Retirees in a small southwest Tarrant County enclave will be offered TollTags for up to three years, to offset the inconvenience of a neighborhood road closure that officials say was necessary for construction of Chisholm Trail Parkway toll road. Although Fort Worth-area officials support the unusual proposal, officials in other parts of Dallas Fort Worth saying giving away TollTags sets a dangerous precedent.
It looks like North Texans are going to wake up to thunderstorms early Christmas morning, following by blowing snow in the afternoon, accoreding to the National Weather Service.
It doesn't look like this wintry precipatition is going to stick to area roads. But even so, the Texas Department of Transportation is prepared for icy conditions.
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
Catholic Charities has taken over transportation services for the needy in the Fort Worth-area, a responsibility previously held by the American Red Cross.
"Our job in this community is to help families in poverty," said Heather Reynolds, chief executive officer and president of Catholic Charities Fort Worth. (Pictured above)
Reynolds and other dignitaries (Pictured below) held a news conference Thursday morning at Catholic Charities' south Fort Worth campus to announce the completion of a transition that began in September.
Services will include:
The American Red Cross wanted to transition away from providing transportation services, and began looking for a partner many months ago. The agency settled on Catholic Charities, which has the ability to not only take over these services but to expand them, said T.D.Smyers, regional chief executive officer for the American Red Cross North Texas region.
"We weren't going to do this until we found a partner to make this work," Smyers said.
The transition began in September, with the blessing of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, the United Way of Tarrant County and other entities that provide funding for the transportation services.
In its first month, Catholic Charities provided 5,100 rides for needy residents, officials said. The agency is a regular form of transportation for more than 800 people.
"We understand the importance of people getting to work, doctor appointments, and to do the things they need to do," said Tom Stallings, Tarrant County chief of staff.
The plate features a depiction of three crosses on Calvary Hill, historically known as the site of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The plate can be bought at MyPlates.com, the state's license plate vendor. The design was approved on a split vote late last year by the state's motor vehicle board. A portion of the proceeds goes to its sponsor, the non-profit group, Glory Gang, which aims to reach at-risk kids in east Texas.
Rain is in the forecast for Saturday afternoon, and there's a possibility of snow in the northwestern nook of North Texas.
Saturday is normally a time when fewer Trinity Railway Express trains run, but this weekend the commuter rail line will be running an extra train to help people get to the Women of Faith event at American Airlines Center.
The extra train will depart Fort Worth T&P Station at 7:40 a.m., and from Intermodal Transportation Center at 7:44 a.m. It will stop at all the other TRE stations, and arrive at Victory Station at 8:30 a.m. Women of Faith begins at 9 a.m.
A special westbound train will return to Fort Worth after the event ends. Plus, attendees can take advantage of all the usual TRE Saturday routes.
Trinity Railway Express riders this morning are observing Ash Wednesday, the start of the six-week Christian period of Lent, by receiving ashes from local pastors. A group of pastors from Calvary Lutheran Church in Richland Hills is offering to place ashes on the foreheads of riders and say a brief prayer just outside the Richland Hills Station, on a sidewalk.
The church originally put out flyers at the station offering to place the sign of the cross with ashes on parishioners' foreheads at the TRE station itself. But the Fort Worth Transportation Authority notified the church that the activity could not be done at the station. So instead, leaders from the church dressed in white robes are performing the service on a sidewalk just outside the station.
"It's important that we do this as a family," said Bobbie DeLeon, who received the ashes about 6:45 a.m. with her husband, Eli, and 4-year-old son Elija. Eli DeLeon rides the TRE each day to his job at Bank of America near Fort Worth's CentrePort area. He normally gets home after 7 p.m., so the family -- which is Catholic -- worried that they would miss Ash Wednesday services at their own church.
In December, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority came under fire for allowing atheist ads on its buses saying "millions of Americans are good without God." Churches responded by placing pro-God ads on buses, and the T later changed its policy to no longer allow religious ads on buses or T property.
However, a T spokeswoman said that controversy wasn't the reason the agency told Calvary Lutheran Church not to celebrate Ash Wednesday at the station itself. "The platform is for ridership. It's not a public forum," she said.
The group, which arrived at the Richland Hills Station at 4:30 a.m., planned to be there until 8 a.m., said Pastor Kyle Rouze. "It's hard enough for people to make time in their lives for God," he said. "So why not bring God to them."
-- Gordon Dickson, firstname.lastname@example.org