Out of diversity often comes good. Such was the case many years ago of a young girl in the Washington DC area. Her name as Mary Virginia Merrick, the foundress of the National Christ Child Society. A tragic fall from a tree eventually left her paralyzed. As a young woman, she heard of a mother-to-be who was in need of help and delivered a handmade layette to her baby at Christmastime. The note on the package was simply singed “from the Christ Child.
The Christ Child Society began in Washington D.C. in 1887 when Mary Virginia gathered a group together to make layettes for newborn babies in need. Her dedication and enthusiasm eventually led to the establishment of settlement houses, day camps, medical clinics and children’s hospitals. Inspired by the faith and vision of Mary Virginia Merrick, people in cities across the United States established local chapters during her lifetime and after her death in 1955.
Unique projects were developed by chapters to serve the needs of underprivileged children in their communities. Today there are 40 Christ Child Chapters with nearly 7,000 members. Chapter service projects meet the goal of “Challenging Poverty: One Child at a Time.” In memory of Mary Virginia Merrick, all chapters provide layettes to needy babies.
The National Christ Child Society, organized in 1916, is a federation of chapters. The National Society preserves the founding spirit of the Society, promotes the establishment of new chapters, and awards grants annually from the Merrick Scholars Fund to Catholic University graduate studies in the field of social work. The National Board advises chapters and calls attention to the unmet needs of children. The National office is located in Bethesda, MD, and its board members are elected at a biennial convention held in various cities in the United States.