JEWELL: Cultivating a community of caring

Alice Jewell

August 31, 2023

The beginnings of an organization that would become the McKenna Foundation go back more than 70 years to a time when industry was emerging in what was a farm and ranch community and population growth prompted the need for a full-service hospital.

Two attempts in the late 1940s to establish a county-funded hospital in New Braunfels narrowly failed, but a group of business and civic leaders led by Howard McKenna didn’t give up on that vision.

The group set out to privately secure the funds to build a new hospital. Along with a host of peers, McKenna persuaded the city in 1951 to support health care for its residents by providing a site for the proposed Hospital. The city leaders and other individuals organized a fundraising effort in 1952, often going door to door to ask residents for their support.

The effort was worth it, and the vision became a reality. New Braunfelsers donated more than $500,000 for the project, equivalent to nearly $5.9 million in today’s dollars, augmented by a $280,000 Hill-Burton grant.

Construction began in October 1952, and a grand opening celebration for the new 40-bed New Braunfels Hospital took place about a year later. The original structure, which still stands as the central core of the Hospital, opened its doors to patients in November 1953.

In 1973, New Braunfels Hospital changed its name to McKenna Memorial Hospital in honor of Howard McKenna, who served as president of the Hospital’s board of trustees for more than 20 years.

The following decades brought tremendous growth to the Hospital, including several multimillion-dollar facilities and equipment expansions. What began as a small community hospital grew into a nationally recognized regional healthcare provider. The McKenna Health System found its place as a vital part of New Braunfels and Comal County, providing effective programs, services and resources benefiting the health and well-being of the community.

The hospital operated as an independent facility until 2008 when the board opted to sell McKenna Memorial Hospital to a system with resources that could expand the service line to the growing area. The sale to CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health Care took place on January 31st of that year.

The hospital sale brought two significant benefits to the New Braunfels community: the assurance of quality health care by CHRISTUS and providing the funding to create the McKenna Foundation, whose mission is to advance the well-being of the greater New Braunfels community.

The foundation began making grants to community nonprofits in 2009 and has since awarded more than 500 grants to 85 nonprofit organizations serving local residents. Over 15 years, more than $28 million in grant funding has resulted in strengthened and new programs and nonprofit assets that bolster the strained social infrastructure of this growing community.

The foundation also continues to oversee the McKenna Events Center and the Children’s Museum which opened on April 1, 2006. Since that time, those offerings remained a community need through which McKenna has served thousands of residents as a community partner.

In the coming months, we will highlight key funding areas and projects that have come to define McKenna’s role as an advocate for those in need. Above all, the McKenna Foundation seeks to listen, learn, and love on the community with whom their journey began 70 years ago.

The community spirit first demonstrated by Howard McKenna continues to be embodied by his namesake organization that he never knew would carry on the legacy of his life’s work. Thousands in this community, including many of you, have been part of this work as hospital and foundation staff, volunteers, donors, board members and nonprofit partners. This makes us all part of the McKenna family.

Alice Jewell is the Chief Executive Officer for the McKenna Foundation whose mission is to advance the well-being of the New Braunfels community. She has been with the Foundation since its inception in 2008, and with the McKenna organization since 2006. Prior to this role, Alice served as the Foundation’s Executive Director, Director of McKenna Children’s Museum and Director of McKenna Events Center. She oversees all aspects of the grant development process, as well as the Foundation’s strategic planning and community collaborations. Alice received a BA in Communication from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Public Service and Administration from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

McKenna Foundation awards $759,852 in funding to 18 Comal County nonprofit organizations for health, education programs

August 30, 2023

The McKenna Foundation awarded $759,852 in grant funding to 18 nonprofit organizations in Comal County in the second round of 2023 grantmaking.

The Foundation awarded a $20,000 grant to first-time recipient Acacia Medical Mission, which provides health care to uninsured and underinsured people in western Comal County through a faith-based clinic. The funding will help support a medical outreach program coordinator position who will facilitate all mobile support services to increase access to medical care and help meet the need for assistance in remote locations.

Project MEND received $15,000 to assist the organization’s mission to provide low-income persons with disabilities with refurbished, donated medical equipment and assistive technologies to enhance their independence, self-sufficiency and mobility.

The Foundation also awarded health and education grants to Any Baby Can, Bulverde Spring Branch Emergency Services, Canine Classmates, Children’s Advocacy Center of Comal County, Communities in Schools of South Central Texas, Community Action Inc. of Central Texas, Friends of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Foundation, Friends of the New Braunfels Public Library, Hill Country MHDD Centers, Kinetic Kids Inc., New Braunfels Firefighters Charity Association, RecoveryWerks!, River City Advocacy and Counseling Center, The SHARE Center, Texas Ramp Project and New Braunfels Christian Ministries.

“Access to mental and physical health care and educational opportunities are cornerstones of a person’s ability to thrive,” said McKenna Foundation CEO Alice Jewell. “Many times, nonprofits fill a gap or go the extra mile that others aren’t able to do. McKenna values programs operated by nonprofits that contribute to the community in this way, and we celebrate the creative and professional approaches they use to impact people who need help.”
Foundation board members approved the grant requests during their August meeting.

McKenna’s health and education grant portfolios are designed to fund nonprofit organizations that provide accessible care that leads to healthy bodies and minds and improves the quality of life through education and social support.

Funding areas for health grants include physical health, mental health, health care support services and access to care programs.

Funding areas for education grants include programs that provide school readiness, education access and support, after-school programs and literacy programs.

The application window for grants in the area of family relationships (child and youth development, parenting support, abuse/neglect prevention and recovery and senior services) opened on Aug. 15, with applications due Sept. 9. New and returning applicants are welcome to apply.

The Foundation accepts applications from verified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations serving New Braunfels and Comal County residents. In addition, the Foundation maintains a geographic limitation that requires grant funds to be used for residents in Comal County.

Returning applicants can visit for information on submitting their proposal, contact McKenna’s grant team at 830-606-9500 or email First-time applicants are highly encouraged to contact the grant team before starting an application.

McKenna began making grants to community nonprofits in 2009 and has since awarded about $28.4 million in grants to nonprofit organizations serving New Braunfels and Comal County residents.

So far this year, the Foundation has gifted about $1.95 million in grants to 35 nonprofit organizations in Comal County.

Contact McKenna’s grant team at 830-606-9500 or email for more information. Visit the Foundation’s website at

McKenna congratulates Herald-Zeitung on receiving Texas Treasure Business Award

August 29, 2023

The McKenna Foundation congratulates the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung on receiving the Texas Treasure Business Award, created by the Texas Historical Commission in 2005, to pay tribute to the state’s well-established businesses that have been in continual operation for at least 50 years.

The newspaper business in New Braunfels began in 1852 with the publication of the Neu Braunfelser-Zeitung – just seven years after the city was founded. The first editor was Ferdinand J. Lindheimer, who published the newspaper for 20 years from his home, which still stands at 491 Comal Ave.

The New Braunfels Herald began publishing in 1892 in English with S.R. Whitley as the editor. In 1957, the New Braunfels Herald joined with the Neu Braunfelser-Zeitung, alternating weekly publications. The two newspapers merged in 1967 to become the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung.

During a devastating flood in 1998, water severely damaged the Herald-Zeitung offices, equipment and archives, but the newspaper’s publication was uninterrupted with the help of the neighboring Seguin newspaper office.

The Herald-Zeitung is one of the oldest newspapers in the state.

Comal County commissioners recognized the paper by issuing a proclamation during the Aug. 24 meeting for its “exceptional historic significance and their longevity in Comal County.”

Community-based care model provides increased chance of foster children remaining in the community

August 28, 2023

Through the Community-Based Care model, a new way of providing foster care and case management systems, children who have been removed from their homes due to experiencing suspected abuse and neglect have an increased chance of remaining in their community with families who have answered the call to open their hearts and homes to needy kids.

The public received an entire evening’s worth of education on local child protection and abuse prevention resource coordination efforts during a meeting of the New Braunfels IDEA Forum hosted by the Children’s Advocacy Center of Comal County.

Presenters included Kane Jaggers from Belong, a division of SJRC Texas, and Kristin Evens from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).

Traditionally, DFPS is responsible for locating a foster home or other living arrangements for that child.

In the Community-Based Care model, Belong, rather than DFPS, finds foster homes and other suitable living arrangements for foster children and youth in the 27-county area of South Central Texas and the Hill Country.

In April 2021, SJRC Texas, formerly St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, was awarded a contract through DFPS for its division Belong to serve as the lead provider of Community-Based Care. Belong launched its services in October 2021.

Last year, Belong transitioned to a second stage of Community-Based Care. The second stage allowed the agency to assume additional responsibilities of case management services of the child welfare system.

Belong staffers work alongside the DFPS to support children and families impacted by trauma through prevention services and ongoing support. The agency collaborates with various organizations within Comal County to help bring the community together to create a safety net for children and families and help bridge resources to those in need.

According to statistics presented by Jaggers, 35% of children removed from homes this year due to suspected abuse are placed in living arrangements inside Comal County. In addition, 45% of those are placed with kinship family members. Other placements include shelters, foster homes and other accommodations inside and outside the county. The ultimate goal, Jaggers said, is family reunification or adoption.

Jaggers cited some reasons those in-county or kinship placement numbers aren’t higher.

“The kids coming into care are children who are older, who have high mental health needs, who are of minority status, who come in large sibling groups,” Jaggers said. “A lot of individuals in the community have a stigma of what it looks like to be a foster home. But we’re in the home once a month. CASA is in the home once a month. If there’s another agency involved, they’re in the home once a month. We as a culture do not support those who answer the call to be part of the solution.”

Of the 175 Comal County children under Belong’s care, 45% are ages 0-5, 34% are ages 6-13, 13% are aged 14-17 and 8% are aged 18 and up.

The Belong statistics show by gender, 96 of the children removed are girls, while 79 are boys. Broken down by race or ethnicity, 49% are Hispanic, 31% are white, 9% are black and the remainder of the children are multiple races or “unable to determine.”

“We need to do a better job of supporting these people who say ‘I’ll help,'” Jaggers said. “Maybe it’s not to be a foster parent. Maybe it’s to be a mentor. Maybe it’s to help babysit. Maybe it’s to foster a foster family. There are other ways we can be part of the solution.”

With Comal County working together, families can be connected to services to help increase parenting support, mental health services, and community education and awareness to prevent children from being removed and decrease the trauma they experience.

In 2022, there were nearly 57,000 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in Texas, according to DFPS statistics. More than 8%, or 1,447 cases, occurred in Comal County.

“It is up to each of us as members of the community to protect children and ensure that they have the resources necessary to lead productive lives,” Evens said. “Every child deserves to be safe and feel secure.”

Jaggers and Evens said child protection agencies hope to increase the number of foster homes, develop and maintain community collaboration with various stakeholders, identify philanthropic donors, establish a motivated group of volunteers and obtain space for a foster home supply closet.

For more information on how to be part of the solution, join Belong on the first Saturday of the month for a virtual informational meeting by registering at

SJRC Texas has been a foster care provider in Texas for about 40 years, operating a residential operation, child-placing agency and prevention programs. Offices are located in San Antonio, Bulverde and New Braunfels.

Find additional information on the IDEA Forum and future events at

Comal County commissioners issue proclamation recognizing September as Hunger Action Month

Camille Cooper, CRRC of Canyon Lake resource program director, center, addresses meeting attendees as Comal County commissioners recognize September as Hunger Action Month during their Aug. 24 meeting.

August 25, 2023

Comal County commissioners have issued a proclamation recognizing September as “Hunger Action Month” to bring attention to community food insecurity and engage the public in action, including volunteer shifts, social media shares and donations to end hunger one helping at a time.

Representatives from the San Antonio Food Bank, New Braunfels Food Bank, the CRCC of Canyon Lake, Provisions and other partners accepted the proclamation during the Aug. 24 commissioners court meeting.

The organizations serve more than 5,200 households a month in New Braunfels. The San Antonio Food Bank assists around 105,000 individuals weekly throughout 29 counties in the southwest Texas region.

“This morning, as I thought about what I was going to wear for this proclamation, I made a bowl of oatmeal without much thought,” said Camille Cooper, CRRC’s resource program director, addressing meeting attendees. “It was then that I realized that I was more concerned about standing here before you than what I was going to eat, which then led me to think about the parents and grandparents or guardians who have one less thing to worry about because their children will have at least one nutritious meal provided them at school.”

Cooper said it’s been difficult “to keep our shelves full this year because of the 74% more families we are serving this year than last, even with the end of the pandemic.”

She also said pantry leaders and directors she met with at the San Antonio Food Bank’s annual conference expressed concern about how much more difficult it is to meet needs in the community.

“It’s no secret: more and more of our neighbors are struggling with food insecurity because of higher prices for food at the pump or have been caught off guard by an emergency situation,” she said.

She concluded by saying that the proclamation issued by commissioners is to call attention first to the need but also to call those with the capacity to act.

“Yes, wearing this shirt is important because one way to give is to give of one’s time by volunteering at your local food pantry or food bank,” she said. “Another, of course, in a big way, is by donating food and funds to buy that food. Please, don’t get me wrong. We are thankful we serve in a community that shows up in these ways, but I know we’re scratching the surface. Based on the stories I hear from our neighbors, there are some who are too proud to ask for help. They are out there.”

According to Feeding America, one in seven Texans – more than four million – struggle with hunger. Of those, one in six – more than 1.3 million – are children.

Texas Homeless Network: Affordable Housing Out of Reach in Texas for Low-Wage Workers

August 22, 2023

For too long, low-income renters in America have struggled to afford housing. Even before the pandemic, rents were increasing much more quickly than wages, putting pressure on millions of renters. With the arrival of the pandemic, low-wage renters were hit with sudden job losses that posed unprecedented threats to their financial security and housing stability.

Read more here.

National Nonprofit Day commemorates nonprofit organizations’ ongoing efforts to serve community

August 17, 2023

Today is National Nonprofit Day, commemorating the Tariff Act, which the U.S. Congress signed into law in 1894. The Tariff Act taxed corporations but excluded nonprofits in honor of their unique importance and significant societal contributions. Thank you to all nonprofits for your tireless work and dedication to making a positive impact on communities and causes around the world. Sherita J. Herring, an author and respected speaker, launched National Nonprofit Day.

Locally, nonprofit organizations have shown their resilience, simultaneously facing a pandemic and an increased need for services. During the pandemic, these vital organizations generated more revenue, hired more staff and served more people with life-saving goods and services. Without them, numerous families would have been homeless, hungry and hopeless.

“Nonprofits fill a significant role in this community in helping people survive and thrive — and they do it with professionalism, utmost care and precision from both a business and emotional perspective,” said McKenna Foundation CEO Alice Jewell. “They help people, but only with the support of the community around them.”

According to a 2021 McKenna Foundation survey, local nonprofit organizations served 272,281 unique clients in 2021, an 11% increase from the 245,226 clients seen in 2019.

Local nonprofits showed a 46% increase in annual revenue between 2019 and 2021. Organizations saw a yearly revenue of $82 million in 2021. Nonprofits also experienced a 36% increase in full-time jobs, from 542 in 2019 to 738 in 2021.

Nonprofit organizations put $68 million back into the local economy in 2021, a 33% increase from 2019.

“The goal of the McKenna Foundation is to support growing and thriving nonprofits that strengthen social services for residents of New Braunfels and Comal County,” said Kristen Fain, the McKenna Foundation’s program officer. “Ultimately, we work toward a lasting impact on the lives of people in our community. People change people’s lives. The nonprofit community is strong but needs to scale up to meet growing demand. The community needs more today, so we have to invest in people for tomorrow.”

Here are some other statistics about nonprofit organizations in Texas:

— There are 140,043 organizations in Texas, according to Cause IQ. These Texas nonprofit organizations employ 917,476 people, earn more than $191 billion in revenue annually and maintain assets of $499 billion.

— Organizations with less than $1 million in revenue account for 3.4% of combined nonprofit revenues, whereas organizations in Texas with more than $100 million account for 67.2% of nonprofit earnings.

— There are 10,357 organizations in the greater San Antonio metro area, including the cities of San Antonio and New Braunfels. These San Antonio metro nonprofits employ 78,493 people, earn more than $14 billion in revenue annually and maintain assets of $31 billion.

— Churches, schools, and foundations dominate the nonprofit sector, accounting for almost 40% of all nonprofits in the United States, according to Cause IQ. After that, about 15% of organizations are classic civil, social and business engagement organizations, including little leagues, chambers of commerce and fraternal organizations. The following 7% include emergency assistance providers, residential care facilities, and other human services. Another 7% are museums, arts groups and other cultural and humanities nonprofits. The remaining types of nonprofits

— about one-third of all nonprofits — all have 4% or less of the total and include everything from unions to environmental advocacy to think tanks and civil rights.

— According to Giving USA, charitable giving by individuals, endowments, foundations and corporations in the U.S. amounted to $449.64 billion in 2019, one of the highest years ever for charitable giving.

For a nonprofit resource directory, click here.

Communities in Schools marking 30 years of supporting South Central Texas students

August 7, 2023

Communities In Schools of South Central Texas is marking 30 years of supporting and changing the lives of area students.

Communities In Schools South Central Texas began its mission by the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce to assist students in grades K-12 to achieve in schools, graduate and experience success throughout their lives.

“It started small,” Chief Executive Officer Chris Douglas said. “It came about because of a group of Chamber of Commerce members and educators. There’s a group called the Business Education Partnership, which aims to help support education in the community. The educators came to them and said, ‘We need help. We have kids who have problems at home, and we don’t have anyone at home in our school who can go help them.'”

The group found information about the Communities in Schools program, which was already operating in other areas of the state. State funding was available to commence a new program here.

What started as a program serving five schools with a $393,000 budget in 1993 has grown to 55 schools in three counties with a $5.6 million budget.

“At the beginning, it was hard for people to know who we were and what we did because our offices were inside of a school district, and all of our staff served at schools,” Douglas said. “If you didn’t know who we were, you didn’t know we existed.”

In 1998, thanks to the Braunfels Foundation Trust, CIS established its home in the Hinman House in downtown New Braunfels, allowing the agency to receive some visibility and name recognition. The historic home, which dates to around 1868, remains the CIS headquarters today.

CIS places highly trained professional site coordinators inside the schools who have relationships with students and work hand-in-hand with the school to help identify students’ needs. Schools, businesses and community agencies work with site coordinators to support students and families.

Site coordinators provide specific resources: one-on-one mentoring with a caring adult, counseling and supportive guidance, food assistance, clothing and shoes, rent and utility assistance, behavioral and academic support, and linkages to community resources.

“You don’t think about it, but do you have any idea how many kids are in middle school and have never had their own pair of shoes? They’re using a hand-me-down pair,” Douglas said. “What does that do to their self-esteem? They believe that they are a second-rate person because they don’t have their own pair of shoes.”

Through individualized interventions and a family of support, students traverse a personal journey of hope, goal achievement and meaning in their lives.

During the program’s infancy here in South Central Texas, according to Chief Program Officer Susan Wetz, some of the main issues the organization combating were a lot of basic needs and helping to make kids feel comfortable at school.”

“It’s interesting to see the trajectory of how far we have come,” Wetz said. “But back then, we were reaching out to the community to help educate them but also to establish those partnerships, getting out to the churches and specific organizations to develop partnerships so they could support our students and the needs they had.”

Many of the youth CIS serves are from families experiencing poverty, substance abuse, and poor mental health – a home environment that is not conducive to healthy living and a good moral compass. All CIS services and programs support the goal of providing safe and healthy environments for students both at school and at home for the good of our community.

During the 2021-2022 school year, CIS staff members and its army of mentors and volunteers served more than 39,000 students in 55 schools in the New Braunfels, Marion, Comal, Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City and Seguin school districts.

In 2012, an evaluation underwritten by The Atlantic Philanthropies comparing the results to over 1,600 studies screened by the U.S. Dept. of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse concluded that the CIS model resulted in the strongest reduction in dropout rates of any existing fully scaled dropout prevention program that has been evaluated.

That success continued during the 2021-2022 school year. Among CIS case-managed students, 98% of seniors graduated or received a GED and 99% remained in school until the end of the school year.

In addition, 79% met or made progress toward their attendance improvement goal, 99% of students in K-11 earned promoted to the next grade, 92% met or made progress towards their academic improvement goals, and 81% met or made progress towards their behavior improvement goals.

As part of its school-based programs, CIS provided 4,448 students with intensive ongoing services during the 2021-2022 academic year; 239 students received mentor services, and 186 students received clinical counseling.

CIS began addressing student mental health as a critical priority in 2014. The agency provides mental health services, including contracted mental health counselors and the implementation of our Signs of Suicide (SOS) program to focus on students’ mental health and suicide prevention. SOS provides tools for adults and students to identify signs and symptoms of depression, suicidality and self-injury in themselves and their peers.

The program teaches students the importance of involving a caring adult to get help for suicidal peers. CIS has designed this school-based mental health program to help youth navigate the often tricky path of adolescence. Using a simple and easy-to-remember acronym ACT (acknowledge, care and tell), students learn steps to take if they encounter a situation that requires help from a trusted adult.

The organization provided 47,590 hours of mental health services during the 2021-2022 school year. The Texas Education Agency and Health and Human Services Commission has recognized CIS with a best practice designation for its early mental health and intervention practices.

The unique CIS model works because it’s based on national research, driven by community relationships and supported by local resources. Most importantly, it works because CIS staff members, volunteers and mentors see it in their faces and hear it in the stories of thousands of students and alums assisted in the last 30 years.

CIS programs also go beyond the moment students cross the stage to receive their high school diplomas.

Providing tutoring, literacy programs, career planning, employment training and job shadowing, leadership skills training, and CIS’ unique Project Success college readiness program gives students the skill set necessary to be successful in today’s workforce.

Project Success, which began in 2006, is designed to remove barriers to college and career access and increase a CIS student’s ability to succeed in life after high school. The program provides individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, field trips to area colleges/universities and local corporations, assistance with SAT/ACT testing, college applications, financial aid and scholarship assistance.

CIS developed Bootcamp, an intensive eight-week summer program led by CIS staff and alums to enhance Project Success and impact more young lives. It’s an adventure wilderness program providing the necessary skills to help our young people become accomplished and productive community citizens.

Bootcampers learn leadership skills, participate in team-building activities, and receive GRIT training (persistence, determination and resilience). Participants go on field trips to local businesses and colleges to discover insider tips on career opportunities, industry expectations, college resources, resume building and interviewing skills. In 2013, CIS created an alumni association.

University professors and community business leaders teach study and time management skills, professor expectations, dressing for business success, banking skills, interviewing skills, and business expectations. Bootcamp participants also help with community projects, such as food distribution, volunteering at local churches and working on service projects at state parks.

CIS, a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization governed by a board of directors, is not a branch of the school districts but is funded partly by contracts with school districts, with 20% of its budget coming from the Texas Education Agency. Fundraising efforts, generous individual, foundation and corporation donors, events such as An Evening Under the Stars, Dining with the Stars, NBU Kinderschuhe, Pack the Bus and the CIS Wurstfest booth account for the bulk of remaining needed funds.

In 2010, CIS opened a thrift store at 1058 Business IH 35 North. Proceeds support the thousands of students and families the organization serves. The store accepts gently used clothing, housewares, home décor, furniture and other items.

For more about the organization or to learn about giving opportunities or becoming a mentor, email or visit online at Visit the CIS national website at