BNSF Executive Chairman Matt Rose is no stranger to awards. He was named Fort Worth’s Business Executive of the Year in 2008 and Railroader of the Year in 2010.
But his award from Fort Worth’s Exchange Club, he admits, will be a little special.
“This award is meaningful to me because it includes my wife, Lisa. It’s the first time we have received an award as a family,” said Rose. “We’ve lived in the community and have been very blessed by it. This award is more personal to me because Lisa developed a passion to help women in need, and together we found a way to make it happen.”
On May 21, the Exchange Club will honor Matt and Lisa Rose with its Golden Deeds Award, which is given for exceptional service to the community. The annual awards dinner will be held at the Fort Worth Club.
Matt Rose and his accomplishments are well known. Rose helped build up Burlington Northern Santa Fe into the second-largest freight railroad network in North America. Based in Fort Worth, the transportation giant has 47,000 employees, 32,500 miles of track and over 7,000 locomotives. Aside from his corporate curriculum vita, Rose has been a member of the Texas Christian University Board of Trustees, the board of the Boy Scouts of America and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. After BNSF was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 2010, Rose entered that rarified strata of people rumored as possible successors to the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett.
Rose was promoted to executive chairman of Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC in January 2014.
“When you are a public person like I have been for the past decade and a half … sometimes it is hard for a spouse to find their own voice,” he says. “It is encouraging to me because this passion has grown for Lisa ever since she started First Friday.”
The journey began in 2008, when Lisa Rose was involved in organizing First Friday, which gathers women once a month at the Harkins Theatre in Southlake to hear practical, real-life talks from national and local experts. She says, “First Friday just wrapped up its seventh year, and we already have speakers booked through May of 2016.”
From there, she realized the need to help women stop the cycles of poverty and abuse in order to get their lives back on track, and First Friday took on a new dimension organized under the umbrella of Project HandUp. With this vision in mind, Matt and Lisa Rose progressed to the design of The Gatehouse Community in Grapevine, which began accepting its first families into residence in April.
“Project HandUp is the umbrella 501(c)(3), and we exist to give women a hand up with life’s challenges,” she says. “We do it through First Friday and now … The Gatehouse.”
The Gatehouse works with women who are transitioning from abusive relationships or those who may be re-entering society after serving time in prison. The primary focus is on lasting change rather than crisis intervention.
The new community offers members long-term housing for up to two and a half years, along with the crucial educational and counseling support they need to make their transition effective and break the cycle for good. Lisa Rose hopes The Gatehouse will become a model that can be replicated elsewhere.
With family violence and homelessness on the rise, local non-profits are straining to meet the demand for their services. The Gatehouse has found that it takes time, usually between three and six months, for women to feel safe and begin making the decisions that lead to permanent change. That is why it was important to provide a safe community setting for women to begin the path to lasting change and healing.
Matt Rose says, “I tell people that on this project I am really just Lisa’s husband. I acted as a sounding board and helped provide the resources. As you know, a large part of our area is struggling, and there are great social service agencies available to them. The difference is that Gatehouse provides a longer period of transition and gives women the opportunity to re-align their life and make permanent changes.”
Bruce Benner, who is principal, president and COO of Bennett Benner Partners, served as architect on the project. Benner said, “Gatehouse is a place where miracles will occur every day. It is a sanctuary of hope … a place of new beginnings with unmatched support and understanding … a true hand-up to those in need at a very difficult time in their lives.”
The community is designed to house up to 96 families in four neighborhoods that house 24 families each. It was planned with walking trails, a general store, a conference center and commercial space.
“None of it would have been possible without Lisa’s vision and Matt’s drive to create a truly exceptional safety net for women in North Texas and their limitless commitment to pass their blessings on to others less fortunate,” Benner said.
“In the Gatehouse community, the Washington Community Education Center is where we provide our members with life skills training such as budgeting, parenting and relationship skills,” said Lisa Rose. “In addition, there are two advisor centers where women meet with their advisors daily and attend support groups.”
She said, “All basic needs are met until the women can afford to pay for them on their own. Keeps Boutique provides for clothing needs, our General Store is stocked with food donations and household supplies, and professional counseling is available through His Story Coaching and Counseling, which is one of the tenants located on-site.” Other commercial tenants include Texas Health Resources and Community Dental.
Lisa Rose has served on GRACE’s Advisory Council and at the Dallas County Jail. Currently, she is a board member for the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, Performing Arts Fort Worth and United Way Homelessness Allocations Committee.
The Fort Worth Exchange Club was founded in 1924. It is a business and professionals’ service organization and is a local chapter of the National Exchange Club. Members focus on issues such as child abuse, crime prevention, good citizenship, youth and community service. The Fort Worth chapter instituted an annual Golden Deeds Award to honor Fort Worth’s outstanding citizens.
Exchange Club President Tim McKinney who is also president and CEO of United Way of Tarrant County, said, “Matt and Lisa Rose are extremely worthy honorees. BNSF Foundation is a significant philanthropic partner in our community. Their newest project, The Gatehouse, will be an amazing asset in our area to protect and heal women in need.”