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Building a foundation for future success

Bishop Kevin J. Farrell, Aileen Pratt of Crystal Charities and Father Cruz Callderon shovel dirt around the area where a new gymnasium and community center will be built May 8 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School. (JENNA TETER/The Texas Catholic)

Bishop Kevin J. Farrell, Aileen Pratt of Crystal Charities and Father Cruz Callderon shovel dirt around the area where a new gymnasium and community center will be built May 8 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School. (JENNA TETER/The Texas Catholic)

By David Sedeño

Amid a deep blue sky and against a backdrop of a huge concrete slab, Bishop Kevin J. Farrell and students and staff at Our Lady of Perpetual Help on May 8 thanked the Crystal Charity Ball for a gift that soon will make a gymnasium a reality at the Love Field-area school.

In 2012, the Crystal Charity Ball awarded a grant for $822,000 to OLPH, one of seven beneficiaries last year with a collective need of $4.42 million. Upon completion, the 11,000-square-foot gymnasium and community center will serve the 220-plus students at the school during the week and more than 500 other people on weekends.

OLPH also has received an anonymous gift of $380,000 for the project and is working to raise another $300,000 through various fundraisers, including a brick campaign and a naming program, said Nikki Miller, the school’s development director. Contractors have been working over the past few months securing permits and initiating preliminary work, such as grading, infrastructure and they recently poured the concrete slab, which sits behind an 8-foot chain link fence.

School children hold up handmade signs and banners following a groundbreaking ceremony for the new gymnasium and community center May 8 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School. (JENNA TETER/The Texas Catholic)

School children hold up handmade signs and banners following a groundbreaking ceremony for the new gymnasium and community center May 8 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School. (JENNA TETER/The Texas Catholic)

In the parking lot, students, staff, administrators, Catholic community leaders and members of the Crystal Charity Ball gathered on May 8 for a short program. Bishop Farrell and Father Cruz Calderón, the pastor at OLPH, thanked the Crystal Charity Ball and its members for their support of the school’s plans.

“There are so many worthy needs across this community and these ladies who work at Crystal Charity and come together as volunteers are a great credit and great promoters of humanity within our community,” Bishop Farrell said.

Bishop Farrell said that this is a historic time in the life of the school and the greater community who, aside from the church sanctuary, will be able to come together under one roof regardless of the weather.

“The whole community will be galvanized as one large family because of the great work that will take place behind us and that is something that is so important in the life of so many people in this community,” Bishop Farrell said. “It’s not just about our children who go to our school, but also about the whole community at large and that’s why this is such a historic and important moment.”

OLPH opened in 1946 and has weathered numerous enrollment and economic challenges over the years. It has a wide base of support from alumni, businesses and others in the community who have helped it with fundraising for scholarships and educational/technology improvements, among others.

What has eluded the school over the years has been a covered place for the students to play and exercise during inclement weather or to even host their own basketball or volleyball games.That will change when the project is completed in the next year.

The facility will house an elementary-size basketball court, dressing rooms, and will be used for special programs, including assemblies and drama presentations, among other projects throughout the year.

Bishop Farrell also thanked Aileen Pratt, chair of the 2012 Crystal Charity Ball Selection Committee, and her husband Jack for their tireless work benefiting numerous charitable causes throughout Dallas.

Aileen Pratt said there are 100 members of Crystal Charity and her vote was only one, so for a Catholic, she was elated that her colleagues chose the school.

“The membership of Crystal Charity was so impressed with Our Lady of Perpetual Help School,” she said. “We were impressed with their graduation rates, with their students and with the work they have been doing in this community for over 66 years. We very much wanted to fund this gymnasium and community center and we felt it would make a difference to the school and the community.”

She said that the application process is a rigorous one and that OLPH can soon have other doors open for it.

“We have been told that aside from raising money for vitally needed services for children, the Crystal Charity Ball is like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for charities that apply to us,” Pratt said. “Any charity that makes it to the finals and gets a grant has been vetted very carefully. Our donors know that and foundations know that and from here on out this school can go forward and say, ‘We received  a grant from the Crystal Charity Ball’ and people will know it has been a very carefully researched school and that they are doing good work in the community.”