History of the South Bend Chapter
Mrs. Jerome J. Crowley, Founder – South Bend chapter of Christ Child Society
The Christ Child Society of South Bend was founded on August 6, 1947, by Mrs. Jerome J. Crowley. After obtaining Bishop John F. Noll’s permission for this new enterprise, Mrs. Crowley asked 15 friends to serve with her on the first Board of Directors. As a beginning project, these women decided to furnish clothing to needy babies. The first layette was presented to a baby born shortly after midnight on Christmas morning. It seemed the Christ Child smiled on this new organization!
Before long, calls were received asking for clothing for older children. The membership decided to add this project to their original proposal.
In summer, 1949, the South Bend chapter was incorporated and a constitution and by-laws were drawn up. In 1951, the official seal of the Christ Child Society of South Bend was designed by Mrs. Alice Schlesinger, who was inspired by the famous Della Robbia plaques. In December of the same year, the program was answering letters from needy children at Christmas, one of the oldest and best loved works of the Society throughout the country, was begun.
As both the numbers of children being helped and the membership grew, it became clear that the Society needed a home. In October, 1954, the organization accepted the use of seven rooms, rent-free, on East Jefferson Boulevard. After several interim locations, in 1973 the Society moved to the vacant Sacred Heart Church on West Thomas Street. The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend not only provided the use of the building but also authorized extensive remodeling and upgrading of the property.
In 2007, the Chapter’s 60th Anniversary year, the Board of Directors began the search for a new location because the number of children and infants served annually had exceeded 4000. We had outgrown the aging Thomas Street building. The former Saint Patrick’s Parish school on Scott Street was underutilized by the parish. An agreement was reached between Father Lenard Chrobot and the Society to occupy the building. In May of 2008, after extensive remodeling of seven classrooms and two offices, the Christ Child Society moved 3 blocks to its new home. The Clothing Center, is the very heart of the South Bend chapter, which is 1 of 41 chapters throughout the U.S. of the National Christ Child Society.