While the United Nations prepares to celebrate its 70th anniversary Saturday, October 24, a UN-related organization with close ties to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) also marks an anniversary. “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” commemorates its 65th year of helping raise funds for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work of caring for children around the world through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF” is a prime fundraiser for the U.S. Fund’s efforts. It was the brainchild of Presbyterians Clyde and Mary Emma Allison to help meet the needs of children following World War II. Rev. Allison was the editor of Youth Fellowship and Junior High Kits for Westminster Press, the publisher for the Board of Christian Education of the United Presbyterian Church in the USA.
Following the war, Church World Service began coordinating efforts to help the thousands of homeless people who had no source of income.
“Rev. Allison came up with the idea of creating a Halloween Sunday school project where children could collect worn-out shoes for children in need as well as help shoemakers who needed the repair work to jumpstart their industry,” said the Rev. Mark Koenig, director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the UN. “That year, children across the country went door-to-door on Halloween and collected tens of thousands of shoes in bags they decorated.”
The initiative proved so successful, the group turned its attention to providing soap and overcoats to children for the following Halloween.
“By 1950, the post-war efforts to collect items for children began to wind down as relief organizations disbanded. But the Allisons felt there were many impoverished children in the world who still needed help,” Koenig said.
“I have had the privilege to meet their son Monroe. He lives in Brooklyn and still promotes ‘Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF’,” Koenig notes. “Monroe says his mother got the idea of supporting UNICEF as a result of seeing a parade in which a cow was used to encouraging the purchase of milk through the organization. Seeing the excitement of children at Halloween, Mary Emma discussed the idea of collecting food for starving children and the idea was launched.”
As a result of a meeting with UNICEF officials, “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” became a permanent program and Rev. Allison was invited to head the effort for faith-based organizations on a volunteer basis.
Through “Trick or Treat for UNICEF,” Children and adults have raised more than $170 million since 1950 to help the organization meet the needs of children throughout the world. UNICEF currently works in more than 190 countries and territories to improve the lives of children through better health care, including immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more.
For more information about the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, click here.