Weatherford has been, and continues to be, home to some of the most unique and interesting people found anywhere.
We’ve had famous actors and actresses, noteworthy politicians, professional athletes - even the longest serving FBI agent and practicing attorney in history.
A little more than a month ago, Weatherford saw another one of its remarkable citizens shed his earthly bonds.
William Howard Pope, 94, of Weatherford, passed away on Sept. 29. If, for some reason, you don’t recall him you may know his famous mother, Lena. It’s fitting to remember him as he and his mother established a safe haven for many families during turbulent time with the creation of the Lena Pope Home.
What makes remembering him so timely is that over the weekend, the nearly 85 year-old institution, simply known as Lena Pope today, opened a new 43,000 square foot facility at 3200 Sanguinet St. in Fort Worth, diagonally and just across from their main office.
Some of those that knew him well aren’t surprised that the Pope family legacy lives on.
“I never met a man that had any more courage and determination,” said Van Houser, Pastor of North Side Baptist Church. “Whatever he did, he did at the top level.”
Houser said that Howard, also known as Bill, was teaching in West Texas, when an entourage from Fort Worth paid him a visit asking him to return and help his ailing mother run the home.
“Basically, [Bill] gave up his career and came back to make sure that his mom’s dream was carried out,” Houser added. “He was a sacrificial man.”
Make no mistake, the organization, for some time, has not had on-site resident living accommodations, nor does it assist in adoptions. But what the new “2.0 version" does is get out ahead of those issues through early learning, counseling and education.
“I think [Lena] would be proud of the work we’re doing here,” said Donor Relations Coordinator Kathrine Morris “There’s one thing that hasn't changed and that is Lena’s commitment to serving children in our community. We’re doing that.”
She said that the needs of the community have changed in a different way than it was in the 1930’s, but thought Lena would be proud.
“She was a revolutionary woman,” Morris said. “I think she’d be right there with us. One of the things we continue to focus on, when our programs began to change, was keeping families together in their homes. That’s what Mrs. Pope wanted...children do their best in their home, with their parents.”
The $13 million capital campaign was only the third capital campaign in its eight decades of operations and began just three years ago. The largest portions of the funds generated- $10 million - went to construct the new facility. The remainder was directed to expand and retire the debt on their Chapel Hill Academy in south Fort Worth where 500 Pre-k to fifth- grade children attend classes.
The New Facility
Amon Carter Center
The new facility is broken into three parts: the Amon Carter Center; the Counseling Center; and the Early Learning Center.
The Amon Carter Center contains flexible meeting and training spaces designed for multiple uses. It can also accommodate up to 200 people in a workshop or luncheon formats and more than 300 in theater style.
It will be used to further Lena Pope’s mission and services to juvenile justice, substance abuse treatment and parenting education.
The center will also be made available for community workshops and private functions.
The Counseling Center
The Counseling Center provides research-tested family therapy, play therapy for young children, substance abuse treatment and individual counseling to help children and families grow stronger.
The new Counseling Center allows individuals to separate their workstations from their therapy stations.
“It allows them to ‘personalize’ things,” Morris said on a tour of the building. “It’s not impeding on their therapy space.”
There are 13 registered and licensed master level therapists on staff, four dedicated to play therapy, the largest growing part of the counseling program. Of the four play therapists, two are traditional play therapists, the other two are registered play therapists.
Each play therapy room is filled with toys and made to feel warm and inviting.
“In our old building, we had to monitor how we scheduled our play therapists,” Morris said. “With the added space now we can schedule rooms at any time.”
She said that a child might find the need of such therapy following the loss of a loved one, or from being removed from a home - any sort of traumatic event.
“Such rooms help a child communicate and express their feelings in a way that might not be through words,” Morris added. “A parent has to deem it necessary that they need to find help for their child - we can do that here.”
Morris said they take all types of insurance for counseling services, but that if an individual doesn't have insurance “we’re going to help them anyway.”
“If you need help we’re going to find it for you,” Morris said. “If we can’t help you we’re going to find someone that can.”
In 2013, 81 percent of counseling clients in counseling met their goals to improve their families and their lives.
The Early Learning Center
“This program is built for the working family and open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” Morris said. “It’s a early learning environment and at the same time a full day care center.”
Part of the new facility on Sanguinet Street is an expanded Early Learning Center. The Early Learning Center is for 6 week to 5-year-old children and who are served breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack. Upon its opening on Sept. 2, Morris said they were pleasantly surprised to see the program hit its capacity so quickly at 114.
She said that their was about a 50/50 split between private pay participants and those needing assistance.
“About 50 percent of our students live at a low income level which helps them quality for a subsidy,” Morris said. “But even the private pay tuition doesn't cover the full amount of day care. Daycare is one of the fastest growing expenses in the home and we recognize that.”
She said that while doing research prior to the facility’s construction, they had discovered that in zip code 76107 and in surrounding zip codes, that there was not a single learning center that was nationally accredited while accepting a child care subsidy.
“We’re in the process of applying for that accreditation right now,” Morris said. “You have to have two years of operations under your belt before you can apply, but we’re going through that process as we speak.”
One of their proudest achievements is that last year, 100 percent of 5-year-old children going into kindergarten were reading independently when they left the program.
One of the Early Learning Centers crown jewels in their 23,000 square foot Nature Explore Playground. The outdoor area is divided into three spaces, the Meadows - designed for the older children 2 1/2 to 5 years; the Woods - for toddlers; and the Gardens for infants, each having age appropriate activities.
The Early Learning Center has certified degree teachers with a low teacher to student ratios in each classroom: 1-4 for infants; 1-5 for toddlers and 1-8 for pre-school classrooms.
"With the improved and expanded counseling center, families and children who have nowhere else to turn for counseling and therapy will no longer have to wait months for services," Lena Pope's Executive Director Todd Landry said in a release.