Catholic Charities of Fort Worth is continuing down the road of becoming one of the region's preeminent providers of services for the needy. On Monday, the agency unveiled its newest tool - a shiny, new customized bus that will be used to take financial counseling, English classes and other services to residents far outside the city.
"They'll be reaching out to a whole new demographic," said U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, one of several dignitaries to speak before the unveiling of the new bus at the agency's headquarters south of West Seminary Drive.
The bus, which cost about $200,000, was paid for by a donation from Atmos Energy. John Paris, president of Atmos' Mid-Tex division, also presented Catholic Charities with a check for $25,000, and he asked the agency to use the funds to help needy people pay their gas bills.
"We're talking about families that can't even find the money to fuel a car, or take a bus to Fort Worth to apply for a job," Paris said.
Texas has the seventh highest poverty rate in the United States, and 14 percent of Tarrant County residents live in poverty, said Mary Goosens, Catholic Charities vice president and chief financial officer.
"The people we serve want a way out of poverty," Goosens said. The bus has desk space and will serve as a mobile office, where agency workers and clients can discuss job applications while their children stay occupied by playing table games. It will also help agency workers reach out to Fort Worth's large homeless population - estimated at more than 2,000 people - by traveling into the dark corners of the streets rather than waiting for them to arrive in shelters, she said.
Photo (at right: Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price gets a tour of a new bus paid for by Atmos Energy. The bus will be used by Catholic Charities of Fort Worth to take its services to the needy. - Gordon Dickson