By Sharon Wallingford
The Rio Bend developed by former Congressman Tom DeLay and his wife Christine for foster children has shifted in leadership. On April 1, the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston assumed ownership of the 30-acre community located at 1500 Pultar Road in Richmond.
“What a milestone in our journey,” said Bonna Kol, president and CEO for Catholic Charities. “The Rio Bend community will allow our agency to serve truly vulnerable children who are in need of care, love and guidance. At full capacity, we will be caring for 48 infants and children from the state foster care, trafficked children and orphans from other countries such as Burma, Congo, Ethiopia and Central America.”
The Rio Bend board of directors had their meeting and gave great endorsement to gift the Rio Bend community property to Catholic Charities, said Kol. The Rio Bend property includes a chapel, eight houses, gym, business building, pool, fitness room, lake, playground, and retreat house.
The Rio Bend board of directors expressed their desire to see the community filled with children and offered their continued support of our work. The George Foundation has extended their congratulations and appreciation to Catholic Charities for our expansion to serve foster care children in the Fort Bend community.
More Fort Bend county children will be able to experience a family environment that will benefit these children by providing safe, learning experiences,” said Dee Koch, grant coordinator for The George Foundation. “They will learn what it is like to be part of a community.” Catholic Charities will start moving children to the Rio Bend Community at the beginning of June.
Rio Bend Board Member Bob Brown of Sugar Land said he is pleased because the change will “give access to more kids.”
Oaks at Rio Bend was a community specifically designed to provide a home and neighborhood for abused and neglected children in the foster care system. Former Congressman Tom Delay and his wife Christine were the visionaries behind this project. It was the Delays’ intent that Oaks at Rio Bend serve as a prototype that can be replicated throughout the United States. Situated on 30 acres of land donated by the George Foundation of Texas, the master plan called for individual homes to be occupied by foster parents in a neighborhood setting along with amenities that include a chapel, an athletic center and ball fields, guest homes for visitors, a community store, fishing ponds and landscaping, as well as, agricultural and livestock facilities. KGA donated its planning services to the worthwhile project. KGA/DeForest Design provided landscape design services for the project.
Records show the project was funded earlier by the DeLay Foundation for Kids, a non profit charity organization, which supported the projected $7 million housing complex when it opened in 2005. A professional fundraiser, Dana Benoit, who was paid $4,000 per month, was hired over a six-month period to raise additional funding, assist with grant writing, and serve as a liaison by introducing the project to the public. Benoit claims she was instrumental in raising $250,000 to $400,000 through two community events, a golf tournament and a community treasurer hunt called “The Amazing Race.”
That soon was not enough to keep the nonprofit afloat financially. As the Congressman faced scrutiny in Washington and a state grand jury in Texas, the community converted to a majority of vacated homes and funds dried up.
The Delays, who have been praised for having a strong commitment to helping children and for raising three foster children, did not return calls by press time.
Editor’s Note: However, Christine DeLay’s refusal to accept any state or federal funds resulted in a series of organizations who facilitate children for homes to become discouraged. Several quit or were forced out, causing the facility to stand empty of children for some time. BKC