Do you want to help shape the future of New Braunfels? Take the Strategic Plan survey.

The City of New Braunfels has begun the process of creating its next Strategic Plan, which will lay out the City’s guiding principles, strategic priorities, mission and vision for the future.

A strategic plan serves as a blueprint for the long-term sustainability of the City, its programming, services, operations and infrastructure.

To learn more about the New Braunfels Strategic Plan process, find updates, give your input and more, visit www.newbraunfels.gov/strategicplan.

Crisis Center of Comal County settles into new location after devestating 2022 fire

July 25, 2023

In April 2022, the Crisis Center of Comal County lost its emergency shelter and residential facility due to a fire.

Now, the Center is settling into a new home on Landa Street in New Braunfels.

But the agency’s mission hasn’t changed: to provide crisis and prevention services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault while providing a safe environment where individuals can make educated, unbiased decisions about their future.

Mildred Monreal, the Center’s chief development officer, said the new location is advantageous as it provides more space, enabling the organization to expand its offerings.

“It’s great that we moved from a smaller space on East Common Street to this larger space and the chance that we’ll build capacity for the agency,” Monreal said. “It’s very exciting overall as we get more settled into the space and figure out all the new things we can do with it.”

The Center provides services to women, children and men of all ages. These services include a 24-hour crisis line, shelter, counseling, support groups, legal advocacy, assistance with filing for child support, case management, victim advocacy, information and referral, transportation and
community education and prevention.

The new location will eventually serve as the Center’s base of operation — housing its services, thrift store and administrative offices in one place.

“We have our thrift store on site, which is another source of income,” she said. “We’ll be able to have events in the building because we have a ballroom. We plan on changing out our ballroom to a conference-style space, so we can expand our education programs – we can bring in the community to talk to them. Of course, our counseling rooms are available, but now we can go beyond that and work with larger groups because of the larger space. We also have space for our prevention programs.”

The Center is also about to launch a capital campaign to earn funds for a new shelter facility on the Landa Street property that would house the agency’s services and various spaces of living to accommodate families and individuals, as well as a kennel for clients who have pets. The proposed facility would house about 90 people, according to Monreal.

To celebrate the agency’s 37th anniversary and its new location, the Center will host an open house and community partner fair on July 28 from 4-7 p.m. at the facility at 655 Landa St.

The open house will include guided tours and engaging activities for individuals of all ages, making it a family-friendly event.

Additionally, local organizations, businesses and community groups will come together at the event to showcase their services, initiatives and resources.

“We found that now is the right time to open up the doors and share with the community what we are doing as the Crisis Center,” she said. “This is also a way to be transparent with what we are doing and to bond with the community. It is a commitment to make sure that everyone understands what services we provide and is able to get information.”

The Center is a partner organization with the McKenna Foundation. The Foundation’s board recently awarded the Center a $125,000 grant as part of McKenna’s basic living needs portfolio.

If you or someone you know needs immediate help with crisis services, information or referrals, call the Center’s 24-hour crisis line at 800-434-8013 or 830-620-4357 or text 830-310-2199.

Walk-ins are welcome at the office at 655 Landa St. from 9 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. There is no need to make an appointment to receive immediate crisis intervention and advocacy services.

If you are in danger and need immediate assistance, call 9-1-1.

To learn more about the Center and how they serve the community or to volunteer and donate, visit www.crisiscenternb.org.

Community Impact: Homelessness in Comal County increased by 10% this year, survey reveals

July 25, 2023

The results of a homelessness survey suggest that there are about 10% more people in Comal County without a permanent roof over their heads this year compared to 2022.

The results of the 2023 annual snapshot count identified more individuals in Comal County are self-reporting as experiencing chronic homelessness compared to prior counts, the Comal County Homeless Coalition reported.

Read more.

Texas Public Radio: 988 mental health crisis line gets 5 million calls, texts and chats in first year

July 24, 2023

Read story here.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available 24/7. Call or text the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. Call the Mobile Crisis Outreach Team of Comal County for local support at 1-877-466-0660 or text 741741.

Confidential crisis support is available for veterans and their loved ones by dialing 988, then pressing 1. Veterans can also text 838255. If someone is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.

McKenna Children’s Museum hosts Kinderbash Aug. 11 for soon-to-be kindergarten students

July 21, 2023

The McKenna Children’s Museum will host Kinderbash from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 11.

This fun-filled event will feature special back-to-school activities aimed toward getting kindergartners prepared and excited to enter their first year of school. In addition, pizza and ice cream will be provided.

“Kinderbash is a thrilling occasion that aims to make all the children who are starting kindergarten feel special about embarking on their new adventure,” said Isabel Martinez, the Museum’s operations manager. “Seeing the big smiles on their little faces brings us joy as they receive their ‘I’m going to Kindergarten’ shirt. This is one of my favorite events.”

Admission for kindergartners is free for this event. Admission for adults who are Museum members is $10. Admission for adults who are non-members is $15.00 Pre-registration is required. To register, visit mckennakids.org or call 830-606-9525

The Museum regularly operates from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The Museum is closed on Sundays and for major holidays.

Admission during regular hours for children older than 12 months and adults is $8 per person. School visits are available during the school year. All children must be accompanied by an adult 16 and up.

For more information and a calendar of events of Museum activities, visit https://mckennakids.org.

Herald-Zeitung: Data shows 10% rise in homelessness over past year in Comal County

July 19, 2023

From the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung:

On the morning of Jan. 26, two-person volunteer teams conducted surveys of people experiencing homelessness in select areas of Comal County and passed out supplies to individuals.

The Homeless Coalition’s 2023 Point-in-Time (PIT) count identified an approximate 10% rise in people experiencing homelessness in Comal County this year.

Read more here.

Child’s Advocacy Center plans new building to expand agency’s family counseling and investigator training programs

July 17, 2023

Helpers sometimes need help.

Plans for a proposed building expansion project are in the works that would allow the Children’s Advocacy Center of Comal County (CACCC) to offer specialized training and group support for multidisciplinary team members who work on child abuse cases.

CACCC got the okay from the New Braunfels City Council in February for $136,626 for the Counseling and Training Expansion Center project from an allocation the city received from the U.S. Department of the Treasury Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program, a part of the American Rescue Plan Act. The program provides funds to state, local and tribal governments across the country to support their response to and recovery from the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The organization is pursuing funding for the balance of the $341,565 needed for the project from other sources. The agency will provide a construction timeline once funding is secured.

CACCC provides a child-friendly facility with a multidisciplinary approach to prevent, detect, investigate and treat child abuse. The organization offers a place to minimize the number of interviews a child can experience. Investigators observe the interview via camera conducted by a professional, objective forensic interviewer, with the interview recorded for possible use in court.

But studies have shown that individuals who work on child abuse cases can suffer secondary trauma and empathetic strain, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to research by internationally recognized resilience and trauma prevention expert Olga Phoenix, about 70% of social workers suffer from secondary traumatic stress, and 65% of sexual assault therapists exhibit at least one symptom of secondary traumatic stress.

In addition, her studies indicated that 33% of law enforcement members showed high levels of emotional exhaustion and reduced personal accomplishment. The research also revealed that 37% of child protection service workers reported clinical levels of emotional distress associated with secondary traumatic stress, and 34% of female forensic interviewers experienced symptoms of secondary traumatic stress.

“They have faster burnout,” said Stacy Dufur, CACCC director of programs. “They have issues with mental health, physical health and relationships – just about anything that someone with first-hand trauma would be dealing with. Part of the reason we want to have the building constructed is to address some of those things in our community and keep the helpers we have.”

That’s where the additional building would come in. The space would allow the agency to provide training and support to alleviate this impact. Services would include research-backed seminars, support groups, yoga classes, art classes, celebration lunches, debriefing areas and counseling for these professionals.

CACCC’s multidisciplinary team encompasses 16 interagency partners and includes about 50 individuals in Comal County. During fiscal year 2022, the team reviewed 2,177 cases of potential child abuse through statewide intakes.

Plans call for constructing a metal building adjacent to the existing facility in the Gruene district of New Braunfels. The concept includes an open plan on the first floor with concrete floors sufficient to weather art projects. The plan provides seating for 300 people, restrooms and an audio/visual system set up for training.

The building will serve a dual purpose, fulfilling the agency’s primary mission by providing for an expansion of essential services and counseling to families experiencing trauma. Plans call for providing classes where parents can learn more about trauma, how to help their child cope, how to model positive behaviors for their children and how to connect with them.

Plans also call for the new space to host group-based therapy sessions that would allow parents to learn from other parents and increase healthy social connections between parents.

“We want to be able to offer different types of services – maybe to offer parenting to some of our families, different types of support and groups for our families,” said Natalie Lopez, the agency’s clinical director. “A lot of times these kids come in, and their family members are also struggling with what has happened, and so it gives them the opportunity to meet other people that are going through similar things and to have them as support.”

According to Trendy Sharp, the agency’s executive director, the space would also host groups for specific populations of children where they could practice the skills learned in therapy. The agency provided 1,235 hours of direct service counseling services in fiscal year 2022.

“A nurturing attachment with a parent is going to help a child be successful,” Sharp said. “If a child knows they can go to their parent and tell them something is happening to them, the child is going to be safer and do better in the long run. But sometimes, adults need help learning how to do that because it doesn’t come naturally. We all parent the same way we were parented and sometimes, that might not be the best or healthiest way.”

The expanded services also plan includes therapeutic art activities, reading circles, drumming circles, and yoga classes, according to Lopez. The space needed for those programs is currently unavailable in the agency’s current digs.

“The new space would be more inviting, warm, and more therapeutic,” she said. “Eventually, the idea is to help families continue to protect their children, to keep them safe and help them be successful.”

Since the creation of the CACCC in 2005, the organization has provided thousands of children with forensic interviews, counseling sessions, medical examinations and case coordination services. During the 2022 fiscal year, the organization conducted 336 forensic interviews, with 68% involving sexual abuse and 32% related to physical and other abuse or risk.

For more information or to make a donation, visit www.comalcac.org. Donors can designate funds go toward the building project.

The CACCC is a partner organization with the McKenna Foundation.

Area nonprofit offers ‘Tech Fundamentals’ training program for people seeking technology-oriented careers

Samantha Coleman, NPower’s San Antonio site director, delivers a presentation for area nonprofit organizations recently at the McKenna Center.

July 12, 2023

A national nonprofit organization offers people from the New Braunfels Central Texas area an opportunity to participate in a new tuition-free “Tech Fundamentals” hands-on, introductory training program starting early next month.

NPower, one of America’s leading nonprofits for equity in tech, is offering the program to bring new career opportunities to veterans and their spouses, as well as young adults aged 18-26 and women of color from underserved communities looking to launch technology careers.

The program efforts to place the student on a “pathway to economic prosperity” by giving them the tools to land good-paying jobs in the ever-growing tech field without taking on the debt of a traditional two- or four-year degree path.

In today’s economy, more than 50% of all jobs require some degree of technology and digital skill. A recent Microsoft Data Science report estimates that the U.S.’s digital job capacity — or the number of new technology-oriented jobs — will grow to 13 million by 2025.

The organization opened its market in San Antonio earlier this year and can recruit within 100 miles of the city.

Students who enter the four-month training program earn industry-recognized certifications and graduate with the competencies of an information technology professional with one to two years of experience.

No prior knowledge of technology is needed to join the Tech Fundamentals program, said Samantha Coleman, NPower’s San Antonio site director.

“The first day, we review ‘What is a computer?’ We look at the parts — everything,” Coleman said. “It is from a basic level that we start, then build on top of that. For some people, that first day and week is redundant, but it’s also a confidence builder because we’ll get to those higher content levels.”

There is currently no entrance exam, but there are a series of interviews to assess the potential student’s fit for the program.

The course includes up to 16 weeks of instructor-led virtual training and an opportunity for a paid professional internship or project-based learning experience. Eighty percent of program graduates obtain a full-time job or continue their education.

The organization also offers specialized cybersecurity and cloud computing training to eligible trainees that have completed the Tech Fundamentals program.

“Most of our younger adults have some type of experience, but maybe they don’t have the technical knowledge, so it’s giving them the vernacular, the acumen to speak to it, and then they already have the skill to build on it,” she said. “And now they can speak to the skill they can bring.”

It’s the same thing with the experience individuals gain from the military, she said.

“Sometimes the older population doesn’t realize they have so much to offer, and they already have the experience,” she said. “Maybe they used certain systems in the military, and they don’t see that translating into the workforce. We help them bridge that transition. They already have a foundation they didn’t realize they had. I think most people do without realizing it.”

NPower’s classes are held online, but students meet in person to work on professional development, resume writing and interview skills. Students are provided with laptops to take the courses.

USAA is funding the tech training program to build a stronger and more diverse tech talent pool in the San Antonio region. Boeing, Kelly Discover, Bravotech, HCL, and Bank of America are interested in hiring NPower graduates for their local locations.

The next class begins Aug. 7. For more information and to apply, visit www.npower.org/apply-tf. Direct questions to admissionssanantonio@npower.org.

National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month observed in July

July 10, 2023

National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is observed each July to bring awareness to the unique struggles that racial and ethnic minority communities face regarding mental illness in the United States.

Racial and ethnic minorities often suffer from poor mental health outcomes due to multiple factors, including lack of access to quality mental health care services, cultural stigma surrounding mental health care, discrimination and overall lack of awareness about mental health.

Read more here or here or here.