The CHRIST CHILD SOCIETY, Cleveland Chapter, founded in 1916 as the fifth chapter in the U.S., is a Roman Catholic organization of lay volunteers serving "the needy, the unborn, the young and the elderly regardless of nationality or creed." Mary Virginia Merrick founded the first Christ Child Society in Washington, DC, in 1887 (inc. 1903), out of concern for poor children. Mabel Higgins Mattingly, a professor at the WRU School of Applied Social Sciences and a friend of Merrick, established the Cleveland chapter and served as the group's president. Mirroring the national group, Cleveland's chapter, then an all-woman organization, emphasized health, character building, and relief, especially for children. The society provided Christmas gifts, newborn layettes, and First Communion outfits to needy children and also aided servicemen.
After World War I, local members volunteered at the new social settlement, MERRICK HOUSE. The chapter hosted national society conventions in 1952 and 1978. Clevelander Bernice Wilson served as national president in 1983. With donations and/or volunteers, the local chapter has supported such programs as the Rosemary Home for Crippled Children, BIRTHRIGHT, Christ Child/De Paul Daycare Center, PARMADALE, ST. VINCENT CHARITY HOSPITAL, Templum House, Womankind, Meals on Wheels, and area hunger centers and camps. An all-volunteer organization, the society receives no outside funding. As an ongoing fundraiser, the society manages two resale shops, Showcase East in Maple Hts. (opened in 1957) and Showcase West in Lakewood (opened in 1980). In 1988 the Friends of the Christ Child organized, under chapter auspices, to provide evening/weekend volunteer and social opportunities for working people ages 21 to 35. At this time, the society changed its by-laws to include men as members. In 1992 over 700 Cleveland chapter volunteers logged over 45,000 hours and distributed more than 800 layettes and over $200,000 to the needy.