The founding of Friends of the Crèche happened at a series of two meetings, one held in Bethlehem, PA, and the other in Dayton, Ohio.
In December 1999, Rita Bocher gathered fourteen interested people together at the Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (where else?), to explore the possibility of a crèche organization in the United States. Present at the exploratory meeting were: Rita and Bud Bocher (Wynnewood PA); Jay Bullock (Columbia MD); Julie and Dave Colflesh (Folsom PA); Karl Fluck (Bethlehem PA); Mary and Frank Herzel (Harrisburg PA); Roy Ledbetter (St. Louis MO); Rev. Carol Reifinger (Bethlehem PA); Brother Bob Reinke (Hoboken NJ); Rev. Johann Roten (Dayton OH); Mike Whalen (Clinton Township MI); and the late Marjorie Yefchak (Dayton OH).
At this initial meeting it was decided that a national creche society would indeed be a viable concept. The group accepted the written organizational goals suggested by Jim Govan, who was unable to attend the meeting. A Steering Committee, headed by Jim Govan, was appointed to work out the details of founding Friends of the Crèche.
In August of the year 2000, sixteen FOTC charter members gathered for the follow-up organizational meeting at the University of Dayton, Ohio, site of one of the largest Christmas manger collections in the United States. Present at the Dayton meeting were Rita and Bud Bocher, Jay Bullock, Julie and David Colflesh, Judy and Bob Davis, Jim Govan, Mary and Frank Herzel, Brother Bob Reinke, Mary Jo Riegel, Rev. Johann Roten, Michael Whalen, the late Marjorie Yefchak, and Holly Zenger. A By-Laws Committee was set up, a Board of Directors was established, and the election of officers was held. Length of terms on the first Board of Directors was established by lot.
In October of the year 2000, a delegation from FOTC attended the International Congress in Pamplona, Spain. Judy Davis, FOTC Vice President, officially represented our organization at various convention ceremonies and events.
In January 2001 the organization was incorporated as a religious/educational organization in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Our first national convention, entitled “2001 – a Crèche Odyssey”, was held in November 2001 in Lancaster PA, and chaired by Rita Bocher. Meeting during the convention the Board of Directors approved the FOTC by-laws drafted by the By-Laws Committee.
In 2002 Friends of the Crèche was accepted as a member of the Universalis Foederatio Praesepistica, the international association of crèche societies headquartered in Rome Also in 2002, the FOTC Annual Meeting was held in Frankenmuth, MI, and chaired by Mike Whalen.
In 2003 and the Internal Revenue Service approved FOTC as a federally tax-exempt 501(c) 3 organization retroactive to the date of incorporation. In November of 2003, our second biennial convention was held in Hyannis on Cape Cod, “Crèches by the Sea”, co-hosted by Diane Costa and Tim Goldrick.
We know of two national predecessors of our organization – The American Nativity Society and The American Christmas Crib Society. The American Nativity Society was founded in Spokane, Washington, just after World War I by a Jesuit priest named Paul Sauer. Unfortunately, the effort was short-lived. The American Christmas Crib Society, based in Fremont, Ohio, was more successful. By 1953 the Crib Society claimed 125 members. But in 1971 with the death of its founder, the Reverend Aloysius Horn, the group apparently disbanded.
With two strikes out on the national scene, we stepped up to the plate. Now, the bases are loaded and it looks like we’ve got ourselves a grand-slam home run! There are more than 400 members in the United States and Canada. We call ourselves Friends of the Creche!
Non Profit Status
Friends of the Crèche is a non-profit, non-political, and non-sectarian organization. The purpose of the organization is to promote the tradition of the crèche. It was incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. FOTC is a 501(C)-3 Federal Tax-exempt organization. Also, from 2 January 2001 and in April 2006, the Internal Revenue Service classified Friends of the Creche as a Section 509- (A) -2 Public Charity. The official registration and financial information of FOTC may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State. Pennsylvania residents may call toll free: 800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement. Information may also be obtained on the internet from Guidestar at www.guidestar.org.
Our society’s website is www.friendsofthecreche.org. Our official newsletter appears in the quarterly Crèche Herald.
Our goals are these:
- To learn more about the creche tradition: how it developed, and how it is expressed in our own and other cultures.
- To make better known the tradition of the creche.
- To serve as a source of information about creches.
- To encourage artists to create creches.
- To promote creche exhibits.
- To establish relationships with creche associations in other countries.
Members of FOTC
Board of Directors
Friends of the Crèche
Sydne Yanko-Jongbloed (President)
Joanne D’Alessandro (Secretary)
Rev. Fr. Johann G. Roten
William “Bill” Smith
The Rev. Charles I. Hull (Treasurer)
Holly Zenger (Vice President)
James Govan (Retired President)
Friends of the Crèche Award of Recognition Recipients
At its biennial national convention, Friends of the Crèche bestows an Award of Recognition on those who have contributed significantly to the fostering of the crèche tradition.
2013 Recipients at “Symphony of Nativities” in Beachwood/Cleveland, OH
For her and her family’s ongoing inspiration and dedication of the magnificent Angel Tree each year at the metropolitan Museum of Art with its Neopolitan crèche figures.
The Historic Kirtland Visitors’ Center
In recognition of its decade-long crèche exhibits for all the people of northeast Ohio.
2011 Recipients at “A Northern Nativity” in Toronto, Canada
Founding and first President of Friends of the Crèche, author of “The Art of the Creche”, docent of the James and Emilia creche collection to the Loyola Univeristy of Chicago
Force behind creche display for many years in Toronto and inspiration for many more across Canada. Instrumental in aiding many self help groups through sale of nativities at a shop at the YWCA in Toronto.
2009 Recipients at “Follow HIs Star” in Salt Lake CIty, Utah
Judy Davis of El Cerrito, CA for her past work on the board of directors, co host of Santa Fe convention and ongoing work on exhibit guide and bibliographies.
Mary Herzel of Harrisburg, PA for her onging contributions to the Creche Herald, co host of our first convention, and serving as secretary for eight years for the association
2007 Recipients at “Heartland Cradlesong” Dublin/Columbus OH
Betsy Christensen of Ann Arbor, Michigan for her work of twenty five years of creche exhibits in her church and for the inspiration and guidance she provided to many other exhibits around the country.
Crèches International for their support through fund raising, publicity and maintenance of the nativity collection at the Marian Library at the University of Dayton for the past ten years.
2005 Recipients at “Land of Enchanting Nativities”, Santa Fe, NM
Eileen Canty of Pennsylvania
For her year-round tours of her private collection; her displays in schools, churches museums, and galleries; her donations of crèches to charitable institutions; her speaking engagements; her support of crèche artists world-wide; and her writings
Guy and Doris Monthan of New Mexico
For their ground-breaking authorship of the first comprehensive book on the Southwest Nativity tradition, “Nacimientos”
2003 Recipients at “Crèches by the Sea”, Hyannis, MA
Michel Forrest of Canada
For his imaginative crèche settings at St. Joseph Oratory and the Marian Library of the University of Dayton
Judith Fosher of New Hampshire
For her work as founding director of the Museum of the Diocese of Manchester, fostering the tradition of the crèche though exhibits, educational programs, seminars and public events
2001 Recipients at “2001 – A Crèche Odyssey”, Lancaster, PA
Kevin Hanna of Connecticut
For his unique interpretation of the Nativity in his artwork entitled “Mirror of Hope”.
The piece is now on permanent public display at the Marian Library at the University of Dayton
Robert F. McGovern of Pennsylvania
For his emotionally moving interpretation of the Nativity
Matthew Powell, O.P. of Rhode Island
For his best-selling book “The Christmas Crèche; Treasure of Faith, Art and Theater”