larsen feel that the Christ Child Society has become an integral part of their lives. “I’m not sure how to explain it,” said Nelson. “It is incredible to have this opportunity to give back through Christ Child that does it so beautifully and effortlessly. Our main focus is serving children who are under-resourced. I have been a member since 2013. In 2019 we distributed 649 coats compared to 1,500 in 2020. It’s a gift to be a member and serve.” Larsen, who has been a member since 2008 feels the same. “I love the ‘heart connection’ when you see a child look in the mirror wearing his or her new coat. We are not just writing a check. It is hard to remember when I wasn’t a member,” she stated. “The one thing that I am always amazed by is that when I go out to give to someone else, I am the one who is rewarded. It is truly a labor of love.”