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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
April 2, 2004
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Eighth Annual Greater Texas Community Partner Gala Luncheon
Renaissance Worthington Hotel
Fort Worth, Texas
12:19 P.M. CST
MRS. BUSH: Thank you all very, very much. And thank you very much, Emy Lou and Mimi, for the really beautiful award. I'm so thrilled to be here. I've really looked forward to today because I know out in this room are so many friends of mine. I'm probably not going to have a chance to visit with any of you, but it's just great to see you and thank you all so much for being here.
I'm so proud of the work that all of you have done to start all these community partners all the way around the state of Texas, over 100 in cities all over Texas.
I think that's so great, and I'm so happy to be here today with you -- especially since I have such a busy schedule, according to a group of kindergarten students who wrote to me. Their teacher asked them, what do you think Mrs. Bush does all day?
Shelby wrote, she helps the President with his paperwork and then helps him clean his office. (Laughter.) She takes care of him when he's sick and puts cold cloths on his head. (Laughter.)
Megan said, she feeds the dogs and she plants the daffodils and she does the President's speeches when he isn't feeling well. (Laughter.) While Todd said, she wears pretty suits and she has to shovel the snow and feed the birds. (Laughter.)
Now you understand why I'm so excited to be here. I get to take a break from feeding the birds. (Laughter.)
Of course, what I really get to do is to be here with you to call attention to such marvelous work that every one of you have done. Whenever I come home, I'm always amazed at how big everything is here -- the open skies, the endless fields of wildflowers, and the compassionate hearts of volunteers.
Texans are good people who care about each other and care about our future. We've always believed in neighbor helping neighbor and you carry on this legacy of compassion by helping the most vulnerable children.
Every child deserves to grow up with love and security. For many of us, our childhood was a happy time of our life. I grew up in a community where neighbors looked out for each other and for their children. In the summertime, we'd play outside until the last rays of daylight peeked over the horizon. And if my daddy didn't come looking for me by dusk, there was always a neighbor telling us to hurry home.
But not all children grow up in a family or a community where they feel safe and loved. Every day, thousands of children are mistreated by their parents or their caregivers. About three children die daily in America as a result of abuse or neglect. Nearly 200,000 cases of child abuse and neglect are reported in Texas every year. Sadly, thousands more probably go unreported.
These are heartbreaking statistics that caseworkers at child protective services face every day. But thanks to many of the people in this room, they don't have to face them alone. Today, caseworkers have dedicated partners in communities across the state.
Fifteen years ago, a group of good friends in Dallas started Community Partners to support caseworkers and children. Caseworkers don't just work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. They may need to rescue a child at midnight or help a family escape an abusive situation at 3:00 a.m.
They often have caseloads of 30 to 40 children who need food, clothing and medicine. Many caseworkers spend their own money and their valuable time looking for these items for their clients. So Community Partners sprang into action. We opened Rainbow Rooms in CPS offices so caseworkers could go any time of day to pick up clothing, formula, and even a new duffle bag so children don't have to carry their few belongings in a garbage bag.
Emy Lou is a founding member and one of my very good friends. Her experience with one little boy inspires her to open more Rainbow Rooms across the sate. Emy Lou remembers this little seven-year-old boy who arrived at the Rainbow Room in Houston, scared and shy. She tried to comfort him with a teddy bear and then some crayons and finally some toy cars. But the only thing he wanted was a toothbrush. He had never had one.
Because the first Rainbow Room in Dallas was such a success, dedicated volunteers have taken Community Partners across the state and now opened more than 115 Rainbow Rooms. This is an incredible accomplishment. And your dedication is making a remarkable difference for children -- and for caseworkers like Joan from Fort Bend County.
When Joan went to investigate an abuse case, she was appalled to find the house littered with trash and beer bottles. The mother who answered the door reeked of alcohol. The house was dark and cold because the electricity had been shut off.
Two young children huddled together under a filthy blanket to stay warm. A baby was crying in his crib. His diaper hadn't been changed all day. Joan knew that she needed to take those children to safety. She was able to go to the Rainbow Room in Rosenberg where she found diapers, clothing and toys to comfort the children.
Before the Rainbow Room opened, Joan had to find a 24-hour store that carried all the items she needed, and she'd pay for the food and clothing herself. All of this from someone who is on call 24 hours a day and makes less than $35,000 a year.
With Rainbow Rooms, Community Partners support more than 2,800 caseworkers and more than 50,000 children like Marcus. Twelve-year-old Marcus ran to his neighbor's house in the middle of the night. His stepfather was beating him with an extension cord. He was wearing jeans that were well above his ankles. His t-shirt was too small and it was ripped. The volunteers at the BEAR room gave Marcus a clean shirt, a new pair of jeans and new sneakers.
After he got dressed, Marcus asked if he could take some shoes to his sister, who didn't have any. A month later, Marcus came back with his sisters. He wanted to make sure they thanked the volunteers for their new clothes and shoes. The BEAR room in Harris County, which stands for "be a resource" for CPS, helps over 1,000 children every month.
Volunteers at the BEAR room also found a new dress for 12-year-old Angela. When Angela's caseworker picked her up at school to take her to her dad's wedding, she was shocked to find her wearing blue jeans, scruffy tennis shoes and a bandana wrapped around her ponytail. So she called the BEAR room in a panic.
They quickly found a pretty pink party dress and a pair of dress shoes. Angela went into the dressing room a tomboy and came out a princess. She grinned from ear to ear, excited to be wearing her first pair of real high heels. The volunteers also found a necklace and earrings, and they replaced Angela's bandana with a pink ribbon. Her caseworker said that Angela was the belle of the ball, and the volunteers felt like fairy godmothers.
Rainbow Rooms are so successful because of the extraordinary work volunteers do, volunteers who are devoted to helping children. Nearly 5,000 Texans volunteer with Community Partners, volunteers like Ann Schooler, who has spent a lifetime helping others. Ann started volunteering when she was seven years old by raising money for the war effort.
In the last 60 years, she has volunteered at Sunday school and for the Girl Scouts and the Boys and Girls Clubs. She has served on nearly 40 nonprofit boards and consults pro bono for others. Ann joined Greater Texas Community Partners to help educate more Texans about child abuse.
She was shocked by the horrific story of an eight-year-old girl who was chained and locked in a closet for years. Developmentally, she was the size of a three-year-old. Ann had a granddaughter the same age. She was compelled to get the word out and to encourage her fellow Texans to help children.
This month, we're encouraging more Americans to join Ann and volunteers across the country. During Child abuse Prevention Month, we renew our commitment to call attention to child abuse and to protect children from harm.
Child abuse and neglect are not simply family issues, but they are concerns for every American. Children suffer the pain of abuse and so do their families and neighbors and communities.
This is a Round UP lunch for a reason: We need to round up more volunteers to ensure that every child has a chance to grow up healthy and safe. There are so many ways you can help.
Volunteer to collect and donate clothing at your local Rainbow Room. And remember, the Rainbow Rooms have new clothes. These children have already had hand-me-downs. Or serve a dinner to children in a crisis center. Invite a caseworker to your PTA group to talk about child abuse. Establish a parenting support program in your neighborhood or repair homes for disadvantaged families to make them more livable for children.
Host a baby shower and invite your friends to bring diapers, formula and clothing for infants and young children for your local rainbow room. Put together a housewarming basket of linens and dinnerware for foster children who are growing up and ready to live on their own for the first time. You can even become a mentor or open your house to a foster child.
We can all help in big ways or small. One person alone can't do everything, but one person can do something.
Volunteering is central to the American character. And it's a fundamental expression of our citizenship.
President Bush loves this story that was told to him by Pastor Tony Evans of Dallas. Pastor Evans said, there was a man who had a crack in the wall of his home so he hired a painter to cover that crack. But two weeks later, the crack reappeared. And so the man sent for another painter and he painted over that crack. But once again, it reappeared. Finally, he found a wise painter who said, sir, you'll never fix that crack until you fix the foundation.
Each one of you strengthen the foundation of America and President Bush and I appreciate all you do to protect and comfort children. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of American children.
Thank you all very, very much. Thank you for what you do and thanks for being here today. (Applause.)