First Mary Virginia Merrick Award recipient brings legacy
to South Bend Christ Child Chapter
SOUTH BEND — As the first recipient of the South Bend Christ Child Society’s Mary Virginia Merrick Award, Marjorie Bycraft’s history with the society predates her initiation as a new member of the chapter in 1975. It was through her mother Jewel Kenney Lane, an active member of a Chicago area chapter, that Bycraft saw the fruits of the organization’s impact on clothing needy children.
“I remember her going to prepare the Christmas gifts to be delivered to 900-1,000 needy children in Chicago through Madonna Center on Chicago’s near west side. Interestingly, those gifts included much of what we give today: new clothing, sweaters, dresses, shoes, stockings, pants, underwear, snowsuits, mittens, a book, a toy. Of course, they also gave the infant layettes that all Christ Child chapters are required to give,” Bycraft recalls.
At the South Bend Christ Child Spring Mass and Luncheon, Bycraft was recognized for her service by chapter President Kathy Seidl with the new biannual award that Seidl describes as “for members who have given their time and talents unselfishly to Christ Child over the years.”
Among the criteria for the award are inspiration and example for others to participate in or support the work and mission of Christ Child Society, visibility at Christ Child Society events in the form of attendance, advocacy and promotion, general support of the society by virtue of giving the gifts of time, work or financial resources, and outstanding service to the work of the society as a volunteer or officer of the board of directors.
The following nominating letter submitted by a chapter member outlined Bycraft’s many contributions to Christ Child. “Over the years she has gone above and beyond with being the purchaser of clothes during the time that our chapter was going through so many changes about what to give out, how much can we afford, what children need and where are the best places to shop. On top of that she and her husband stored much of the inventory and had it shipped to Jack Post to save us postage on many deliveries and then delivered the goods to the center. She has been president and served on the board and on many committees. She is an example of ‘above and beyond.’”
Another nomination letter added, “She and her husband have been responsible for the Knights of Malta grants given to our chapter. Marjorie continues to volunteer at the center regularly and we would not be as efficient today without her tireless efforts of the past.”
Bycraft has seen many changes with the South Bend chapter over the years. “Christ Child has seen tremendous growth in the years that I have been a member. We now serve over 4,000 children each year. It is much more efficient since we moved to the St. Patrick School building five years ago. However, along with that growth, our financial needs have grown as well. No longer can we clothe the children with bazaars and garage sales. We now have more lucrative fundraisers to help underwrite our costs,” she says.
The impact of the Christ Child Society on the South Bend community extends beyond the distribution of new clothing, Bycraft explains. “The new winter clothing provided to those families assists the parents financially, but also gives the children a sense of pride in themselves, consequently, we hope, they will do better academically and socially. The center is located well and creates a Catholic presence along with Sister Maura Brannick’s Chapin Street Clinic and the Catholic churches on the near west side of South Bend.”
In addition to the members who have become a part of the chapter through friends, Bycraft hopes to get the word out to others about Christ Child Society’s service so that others may become part of this worthy organization. “It is wonderful to be a part of an organization that is your ‘heart,’ an organization to which it is a joy to give your time and effort. Through the years, I have always known where I would be on a Wednesday morning, and looked forward to spending that time with good friends serving those who needed our assistance.”
She concludes, “I have always been proud of the fact that Christ Child is an all-volunteer organization without even one paid employee. The amazing work it does year after year happens because of close to 600 members who give their time, talents and treasures. Each part is important to the Catholic outreach that Christ Child has here in South Bend.”
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