By CLINT FOSTER
According to city-data.com, as of 2011, 18.7 percent of Mineral Wells residents were living in poverty. In 2010, Mineral Wells was below the state average in median house value, number of college students and percentage of population with at least a bachelor's degree. Conversely, the city was significantly above the state average in institutionalized population percentage.
Based on these statistics, poverty and a lack of education are real problems facing Mineral Wells and all of Palo Pinto County. But a relatively new organization aims to help stop this trend and turn it into a distant memory.
The Mineral Wells Center of Life is a faith-based organization dedicated to helping the citizens of Palo Pinto County and Mineral Wells overcome poverty through education, mentoring and work with similar organizations, like the Salvation Army. At the forefront of their mission is offering free classes to prepare students for their General Equivalency Diploma test.
"Education is one of the primary missions we have," Center of Life Director Randy Lawrence said. "Education is one of the keys to having a better job. There are several employers that can't hire [a prospective employee] without a GED. It's extremely important [and] a central key in moving people out of poverty."
Lawrence, who was named the group's first director in August, has big plans for Center of Life and said he was very happy to be accepted for the job.
"This is something that I've always wanted to do," he said. "The thing I've enjoyed most in life is when I've volunteered in mission work. This is like a mission. I'm extremely excited about all the things we can do for Mineral Wells and Palo Pinto County."
Center for Life currently has six people of various ages enrolled in GED classes with the hopes of many more joining soon. The organization is in the United Way building, but Lawrence said as the group continues to grow, they hope to work with the Dunbar Group to renovate their building and centralize all of their agencies. He added they are looking forward to growing.
Lawrence said Center for Life is still in need of volunteers to serve as tutors and in a myriad of other jobs. He said Center for Life also puts at least one wheelchair ramp in town each month, for which they welcome volunteer help.
To volunteer or find out more information about Mineral Wells Center of Life, visit their website at mwcol.org or call 940-327-8700.