Winter Warmer for St Joseph Families

Edith Lutz organizes gift bags with her children Timothy and Kirsten. At far left is Ed Pieczynski, Edith’s father. Edith and Tim Lutz, and their children donated more than 200 coats to the children of the Child Development Center of St. Joseph on Nov. 3 in Milwaukee.
Mia Aries, 2, looks up to Edith Lutz after receiving her gift bag containing a coat, hat and mittens. (Catholic Herald photos by Ernie Mastroianni)
About The Child Development Center
The Child Development Center is located at 1600 W. Oklahoma Ave., Milwaukee. For more information, visit or call (414) 491-1829. The staff welcomes volunteers, financial donations and funds for their scholarship program. The Felician Sisters sponsor the center and rely upon donations from individuals and foundations. In 2007, the Felicians celebrated 100 years of providing child care to Milwaukee’s south side.

Winter will be warmer for St. Joseph families

Illinois family donates 230 coats, hats, gloves

By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

MILWAUKEE – Although she has very little compared to many families, Sonja Mata, a single mother of four, tries to be generous.

Often, after her children outgrew clothing or toys, she would give them to other needy families at her children’s day care center, The Child Development Center of St. Joseph, sponsored by the Felician sisters.

However, when Mata returned to college full time this fall to improve her life and the life of her family, she was unprepared for how difficult it would be to go from a full-time paycheck to working part time. She often struggles with enough money to feed her children and provide for their basic needs. With the arrival of cold weather came the realization that she would not be able to provide suitable winter attire for her youngest, a 3-year-old boy.

“I had a jacket for my oldest and handed the other ones down, but there was nothing for Isaiah,” she said. “I was thinking that I would try to save a little bit here or there so I could buy him a coat, but I have really nothing to spare.”

As almost an immediate answer to her prayers, Mata received a letter the following day from day care staff that Chicago area residents Edith and Tim Lutz and their two children, Tim, 9 and Kirsten, 7, were planning to donate new winter coats, hats and gloves to each child at the day care center on Monday Nov. 3. Moved to tears, Mata knew God had intervened.

“I can’t even explain without crying,” she said, choking back tears. “My dad recently died and my mom just recovered from cancer and financially, I am having a struggle with going to school and working only part time. This was just miraculous.”

Despite the difficult times, Mata turns to God for her every need, and while each prayer is not answered the way she has always hoped, she believes that God is watching out for her family.

“I read the Bible with my children because of so many things that have happened in my life,” she said. “I just read the psalm to them about the Lord being the provider and leaving everything in his hands. It’s funny, I was really questioning myself, because things are so hard and there is much evil in this world. But, the Lord knows what we need even before we know. This is a blessed family who helped us and who felt the need to bless someone else; the Lord worked through them to provide and protect us.”

As administrator of The Child Development Center, Felician Sr. Brendan Bogdan is thankful for the Lutz’s generosity, but not surprised because they have done similar things in the past.

“Last year they brought their two kids and donated toys to the children at the day care. They also gave a donation for 10 refrigerators for our classrooms and gave Easter baskets to all of our kids,” she said. “They are teaching their children about the idea of giving and helping those in need.”

The center cares for children ages 6 weeks through age 12. Forty percent of the students are Hispanic and 70 percent use the W-2 voucher program. Due to the economic downturn, Sr. Brendan believes that families are especially grateful for the unexpected gift.

“A lot of our kids wouldn’t have had new coats because their parents could not afford them,” she said. “It seems to be very important for Edith and her family to help others – they drive a long way to come up here, everything is labeled and organized and they make it a fun day. The family is always thinking how they can help and it is not just giving gifts; they give of themselves and are always really living their faith.”

The decision to donate 230 new coats, hats and gloves to the day care on the south side of Milwaukee rather than to those in their neighborhood of Frankfort, Ill., reflects the family’s ties to the Felician sisters through Edith’s aunt, Sr. Mary Ruthilia.

“My aunt, Sr. Ruthilia, who is a Felician sister, told us about the day care a while ago, before my husband and I donated gently used stuff and they passed it out to the kids,” said Edith, a member of St. Anthony Parish in Frankfort. “We would give gently used toys to the day care kids and our children were so surprised to see how excited the kids were to receive things that they had outgrown.”

Living in a nice house and owning their own successful business, Edith and Tim realize how blessed they are, and do not take their lives for granted.

“It is God who has blessed us and given us the resources to help others,” Edith said. “He gives us all we need and the building blocks to make a change in this world. He wants us to open our hearts and listen and if we all did this, our world would be way better.”

Each carefully selected coat, hat and pair of gloves were chosen from a variety of Internet stores, to eliminate uniformity of color and style. While the family is shy about receiving publicity for the massive purchase, they are not shy about giving the credit to God for the idea.

“I really had a calling from God to do this,” said Edith. “I was sitting at the table and heard God speak to my heart about the upcoming bad winter and the fact that there were so many kids at this day care who would need coats and that we should provide them.”

Immediately, Edith shot up from the kitchen table and announced to her husband that God wanted them to purchase these coats, hats and gloves for the kids.

“He just said to me, ‘If God said we have to do it, then we have to do it,'” Edith said. “We believe that he told us to do this for a reason and if it saves even one child from getting pneumonia this winter, we will be so happy.”

A believer in the Scripture passage from Luke 12:48 “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked,” the Lutzes want to instill that sense of stewardship into their own children.

“We have been blessed 10 times over. We just have to give back,” Edith said. “Our children and our two nephews realize that others need help and that it is expected of them to do what they can.”

The opportunity to give to others has influenced Edith and Tim’s children more than they expected, even to their own classmates.

“My daughter has a girlfriend at school who was complaining that she hated the winter hat that her mom gave her. Kirsten just told her that she was lucky to have a hat because there are kids who don’t have any,” Edith said, adding, “She is already learning to be happy with what she has.”

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