McKenna Foundation seeks community input to determine Impact Grant recipients

November 27, 2023: The McKenna Foundation plans to culminate a great year by gifting two nonprofit partners with unrestricted $10,000 Impact Grants. And the Foundation needs your help.

This year, the McKenna Foundation invites the public to participate by nominating a deserving nonprofit organization serving Comal County to receive a grant. Is there an organization that has gone above and beyond? Has an organization been a stellar partner with the community? Who deserves some extra appreciation?

Click here until Dec. 6 to nominate a nonprofit. Please include a couple of sentences supporting the organization you want the Foundation to recognize this year.

“For many years, we have recognized a nonprofit that has made an extra special impact,” said Kristen Fain, McKenna’s program officer. “In the past, we’ve asked our nonprofit partners to nominate one of their peers. However, this year, we’d like the community to share with us which nonprofit agencies they would like to receive the grants.”

The Foundation will announce the recipient during its annual Christmas Breakfast on Dec. 12 at the McKenna Center and on its website.

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

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

New Braunfels Police Department invites families, friends of crime victims to Tree of Angels ceremony

Verna Lee, executive advisor of People Against Violent Crime, initiated the Tree of Angels in Austin in 1991 to recognize that the holiday season can be a difficult time for victims and their families.
Since its inception, the Tree of Angels has become a tradition observed in many Texas communities.

The New Braunfels Police Department and the local criminal justice community invite families and friends of a victim of crime, along with the public, to participate in the inaugural Tree of Angels ceremony next month.

The ceremony will occur on Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the McKenna Events Center, 801 W. San Antonio St. in New Braunfels.

Families and friends of a victim of crime are invited to bring an Angel ornament to place on a special tree and take part in the ceremony remembering lives touched by crime. A candle-lighting ceremony will also take place during the service.

Organizers for the ceremony, New Braunfels Police Department victim liaisons Priscilla Drozd and Lisa Sargent, said they plan to set up a table for those who wish to bring and display a photo of their loved one.

“Priscilla and I would like to invite members of the community whose lives have been impacted by the loss of a loved one, due to a violent crime, to come honor and celebrate their friends and family at the first Tree of Angels Ceremony in Comal County,” Sargent said.

Speakers and participants for the ceremony include Reghan Thibodeaux from the Guadalupe Valley Family Violence Shelter, Comal County Sheriff’s Office victim liaison Vanessa Paulini, Bishop Michael Franklin, New Braunfels Police Chief Keith Lane, District Attorney Jennifer Tharp and Comal County Sheriff Mark Reynolds.

No RSVP is required.

For more information about the service, contact the NBPD’s crime victim liaisons: Priscilla Drozd at 830-221-4576, email or Lisa Sargent at 830-221-4574, email

JEWELL: Moving toward community mental wellness

McKenna Foundation CEO Alice Jewell

Our McKenna history began in 1953 with the opening of this community’s first hospital. The next 50 years brought change, expansion, and ultimately financial success and stability to the organization. In 2008, at the time of the sale of the hospital to the Christus San Rosa Health System, the board and staff of our newly formed foundation had little experience as a grant maker and knew there was much to learn. This realization shaped our early roles in the community as ones of convener, listener and partner.

From the beginning, we started asking a lot of questions and we maintain the same level of curiosity today. Which community needs are being met? Where are the gaps in resources? Do we have nonprofits operating with the capacity to meet those needs? Who needs to be part of our conversations? We engage community stakeholders- including nonprofit staff and board members, public leadership, school representatives, and faith-based providers- on a regular basis. While the education provided and ideas shared are successes in themselves, the planning and goal setting that come from these conversations provide an invaluable path to positive outcomes.

Our first formal community convening was around mental and behavioral health with the goals of identifying needs, gaps in services, and ultimately a list of funding priorities to improve the system of care. Beginning in October 2014 and culminating in February 2015, about 30 nonprofit agencies as well as city, county, and school officials created a community vision and goals:

We envision unfettered access to quality, community-based mental health services throughout Comal County for families, children, and adults. We expect that services will reflect evidence-based practices whenever possible. In order to accomplish this vision, we intend to work together in multiple ways to:

— Promote community education and prevention.

— Develop a comprehensive continuum of locally available services that address the needs of the community.

— Expand and improve access to services for the outlying communities.

Over the past decade, local mental and behavioral wellness opportunities have grown extensively due to dedicated and passionate service providers and their collaborative partnerships alongside investments by McKenna and other funders. The McKenna Foundation board has committed $6.5 million in mental and behavioral health funding over the past 10 years to help meet the needs of our neighbors. Highlights of that investment toward new mental health infrastructure in our community include:

— Creation of a Mobile Crisis Outreach Team that responds to mental crisis anywhere 24/7.

— Creation of Mental Advocacy Partners:

— The first nonprofit mental health clinic in Canyon Lake operated by Hill Country MHDD.

— Major building improvements for the New Braunfels 24 Club.

— Therapeutic counseling for students through Communities in Schools.

— Seeding the operation and new facility for RecoveryWerks! for teens and young adults with substance use disorder and their families.

— A new facility for River City Advocacy and Counseling Center.

We are proud to have been part of the good work of so many, whose enthusiasm set us on a journey toward mental wellness in the community.

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.

New Braunfels Food Bank invites families, individuals for inaugural Thanksgiving meal event

The New Braunfels Food Bank, in collaboration with the McKenna Foundation, the Rotary Club of New Braunfels and St. John’s Episcopal Church, invite the public to celebrate Thanksgiving and partake in a holiday meal event.
The Food Bank and its partners will welcome families and individuals for the inaugural New Braunfels Family Gathering on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 1620 S. Seguin Ave., in New Braunfels.

The event features a delectable chef-prepared holiday meal to share this special occasion with the community, especially those who may be experiencing social isolation during a time when many reflect on gratitude.

“We are delighted to host this event and we hope to provide an excellent meal and experience to the entire community,” said Monica Borrego, the Food Bank’s executive director. “Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude and sharing and that is what we hope to bring to each person who joins us for our new tradition. We extend a big thank you to all the partners who are making this possible. We could not do this without their support.”

To secure a place at the table, take a moment to register at Donors can also make monetary contributions to the event on the website.

In addition, Arlan’s Market, located at 559 W. San Antonio St. in New Braunfels, will offer customers an opportunity to donate $10 to the event to cover the cost of pies. Customers should let their cashier know they would like to add the donation to their total when checking out.

The Food Bank is also offering sponsorships for the event. For more information, visit