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Longtime Lena Pope Home director dies

🕐 6 min read

William Theodore “Ted” Blevins, Lena Pope’s fourth Executive Director who served from 1984 to 2008, died at his home July 18 with his family by his side. He was 72.

A Celebration of Life was scheduled for 11 a.m. July 27 at the Marty Leonard Community Chapel followed by lunch reception at the Amon Carter Events Center. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Center for Brain Health.

“Ted brought an energy and enthusiasm that helped bridge significant changes in service and operations for Lena Pope. Moving from Kansas to Texas in 1982, Ted and his wife Dollie joined the Lena Pope staff – Ted as residential home program director and Dollie as director of training and consultation,” Lena Pope Home said in a tribute posted on its website.

During Blevins’ tenure, Lena Pope successfully transitioned its programs to evidence-based practices, constructed the Marty Leonard Community Chapel, launched Chapel Hill Academy charter school, was a founding member of the Mental Health Connection, merged with another successful nonprofit, and developed new revenue streams like the Chapel Hill Shopping Center retail development that included the first Central Market in North Texas.

“Ted was a very important role model and mentor for me from the time I first met him in the early 1990s, as well as a friend and colleague,” said Patsy Thomas, former president of the Mental Health Connection of Tarrant County. “We worked on many community projects including juvenile justice issues, gangs, advocacy, mental health, child welfare, education, homelessness, evidence-based practices – research, policy practice in general.”

The Mental Health Connection was formed after the Sept. 15, 1999, shooting at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth that left eight people dead – including shooter Larry Gene Ashbrook who took his own life – and seven others wounded.

Blevins was the ultimate visionary, Thomas said.

“He was always willing to think outside the box – an example is the sustainable funding model for Lena Pope with Chapel Hill Village,” she said. “He was definitely a big picture person and was a visionary like no other. He always looked at every aspect of an issue before he jumped in – define the issue, get a goal, make a sustainable plan, research best practices, evaluate the results.”

Elliot Goldman, GL2 Partners Liberty Bags, said in a Facebook posting that with Blevins’ death the community lost one of its greatest leaders.

“I knew Ted as a friend and mentor. What most people did not know about Ted is he spent a tremendous amount of time helping community leaders and others with real problems they had and could not find an easy solution to,” Goldman said. “Ted was a rock star in this area and … created an open door everywhere in the city. He influenced so many things happening in Fort Worth and no one ever knew.”

Goldman said many people helped him with his signature project, The Greatest Gift Catalog Ever.

“Ted is one of the people at the top of the list. There from the beginning. He is one of the people that believed in the catalog, believed in me and helped when I really needed help. Simply put he is and was the best,” Goldman said.

After he retired from Lena Pope, Blevins became involved with the Fort Worth Foundation and was the executive director of True Worth.

“Ted was a difference maker in the lives of countless individuals throughout the course of his career,” said Presbyterian Night Shelter head Toby Owen. “His work in helping oversee the development of the True Worth Place resource center for the homeless will pay dividends for years to come in helping create better lives for those experiencing homelessness.”

“Ted was never afraid of a challenge. He was not shy about pushing the envelope. He was expert at getting people to do what they didn’t know they wanted to do.” Patsy Thomas said. “He invested himself and Lena Pope as much as he asked from others. There are so many examples of Ted’s deal-making which always included win-wins for everybody and resulted in positive community change. He was indeed a legend in his own time.”

“Ted Blevins believed in the potential and goodness of all the children he supported and guided, and in the people who worked alongside him at Lena Pope,” Judge Don Cosby, a former Lena Pope board member, said in the Lena Pope tribute.

“Ted was the rare and perfect combination of a knowledgeable CEO and a very caring man with a heart for children,” said Marty Leonard, also a longtime Lena Pope Board member.

Blevins oversaw the development of Lena Pope’s first alternative education program, developed with support from the Sid Richardson, Burnett-Tandy and Amon G. Carter Foundations.

By the late 1980s, the Fort Worth ISD alternative education program had an 86-93% success rate in keeping youth from being incarcerated. This alternative education program laid the groundwork for present-day programs working with the juvenile justice system.

Family Matters, another program created during Blevins’ tenure, included a 24-hour crisis hotline, counseling, life skills training, referral services, and case management.

Lena Pope’s present counseling services for children and adults can be traced back to this program.

“Ted was an innovative and thoughtful leader, and we owe much of where we are today to his leadership and vision” Lena Pope’s current CEO Ashley Elgins said in the website post.

Lena Pope staff who worked with Blevins said he was well known for saying, “Once a Lena Pope Kid, always a Lena Pope Kid,” and that he could never turn down a request for a camp scholarship or help with tuition or books from a former Lena Pope kid.

“Ted made sure all children and families of Lena Pope had the necessary care and support they needed, and he also gave personal, fatherly care to many children in his own home,” Leonard said. “He was an exceptional human being, and many have benefited from his fostering and nurturing.”

Blevins also implemented first of their kind research components, tracking clients to see what the actual outcomes were years down the road.

“He was never married to any one way to care for the kids and as additional research was performed, he guided us away from legacy programs and into new ways to serve our community. He wanted to use evidence-based practices and hard data to make decisions and always made sure to be a good steward of our donors’ dollars to achieve the best outcomes for families and our community,” said Frosty Tempel, a Lena Pope Foundation board member.

Blevins served on many boards and was a member of countless associations focused on providing quality care to children including Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services, North Texas Behavioral Healthcare Network Inc., Tarrant County Youth Collaboration, National Teaching-Family Association, Tarrant County Children’s Mental Health Project, and many others.

He received many awards for his work on behalf of children and families, including the Hercules Award from United Way of Tarrant County, Friend of Youth Award, and the Health Care Heroes Award. Lena Pope honored Blevins with the Garcia-Lancarte Award in recognition for meritorious support and devotion to Lena Pope’s mission in 2019.

The organization said Lena Pope is creating the Ted Blevins Memorial Client Assistance Endowment to honor his legacy and his heart for children.

This endowment will provide a range of support for the children and families served by Lena Pope – specifically, the funds will go directly to client assistance and enrichment, the organization said.

Includes information from Lena Pope Home and Business Press archives.

Paul Harral
Paul is a lifelong journalist with experience in wire service, newspaper, magazine, local and network television and digital media. He was vice president and editor of the editorial page of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and editor of Fort Worth, Texas magazine before joining the Business Press. What he likes best is writing about people in detail and introducing them to others in the community. Specific areas of passion are homelessness, human trafficking, health care and aerospace.

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