As a mother, grandmother, and former schoolteacher, improving our children’s well-being and academic success is a deeply personal mission of mine. I’m glad to be joined in these efforts by so many wonderful public and private community organizations, among them Lena Pope.
Lena Pope began in 1930, when its namesake Mrs. Lena Pope, a mother grieving the loss of her seven-year-old son, began a healing journey by helping other children made homeless or neglected during the Great Depression. Armed with our community’s pioneer spirit and the help of some local leaders, Mrs. Pope became a mother again—to the dozens of children she took in at her grand house on Washington Street. Soon, the house could barely contain all the children living there, or Mrs. Pope’s ambitions. Before long, the “Lena Pope Home” expanded to become the nonprofit "Lena Pope", and over the years its priorities have progressed to meet changing needs in our community. Today, Lena Pope is dedicated to improving child well-being by focusing in prevention and early intervention services that meet the emotional, behavioral, and intellectual needs of children and their families. The organization’s dedicated staff work closely with the City of Fort Worth, Tarrant County Juvenile Services, and other local agencies to provide innovative programs fostering academic success, as well as traditional and non-traditional therapies to help children and teens overcome mental health challenges and even substance use.
Now is a time of year that many of us count our blessings, and mine include the opportunity to represent so many kind, committed North Texans—including our community’s youngest Texans. I’m reminded of a special Thanksgiving season a few years ago, when I visited Chapel Hill Academy, a tuition-free, open-enrollment public charter school opened by Lena Pope in southwest Fort Worth in 2008. I saw how the organization brings innovative approaches to the Academy to unlock its students’ potential and foster childhood literacy. I spoke about how child literacy needs the attention of more lawmakers and local leaders, an issue I faced firsthand in my years as a Fort Worth schoolteacher. I shared my own passion for reading with the Academy’s first graders, as we read books together about Thanksgiving. In 2012, Lena Pope expanded even further as it opened its Early Learning Centers to provide full day and full year care and early education to children as young as 6 weeks old, with a focus on admitting children from low-income families. In total, Lena Pope's many programs help over 4,000 Tarrant County children every year.
Lena Pope was born to help local children survive and thrive amid a time of community crisis, and now—90 years since it was founded— it is doing the same thing, expanding its services to help children amid an unprecedented pandemic. Lena Pope’s long history in our community shows that with some Texas grit and community support, it’s possible to change children’s lives and serve social justice, even in extraordinary times. After all, if it can’t be done here, where can it be done?