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Christ Child Society finds ways to meet simple needs

Running through the Christ Child Society's list of projects is a dizzying task. From tutoring and mentoring students to knitting hats and scarves for low-income children or providing books to two Baltimore schools — this Riderwood-based volunteer organization is involved in an ever-growing range of activities.

And the group only got its start a little more than a year ago.

Don't let the name fool you, Cathleen White, one of the founding members and a Cedarcroft resident, said. The women in this group represent all faiths. And they're unified in their mission to help children and families in the Baltimore area, which has made it easy to recruit volunteers.

"Who doesn't want to help children and families?" White said.

Sixteen-year-old Abby Diette, a sophomore at the Bryn Mawr School, started working with the group in November, and along with her mother, Mary Lynne, began filling tote bags for children living at the Family Crisis Center.

Hand stenciled with the words "My Stuff," on the outside, each tote bag contains a stuffed animal, a blanket, a puzzle book, and games to ease a child's transition while his or family seeks shelter from a dangerous or otherwise critical situation.

"We wanted to give them something, and we wanted it to be nice," Mary Lynne said. "These kids get a lot of donations, but often the donations are used."

The Cedarcroft mother and daughter duo said choosing the stencil, painting the bags and buying the toys to go inside were great ways for them to spend time together. And it was a means to help the Family Crisis Center, which Abby learned about through the Christ Child Society.

"I wanted to get involved any way that I could," Abby said.

So far, she and her mother have made 20 tote bags at a cost of $25 each. Next on their list is to raise funds for more bags and then begin filling the tote bags again.

Other upcoming Christ Child Society projects include providing journals and journaling tips to students and children living in shelters and as well as a Valentine's Day campaign to provide socks to women at Sarah's Hope at Hannah Moore emergency shelter.

In the past, knitters from the St. Pius X Stitchers and the Tiny Toppers of Kenilworth have made hats and scarves for the Pregnancy Center North, the Stork's Nest, and Beans and Bread, among other organizations. Other volunteers have tutored children at the Hampden Family Center and Book Buddies regularly read to students at Armistead Gardens and Holy Angels elementary schools.

One of the Christ Child Society's biggest projects has been providing childrens books to schools and shelters. Since the group's start in September 2012, its more than 100 volunteers and supporters have collected and distributed 4,700 books to kids in the metropolitan area.

Debbie Kavanaugh, a nurse and Stoneleigh resident, is one of three nutrition and wellness experts who write tips that the group distributes to four schools and three shelters. In any given month, she could be advising parents on good nutrition or why it's important to drink more water.

Nationally, the Christ Child Society has had a much longer history than its Baltimore chapter. The society was formed in Washington in 1887 by a woman inspired to make a layette for a large poor family expecting another baby. Today, the Washington chapter remains strong, and there are 6,000 Christ Child Society volunteers number 6,000 throughout the country.

As the Baltimore group grows, so too does its list of projects — and, members hope, its impact.

"There's a quick turnaround," White said. "There's a need; we figure it out; and it's done," said White.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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