Respite Care celebrates 27th anniversary with luncheon

RespiteCare_colorChildren with special needs, as well as the families who love and care for them, deserve compassion, understanding, and support. Children who suffer injury and abuse deserve a calm, nurturing, and stable place to heal and hope. Respite Care of San Antonio provides care for children with special needs, some of whom have suffered abuse and injury. At Respite Care we open our arms wide in love and compassion for the children who need us most.

Founded over 26 years ago by families caring for a child with special needs and recognizing the demands placed on parents working to meet their child’s needs, these families created what is now known as Respite Care of San Antonio.  Since inception, a diverse cadre of supports has been developed to provide temporary care for children with special needs to give families a break to spend time within their marriage, with other children within the family unit and for themselves.  Sixteen years ago, with the opening of the Davidson Respite House, the agency began providing full time, overnight care for children who are victims of abuse or neglect from throughout the state and living within the state’s protective custody orders.  Respite Care’s emergency shelter program remains the only licensed service of its kind in the state of Texas.

To commemorate the unique services this entity provides, Respite Care’s 27th Anniversary Luncheon will be held Thursday, November 21, 2014 at 11:30 a.m. at the Historic Pearl Stables.  This event will honor Charline McCombs and feature guest speaker John Foppe, who will share the story of his success, despite the many obstacles he was forced to overcome.

To learn more about Respite Care or to purchase sponsorship and tickets to this very special celebration, visit

Methodist Hospital celebrates 50th anniversary

Methodist50thLOGOMethodist Hospital celebrated its 50th anniversary with ceremonies honoring its employees, physicians and volunteers while community leaders recognized the pioneering role the hospital has played in the development of the South Texas Medical Center.

Methodist Hospital was chartered in 1955 as an independent hospital. The hospital began with 175 beds and 272 employees and has grown to 882 beds and more than 3,500 employees.

In 1995, it became the flagship facility of the Methodist Healthcare System. Today Methodist Healthcare is the largest provider of health care in South and Central Texas with 26 facilities including nine hospitals serving 90,000 inpatients and 390,000 outpatients annually.

During the ceremony, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff recalled the origins of the hospital in 1954 when business strategists led by the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and the Bexar County Medical Society learned the city was lacking in hospital beds and would not be able to handle a mass casualty situation or epidemic.  The Southwest Conference of the Methodist Church was approached to administer the hospital with ties to the church and an agreement was reached in 1955.

Within five years, land was donated and enough money was secured through donations and government grants to build a hospital using civil defense guidelines.  The hospital received national attention as the world’s first nuclear disaster-proof hospital with two floors underground to be used as a fallout shelter.

“It was important to these visionaries to find land for not just a single hospital, but for an entire medical complex,” said Judge Wolff.  “Our community will forever be indebted to the vision and bravery demonstrated by these individuals who stepped out in faith to build a thriving and successful medical complex.”  Today the biomedical field is the city’s leading employer and economic driver.  One of every five San Antonio employees works in the bioscience and health care industry.

“I’m in awe of the legacy of those leaders who came before me, those who had a vision for a Methodist hospital surrounded by enough land for development of a thriving medical center,” said Jaime Wesolowski, president and CEO of Methodist Healthcare System.

“We saw the visionary spirit again 20 years ago when leaders of the hospital decided that in the rapidly changing health care landscape, a single hospital might not fare very well,” continued Wesolowski.  “As a result, when Methodist Hospital became part of the Methodist Healthcare system, a family of hospitals was born, co-owned by HCA and a newly founded non-profit, Methodist Healthcare Ministries.  The Ministries shares our mission of Serving Humanity to Honor God. Receiving half the profits of MHS, Methodist Healthcare Ministries has become the largest non-profit source for community health care in San Antonio and South Texas directed to low income, under served clients ineligible for any medical assistance program.”  The Ministries contributed $72 million to providing 800,000 client encounters in 2012.

During the ceremonies, the longest tenured employees were introduced along with pioneering physicians and long-time members of the Blue Bird volunteer auxiliary.  These employees were Ian Shawcross, 46 years of service; Nancy Burrell, R.N., 43 years, Norbert Cantu, 43 years, Janie Ochoa, 42 years, and Oralia Martinez, 42 years. Also recognized were James Pridgen, M.D., who performed the first surgery at the hospital.  Charter members of the Blue Bird auxiliary receiving recognition were Karen Paterson, Connie Benson, Maxine Haas and Barbara Ringen. All have been serving since 1963 and remain active today.

Hospital officials also opened a time capsule buried in 1988, the hospital’s 25th anniversary.  After the ceremony, the hospital honored physicians, staff and volunteers at a luncheon that featured memorabilia from the time capsule, hospital archives, and a cake designed as a replica of the original hospital building.

Archived footage of the ceremony can be viewed on and on the Methodist Healthcare YouTube channel: SAHealth210.

San Antonio’s 1942 gamble to buy CPS Energy keeps paying dividends

by Tracy Idell Hamilton

In 1942, the city of San Antonio made a $34 million bet to buy the local utility – one that has paid off to the tune of more than $5 billion so far.

More than 50 years later, the city made another crucial calculation, to hang on to CPS Energy in the face of a deregulated energy market. That decision, too, has paid off for city and ratepayers, who continue to enjoy some of the lowest rates in Texas.

First, the bet: at the time, the San Antonio Public Service Company, known as Sapsco, ran the city’s power plants, gas network, and streetcar lines.  Sapsco was owned by American Light and Traction Co. through the 1920s and 1930s, but antitrust laws forced the company to divest its utility holdings across the country.

The Lower Colorado River Authority approached then-Mayor C.K. Quinn about breaking up the utility; LCRA would buy the power plants, while the city would purchase the distribution network — the lines and poles.

Quinn was amenable to the idea, according to CPS Energy’s de facto historian Joe Fulton, who worked for the utility for 34 years. But a local entrepreneur, Ralph Morrison, approached the mayor and City Commissioners with a better idea: buy it all.

City leaders ultimately saw the wisdom in San Antonio controlling its own power, and made a bid to buy the company. But the LCRA and the Blanco-Guadalupe River Authority fought back. Lawsuits “came thick and fast,” according to an Oct. 20, 1942 article in the San Antonio Express, and it looked for a time like there would be no deal.

But on Oct. 24, 1942, the last day possible, the city of San Antonio prevailed. It issued $33.9 million in bonds to purchase Sapsco. As part of the deal, the city had to sell a plant on the Comal River to the GBRA. It also sold off the streetcar division of the company.

Also as part of the deal, the new company, known as the City Public Service Board, would return up to 14 percent of revenue to the city of San Antonio as the return on its investment. That money would go into the general fund, where it’s used to fund police and firefighters, roads, drainage and other core city services.

Since 1942, CPS Energy has returned more than $5 billion to its owners, the people of San Antonio. Today that money — roughly $250 million annually — is the city’s largest single revenue stream, and makes up almost one-third of the city’s general fund budget.

In the mid-1990s, however, big changes to the industry were looming. States across the country were deregulating their energy markets; city and CPS Energy officials knew Texas wouldn’t be far behind.

The state Legislature tried to deregulate in 1997, but couldn’t come to an agreement that pleased either privately owned or municipally owned utilities, Fulton said.

“But we saw the writing on the wall,” he said, and CPS Energy began preparing to enter a competitive market, if necessary. That would mean the end of tax-exempt financing, and the need to separate transmission and generation into separate companies. CPS Energy officials also worked “to get leaner and meaner,” said Fulton, reducing staff and updating business practices.

Also in 1997, the City Council conducted a review into whether selling CPS Energy to a private company, paying off the debt and putting the remainder in a trust would be a wise course of action, according to a 1999 story in the San Antonio Express-News.

The study found the city would have to get $16 billion for the utility to “reap the same benefits under the current structure.” The last utility to fetch that kind of price, the story went on, was four times the size of CPS Energy.

The city chose to hang on to its utility.

CPS Energy customers still have some of the lowest rates in the state, and the city is able to pay for vital, basic services with the continuing return on the investment it made in 1942.

“That is a humungous return,” said Fulton. “That’s how important this company is.”

Watch CPS Energy’s 70th anniversary video, featuring an interview with Joe Fulton.