September 22, 2010 // Uncategorized

Christ Child Society’s initiative provides coats, hats, mittens

South Bend Christ Child volunteer Madeline Gaughan expresses her pleasure of the smiling face of a child receiving a new winter coat.

By Karen Clifford

ELKHART — With many smiling faces in attendance, 290 children from 119 families received a winter coat package from the South Bend Christ Child Society’s Elkhart Initiative on Sept. 18 at St. Vincent de Paul Parish. The winter coat package included a brand new warm winter coat, hat and mittens.

Among those in attendance was Aurora Leon, whose daughter received a new coat for a second year at the event. “It is a really, really good program. So many people are so happy for new jackets for the kids. It’s like getting a Christmas present in September,” she exclaimed.
Debra Low, who has chaired the Elkhart Initiative for the past two years, and is the volunteer grant writer for the South Bend Christ Child Society, recalls the economic climate in Elkhart as the original impetus for the initiative.

“Elkhart’s economic challenges have been, and continue to be well documented in the local and national media. I brought the idea of coming to the aid of children in Elkhart to the Christ Child of South Bend board of directors in early 2009,” Low explained.

She continued, “The board voted monies to cover a onetime outreach initiative. Upon successful completion of the initial service project, the board voted in spring of 2010 to increase the amount of allocation in order to serve even more of our neighbors in need.”

Low said that a grant from the Order of Malta, designated for the Elkhart Initiative, helped fund two-thirds of this year’s project. “John and Marjorie Bycraft, members of both the Christ Child Society and Order of Malta, were instrumental in bringing the granting process to our attention. This year we asked for help to continue the Elkhart project and were granted $10,000.”

The Order of Malta is a lay religious order of the Catholic Church. Members are involved in a number of charitable efforts that are often supported by a grants program from the American Association’s headquarters in New York. In recent years these grants have helped support the members’ involvement with the Christ Child Society, the Women’s Care Center, Matthew 23 in Fort Wayne, Chapin Street Clinic in South Bend, the LOGAN Center, a prison ministry program and a medical ethics speakers program following the White Mass at Notre Dame.

In addition to the Elkhart Initiative, the Order of Malta has given additional grants to South Bend chapter of Christ Child. “We have been very fortunate to receive grants from the Order of Malta during the past three years. The first grant helped refurbish the Christ Child distribution center in South Bend when we moved from Thomas Street to our present location. Last year, they granted monies for the purchase of the school uniform component for our South Bend clients,” said Low.

Low also stressed the Elkhart Initiative is a natural extension of the services of the Christ Child Society. “In terms of delivering new clothing to children, no other group in northern Indiana has been as successful for as many years as the Christ Child Society of South Bend. We were founded in 1947 on the premise of serving children in need of a helping hand. It was a natural outreach of our mission in St. Joseph County to come to the aide of our neighbors in need in Elkhart County, since we were best positioned to do so.”

To continue this initiative in future years, Low hopes for community participation in organizing the event. “If this outreach effort is able to continue beyond a second year, it will be important to cultivate a group of Elkhart women and men of faith to carry out the mission in their own town. That would be the ultimate goal of the project, to perpetuate the delivery of these services by a local team of volunteers.”
Father Kevin Bauman, parochial vicar at St. Vincent de Paul, notes the diverse ethnic population of the parish is a perfect fit with Christ Child Society’s mission. “Historically, St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Elkhart has always been a home for the immigrant populations: German, Italian, Irish and now Hispanic peoples, primarily from Mexico. Similarly, the Christ Child Society has a great tradition of reaching out and providing direct service to the most vulnerable members of our society — poor children.”

“Our entire parish family warmly welcomes the outpouring of love and generosity offered by all the members of the Christ Child Society. Their gift of a new winter ensemble of a warm coat, mittens and hat to poor kids of our parish enriches us all,” he adds.

A second distribution of winter coat packages from the South Bend Christ Child Society has been set for Oct. 1 at Beardsley Elementary School in Elkhart. All children have been pre-qualified for services by school counselors, and follow the society’s guidelines that every child served be a member of a family that lives at, or below 130 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

As Jose Cervantes left with his new winter coat package in hand, his departing comments marked the atmosphere of other children in the distribution room. “This is so cool!”

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