Weddings Help Fort Worth Nonprofits Raise Money for Services


In the midst of the Great Depression, a Fort Worth mother started an organization to honor her late son’s wish for a home for children in poverty.

Over 90 years later, Lena Pope is still in the service of children and families and uses a popular landmark to help – the Marty Leonard Community Chapel.

Along with Lena Pope, the Center for Transforming Lives and ACH Child and Family Services have tapped into the multi-billion dollar marriage industry by owning iconic locations and using them for social enterprise.

Sarah Proctor, chief financial officer of ACH Child and Family Services, said guests who attend events at Belltower Chapel and Garden could become future clients, donors, volunteers or employees.

“It’s kind of a low-key advertising medium to get the word out to the community,” Proctor said.

Social enterprise is a popular business model among not-for-profit and for-profit organizations. F. Warren McFarlan, professor at Harvard Business School, said the model allows organizations to address a social concern while generating funds.

“It’s a shareholderless organization that tries to operate by doing good for the community,” said McFarlan. “Most of them have a mission statement. They try to provide services to the community and raise funds in various ways.

The business model can be used by many types of organizations, including local food banks, hospitals, large universities, and thrift stores.

The situation of associations and marriages

An organization must continually raise funds for a social enterprise to be sustainable. Some raise money through events, planned giving and fundraising campaigns, McFarlan said. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit nonprofits and event venues in Texas.

Among the nonprofits surveyed for the COVID-19 impact report of Texas nonprofits from December 2020, 69% said the pandemic forced them to cancel major fundraising events. It also led 66% of organizations to deal with changes in their services to the community and 88% to need help re-evaluating their fundraising strategies.

Venues have had to reschedule or downgrade events and weddings due to security concerns. The pandemic caused the Historic 512 to be 50% booked in 2020. Melissa Cassidy, director of Historic 512, said she sees things improving. It’s already 34% booked for 2022. Historic 512 expects more post-holiday bookings as New Years is a very popular time for engagements.

Tapping into the wedding industry has helped community organizations generate thousands of revenues to fund services. The country’s wedding industry could generate $ 51.2 billion this year, according to an estimate from IBIS World.

The average cost of a wedding in the DFW area in 2020 was $ 25,786, according to the Wedding Report. The cost was a decrease from 2019, which was $ 30,300.

Lena Pope received a total income of $ 284,000 from the Marty Leonard Community Chapel prior to the pandemic. Historic 512 events generate a net income of $ 100,000 for the Center for Transforming Lives each year. Belltower Chapel and Garden has donated over $ 117,000 to CHA Child and Family Services in its first four years.

Jennifer Gilbert, a second-generation wedding photographer, has seen the wedding industry undergo multiple changes over her 28-year career. Many clients are looking to make their marriages more enjoyable.

“They want to show the real feeling of their marriage,” Gilbert said. “Couples really want to create an event that reflects them. It’s different from the past. “

The photographer saw couples throw down the tradition. Couples see each other before marriage with a “first look”. The orders of wedding processions have changed, and some couples serve pudding in place of the wedding cake at receptions.

Venues can set the mood for a wedding, Gilbert said. The historic 512 creates a romantic, downtown and charming atmosphere while the Marty Leonard Community Chapel offers a dramatic experience.

Marty Leonard Community Chapel

Megan Cheatham grew up in Fort Worth and knew the Marty Leonard Community Chapel since she was a little girl. When booking her 2019 wedding, the architecture led Cheatham to make her choice.

“The architecture of this building, oh my gosh,” Cheatham said. “The architecture is crazy. “

Cheatham knew that the chapel had a connection to the community. She learned more about Lena Pope’s work by going online. She said learning about Lena Pope’s job made her marriage extra special.

Lena Pope was established in 1930 and worked as a children’s home. The nonprofit has seen changes over the years and now serves children and families through counseling and addiction services, Chapel Hill Academy, early learning centers and justice programs. behavioral and juvenile.

The Marty Leonard Community Chapel, 3131 Sanguinet Street, opened in 1990. It was built by E. Fay Jones as a birthday surprise for Marty Leonard, a board member, who wanted a chapel for Lena Pope’s clients.

It is now a site for community events and weddings. The property also features the Amon Carter Center which is able to provide reception space.

“When you walk in – in the words of the architect – you feel like the sky is opening and you think about your thoughts,” Jody Grisby, then director of development, told the Star-Telegram in 1990. “ It’s designed so that when you “relocate, you see the horizon and the skylights, not the highway.”

Cheatham said her chapel wedding was like a daydream with the lighting and music.

Chapel and bell tower garden

The property at 3712 Wichita St. de Belltower Chapel and Garden was originally owned by the Masonic Home and School of Texas.

The chapel was built in 1958 by Donald S. Nelson. ACH Child and Family Services, formerly known as All Church Home for Children, received ownership from a promoter in 2006. It made it its first social enterprise and hosted its first event in 2009.

The organization’s goal for the property was to provide employment opportunities for older youth in foster care and funding for its community services.

ACH Child and Family Services is over 100 years old and serves clients through foster and adoption placement, counseling, transition living, youth shelter and referrals. It served more than 26,000 people in 2020.

Proctor said the organization participated in a one-year project with the Center for Nonprofit Management and Community Wealth Ventures. Several agencies have learned to develop business plans for social enterprises and have received training and workshops.

The Chapel and Bell Tower Garden have a Chapel, Reception Hall, Garden, and the Jo and Holt Hickman Center. The property hosts over 100 weddings each year. He had fewer marriages during the pandemic, but he expects those numbers to come back in the future.

“Everything is in one place,” said Bridget Pouges, manager of Belltower Chapel and Garden. “You can organize your ceremony, you can organize your reception in the same place. Your guests don’t need to get back into their cars.

The venue has a history in the entertainment industry. A Fort Worth couple from the second season of “Arranged,” a reality show, celebrated their wedding to Belltower and Elliot Suro’s “Siempre Conmigo” music video was filmed on the property.

History 512

The Center for Transforming Lives and Historic 512 are housed in a building at 512 W. 4th St. It was built in 1927-1928 by Wyatt C. Hedrick and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The building was originally an Elks Lodge before it was purchased by the YWCA of Fort Worth in 1955. The YWCA severed its ties with the national organization and changed its name to the Center for Transforming Lives in 2015.

Judi Bishop, the organization’s director in 1989, came up with the idea of ​​transforming the ballroom, the great hall and some smaller rooms into spaces for events in order to generate income.

Cassidy told the Star-Telegram that the character of the building and not having to do much to dress it up are ways for it to stand out from other places. A popular feature among guests is the building’s elevator. It is one of the oldest in the city.

The events not only generate revenue, but also help spread awareness of the work of the Center for Transforming Lives. The organization works to help children and women escape the risk of poverty through early childhood education, economic mobility programs and housing services. Many people visiting the place do not know the connection in advance.

“It’s one of the first things I tell them when they walk in the door for the first time,” Cassidy said. “First of all, thank you for coming to visit us and second, let me tell you about our very important mission and why we are here.”

Some of the Center for Transforming Lives clients receive compensation for their assistance at events at Historic 512. Cassidy said this helps clients gain work experience.

When they found out about the organization’s work on a tour of historic 512, Tricia and Christina Cull knew they wanted to reserve the venue. Tricia Cull said the venue was the perfect venue for their wedding in 2017. The couple appreciated that the venue was so welcoming.

“For me, it was finding out that it really helped women, single moms and their kids,” Christina Cull said. “It meant a lot to me that all the money we were going to spend on renting a place went to something afterwards and that would help the community.”

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Lauren Castle is a social services reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The position is funded with assistance from the Morris Foundation. Prior to moving to Fort Worth, Castle was a reporter for The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, Arizona and a digital producer for WATE-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee. She graduated from Southern Methodist University. Castle was a member of the 2019 Journalism Law School Fellowship Class at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. You can send him tips by email: [email protected] or on Twitter: @lauren_castle.

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