McKenna Foundation awards $200,000 in funding to strengthen local family relationship programs

Oct. 26, 2023: The McKenna Foundation awarded $200,000 in grant funding to eight nonprofit organizations in Comal County in this year’s third and final round of grantmaking.

The Foundation awarded family relationship program grants to first-time recipients 1HOPE for Kids and Project 10:27 Inc.

1HOPE for Kids, a licensing foster and adoption agency, received funding for its Providing Hope and a Home for Kids in Crisis program, which offers a multifaceted approach to foster family assistance, recruiting, training and verifying families, as well as working alongside biological families to make necessary changes toward restoration. The agency also provides adoption services and partners with churches to establish and foster adoption ministries while developing support for foster families within their home churches.

Assisting Project 10:27 Inc. in its commitment to alleviating loneliness and social isolation experienced by senior adults, the Foundation granted funds for the agency’s planned expansion of engagement and outreach efforts with Comal County seniors, which includes its Caring Connections Card program and support of home and nursing home visits.

The Foundation also awarded grants to Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas, Bulverde Spring Branch Activity Center, CASA of Central Texas, Chosen Care Inc., Hope Hospice Foundation and New Braunfels Angels for its family relationship programs.

“The McKenna Foundation values families and funds programs that support all generations – kids, adults, and seniors,” said CEO Alice Jewell. “Ultimately, children thrive when their parents do. People’s needs change over time based on internal and external conditions, and Comal County is fortunate to have nonprofits with strong programs that meet needs for a lifetime.”

Foundation board members approved the grant requests during their October meeting.

McKenna’s family relationships portfolio is designed to fund nonprofit organizations providing skills and support to strengthen the family bond.

Funding areas for family relationship grants include youth development, parenting support, abuse/neglect prevention and recovery and senior services.

This year, the Foundation gifted nearly $2.1 million in grants to 42 nonprofit organizations in Comal County.

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.

McKenna began making grants to community nonprofits in 2009 and has since awarded nearly $30 million in grants to nonprofit organizations serving New Braunfels and Comal County residents.

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

JEWELL: McKenna investment realized through NBCF

McKenna Foundation CEO Alice Jewell

Oct. 24, 2023:

This year marks 70 years of McKenna in the community; a milestone our namesake most likely never thought would include not only a hospital operation, but also supplementary medical support businesses, a grantmaking foundation, a children’s museum and an events center. The constant amongst each of these efforts, however, was the catalytic energy Howard McKenna first embodied that powered the creation of these service lines by, for, and alongside community partners.

The McKenna Foundation was established from the sale of McKenna Memorial Hospital to the CHRISTUS Santa Rosa System and since that time, the foundation has been inspired to act and invest by many other catalytic individuals and nonprofits. One of the first intentional investments began in 2009 when a local group of civic-minded individuals envisioned the New Braunfels Community Foundation (NBCF) and approached the McKenna Foundation for operational seed funding.

A community foundation offers individuals and families a professional and efficient way to leverage their charitable giving and maximize their impact on community need through donor-advised funds, field of interest funds, legacy giving, giving circles and scholarship funds. Donations to a community foundation are invested together which allows for a larger asset amount and, hopefully, higher returns on those investments.

The McKenna Foundation board of trustees saw great value in launching the NBCF for many reasons, the most compelling being that the growing community of New Braunfels needed another philanthropic institution that could cultivate more funds and donors to meet neighbors’ needs then, now and in the future.

The two foundations complement each other. McKenna as the perpetual, static asset invested in the stock market that would slowly grow over time, and the NBCF as a dynamic fund that constantly grows and will develop into a large endowment representing a broad cross-section of charitable donors’ interests and passions. These two organizations, alongside the United Way of Comal County, form a three-legged stool from which community nonprofits find resources and respite to support their work and the populations they serve.

Between 2012 and 2019, the McKenna Foundation invested $850,000 in seed and operational funding for NBCF. McKenna also assisted with grants to seven local nonprofit organizations to start their own endowment funds and seeded the creation of two field of interest funds: the Community Endowment for the Arts and the Comal Emergency Relief Fund. McKenna donates office space to the NBCF, and co-location of the two entities allows for constant communication and invaluable collaboration to benefit the nonprofit sector.

Almost 15 years after conversations about the NBCF began, the McKenna Foundation board and staff could not be prouder of their partner’s accomplishments and satisfied with almost a $1.5 million investment realized. To date, the NBCF endowment has grown to almost $14 million through 140 different funds, and their donors and board have provided another $14 million in grants to area nonprofit organizations as a result.

This community tool is available to all — including you. Whether you have a little or a lot to share, there is a vehicle the NBCF can provide to help you give back to the community that has given so much to us all. For more information about those opportunities, visit

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.

October IDEA Forum meeting to focus on community mental health response efforts

Oct. 18, 2023: The public is invited to attend the next New Braunfels IDEA Forum general meeting to hear about area mental health response efforts.

Good mental health is an integral part of a person’s overall well-being. It allows people to cope with challenges, connect with others and thrive. However, stigma and fear can prevent those in need from reaching out for help.

Recognizing the importance of community mental health services and supports, the October IDEA Forum general membership will explore the community’s mental health response efforts.

The meeting takes place on Oct. 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the New Braunfels Police Department headquarters at 3030 W. San Antonio St.

Speakers will include New Braunfels Police Chief Keith Lane, Officers Krifka and Cruz of NBPD’s Mental Health Unit, Maria Hoenigman with the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater San Antonio and Jennifer Nieto of Hill Country Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Centers.

Additionally, River City Advocacy, Connections and Mental Advocacy Partners – Comal County representatives will be on hand to answer any questions about their services.

Additional information on the IDEA Forum and future events can be found at

About the IDEA Forum: The IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Awareness) Forum examines racial, economic, and social inequities in New Braunfels, while promoting citizen dialogue and cooperation, to develop solutions for a lasting understanding of all groups within the community. While the IDEA Forum was created in 2020, the group has already raised awareness within the New Braunfels Police Department. The group has made strong connections with the New Braunfels MLK Association, the local LULAC chapter and several religious organizations in the area. The IDEA Forum was initially convened through City of New Braunfels leadership and staff, but administration of the initiative was assumed by the McKenna Foundation to ensure the sustainability of the effort.

Nonprofits gearing up for The Big Serve

Oct. 10, 2023: The 2023 edition of The Big Serve is coming up this weekend, Oct. 14-15, an opportunity for local churches, volunteers and nonprofits to link arms together and serve the community.

The event is conducted similarly to a career fair. Instead of connecting job seekers with employers, it connects volunteers with the nonprofits that need them.

During the event, nonprofits would be present for people to learn about the organizations’ missions and sign up to get involved.

ServeSpot is the official online portal of the event, where all projects will be listed for volunteers to pick and choose their cause for the weekend.

By visiting, which lists nonprofit organizations, volunteers can peruse a cause to support.

The online directory for volunteer work includes options for working with schools through specific skills, child-friendly opportunities and an option to look at all opportunities.

Big Serve opportunities include beautifying Landa Park, beautifying the outdoor space for seniors at EdenHill or creating plastic mats for neighbors experiencing homelessness.

Ongoing volunteer opportunities are listed also. Last year, the Big Serve saw more than 1,100 volunteers help 35 nonprofit organizations in New Braunfels.

Serve Spot recently received national attention through the release of a new book, “Love Our Cities: How a city-wide volunteer day can unite and transform your community,” by Jeff Pishney and Eric Jung. The book spotlights different towns and organizations that help impact their respective communities.

For questions or comments about The Big Serve, click here.

Connections breaks ground on new 28,000-square-foot facility

Oct. 9, 2023: A New Braunfels-based nonprofit organization has taken the next step in its mission to support at-risk youth, breaking ground on a new 28,000-square-foot facility that will expand its service capacity.

Connections Individual and Family Services on Oct. 5 marked the start of the first phase of the project, which will provide residents of the emergency children’s shelter and transitional living home with improved facilities to support youth recovering from trauma.

Established in 1981, Connections offers support services for homeless, abused and at-risk youths, families and the communities in which they live. The agency serves 17 counties with counseling, prevention programming, an emergency children’s shelter and a youth transitional living program.

Connection’s chief executive officer, Jacob Huereca, described the expansion as a “once-in-a-generation” project.

“This is going to be a difference maker for the westside of this community,” Huereca said. “We’re going to revitalize this side of town. We’re going to bring hope for generations to come.”

The new campus at the agency’s West San Antonio Street address will bring together the emergency shelter and transitional living program, allowing youth to benefit from individual and group meeting spaces, therapy rooms and bedrooms designed for youth experiencing trauma.

The new campus will also enable growth within the counseling program to combat growing challenges with mental health.

The current residential homes have sheltered more than 5,000 youth during the agency’s 42-year history, according to Huereca. The agency has also provided counseling services to more than 10,000 children and substance abuse prevention services to more than 15,000 youth.

The expected completion of the first phase of the project is fall 2024. The second phase includes training and meeting spaces, community resource areas, counseling and prevention offices, play therapy and sensory rooms, intake rooms and administrative areas.

In addition to its emergency shelter and transitional living program, the agency offers free or reduced-cost counseling for youth and families and in-school and community events that support positive youth development and family stability.

Vanessa Dean, a former “foster kid” who had experienced homelessness as a youth, spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony about the difference the organization made in her life, stating that “these walls have a lot of stories.”

“When you walk into a place like this, it can be pretty terrifying,” Dean said. “You feel very alone but, yet you are surrounded by 20 other children. They don’t let you feel that way for very long here. They fill you up pretty quickly. I didn’t know what it was like to be loved on. I didn’t have much self-worth. Connections really made a difference.”

Huereca said that the agency has raised $5.4 million for the new project but has about $2.2 million to go.

“We’re going to be able to serve more kids,” he said. “And we’re going to be here 42 years from now, still bringing hope to the community.”

In 2021, the McKenna Foundation provided funding that allowed Connections to purchase land for the project.

For more information on Connections or to donate to its capital campaign, visit or call 830-629-6571 ext. 221.

NB Housing Partners’ First Footing program could move into new permanent facility as soon as December

Oct. 3, 2023: Workers are progressing to transform a former fire station into a permanent facility to serve New Braunfels’ homeless population. NB Housing Partners’ First Footing program hopes to move into the new digs, possibly as soon as December.

Since its establishment in February 2021, the First Footing program has been leasing local motel space to provide services to community members at risk for or experiencing homelessness. The program serves an average of about 30 individuals daily. The demand increases to nearly 50 individuals on cold weather nights.

NB Housing Partners moved the First Footing program into a new phase after it entered into a 25-year agreement earlier this year with the City of New Braunfels to lease the former fire station at 4120 Loop 337 for use as a shelter and community resource center.

The agency is investing significant funds in building and property improvements at the site to provide a crisis housing and outreach center containing a comprehensive intake process that helps connect individuals to community resources and housing opportunities. The program site will provide case management, basic needs, meals, medical care, behavioral healthcare, budgeting, employment/job assistance, benefit application assistance, housing navigation and planning, and congregate crisis housing (shelter).

“The building site was first constructed in the 1970s, so we have found there are some things that are really old and need replacing, such as exterior sewer lines, so we are in the process of doing that,” said Kellie Stallings, executive director of NB Housing Partners. “We are preparing the plumbing for additional showers and bathrooms in both buildings. We are now installing windows and doors, completing flooring, adding insulation to the roof and adding fixtures to the walls so that when we get to the end of November, hopefully, we will be ready to move in.”

Stallings said workers are also installing safety and security access items to the building, as well as fire suppression systems.

In addition to providing a safe place to stay and 24-hour staff coverage, the First Footing program offers support services such as identification document recovery, establishing employment and reestablishing benefit income such as retirement, disability, or food assistance, significantly increasing the likelihood that individuals develop and maintain long-term housing. The program also partners with Acacia Medical Mission for physical healthcare services and Hill Country MHDD for behavioral health services.

The facility will also serve as a cold-weather shelter room to protect the safety of individuals during extreme weather conditions.

Under the current motel-based structure, according to Stallings, the program currently accommodates about 34 people. The agency can serve 48 individuals in the new permanent facility. The project’s second phase will provide 25 additional people with shelter on cold weather evenings.

“In the last year, we have met with 508 individuals who are seeking help due to experiencing homelessness,” Stallings said. “Our shelter services are not large enough to serve that many, so expansion of both crisis housing and permanent housing are key to the ongoing health and safety of individuals served and our community. Our role is listening to someone’s story, finding out what their needs are and guiding them to solutions, which may be through our agency, through other community resources or other existing resources that they haven’t been able to navigate themselves, like reconnecting with family and friends or resources in a community where they used to live.”

The program focuses primarily on serving single men and couples, referring youth to Connections Individual and Family Services, and, whenever possible, directing single women and families to the Crisis Center of Comal County and Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels.

But the ultimate goal, Stallings said, is to guide individuals toward the path of permanent housing.

“We know the shelter addresses immediate crisis needs,” she said. “We can’t stop there. The main goal in our community and why NB Housing Partners started to begin with, is to build the housing capacity for all income levels in the community. There are a lot of frontline workers who live paycheck to paycheck. One health issue, family conflict or car breakdown will result in being evicted and experiencing homelessness. As a community, we can do better by ensuring more housing is available for our community neighbors who earn low to moderate incomes.”

The agency has acquired land on Church Hill Road to expand homelessness prevention support and add transitional and permanent housing for individuals or families experiencing housing insecurity. Plans call for building housing units available for people earning up to 200% of the poverty line and renovating a house on the property to allow the agency to serve five to nine individuals.

“Individuals and families will have support services to assist them in maintaining housing with rental rates below market value as they continue credit history improvements or eviction history recovery and build up their savings in order to transition to market value rent in the community,” she said.

Tax-deductible donations can be made to NB Housing Partners and mailed or dropped off at 801 W. San Antonio Street, New Braunfels, TX 78130. Individuals can volunteer for the program through the Serve Spot website at For additional information regarding donations or the program, email or call 830-606-9526.