Christ Child Society helps the neediest of the needyWritten by Amy Biolchini | | ABiolchini@toledofreepress.com
The Christ Child Society (CCS) of Toledo distributed 800 newborn layettes Oct. 26 to area hospitals and agencies, contributing to a greater initiative to help high-risk pregnant women.
Mary Murnen, CCS Toledo chapter president, headed the layette distribution for the first time this year.
“We’re a service organization, and what we try to do is service the needy in Toledo. That would be the very neediest, children that are coming into the world with nothing,” Murnen said.
The signature program for CCS, which has chapters nationwide, is the assembly and distribution of layettes. A layette is a package of newborn essentials including clothing, blankets, diapers, toys, books and infant necessities. CCS volunteers purchase, assemble and deliver more than 800 layettes a year to Toledo hospitals and social service agencies that serve needy families.
“I think it’s very special. The mothers that are chosen are mothers that they [the agencies] have followed up with. It’s not just anyone who’s having a baby that’s coming in,” Murnen said. “Part of the program is to make sure that the babies receive proper nutrition before they’re born.”
CCS works with the Lucas County Initiative to Improve Birth Outcomes to connect their layettes with the agencies that need them the most. Maggie Welty, project coordinator for the initiative, said the layettes are just part of the services the initiative provides in hopes that low income women have full-term, healthy babies.
“Layettes are an extra resource and are something that these women value and show them that somebody cares, especially since they’re low income and have nothing or very little,” Welty said.
The initiative serves as a hub for county services to reach low income, high-risk pregnant women that mainly come from ZIP codes 43604, 43607 and 43610, Welty said. Women in these ZIP codes have a higher prevalence for babies with low birth weight and are primarily African American, Welty said.
The Lucas County Initiative to Improve Birth Outcomes began in 2006 out of donations by the Community Foundation and the Stranahan Foundation. Since the program’s inception the initiative has helped 600 women, including 92 in 2010, Welty said.
“We canvass neighborhoods that have a higher percentage of low birth weights and high risk pregnancies,” Welty said. “Several of our coordinators have contacted drug dealers to see if they know any pregnant women in an effort to find women that are not seeking prenatal care as early and as often as needed.”
The initiative not only provides transportation, it also enrolls women in WIC and pays home visits to ensure women are able to take care of their new babies.
“Most of our care coordinators provide home visitation,” Welty said. “They help in getting the babies established, and conduct home safety checks to make sure the babies are sleeping in safe environments, not sleeping on their tummies or with excess pillows.”
The Christ Child Society is also committed to following the needs of families and children from birth to childhood. They provide Angel Layettes containing hand-sewn and knit caps and dresses for stillborn babies, as well as wardrobes and coats for children through their Clothe-A-Child program.
“One of our members was in a Kroger store a couple weeks ago this little boy was sitting there with his great-grandmother. He said, ‘I know you, you gave me a coat and socks and underwear.’ It was so cute and so unexpected,” Murnen said. “None of this is for us, it’s all for other people.”
Founded in 1887 by Mary Virginia Merrick, CCS has 40 branches across the U.S. Although the organization is sponsored by the Catholic Diocese, it includes women of all faiths. The Toledo chapter contributed more than 11,000 hours of community service in 2009, Murnen said. In 1990, the local chapter began with five women meeting in a house and has since grown to 250 members.
CCS also conducts parenting classes, “Parenting Today’s Kids,” at the Catholic Club and provides more than 2,700 central city students with educational enrichment opportunities.
“I worked in Toledo Public Schools for years and was a steward in Libbey district. Kids would come in walking on the backs of their shoes, with no socks and just a sweatshirt in the middle of the winter,” Murnen said.