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 servespot.org. For additional information regarding donations or the program, email admin@nbhousingpartners.org or call 830-606-9526.

McKenna Foundation offers ‘Match Minutes’ during The Big Give

September 11, 2023

The McKenna Foundation plans to offer The Big Give participants two opportunities to potentially double their donations to their favorite local nonprofit agency during the event later this month.

For 10 years, The Nonprofit Council has presented The Big Give. This annual 24-hour online giving day helps connect South Central Texas nonprofits with new and existing donors through its website at thebiggive.org. Since 2014, The Big Give has helped organizations raise over $40 million from over 283,000 individual donors.

This year, The Big Give will start at 6 p.m. on Sept. 20 and conclude at 6 p.m. on Sept. 21. The McKenna Foundation will support two five-minute “Match Minutes” windows, allowing donors to double their donations to local nonprofits.

The first window takes place from 11:10 to 11:15 p.m. on Sept. 20, with an available fund of $5,000. The Foundation will match all online gifts up to $100 that occur during the designated five-minute window until the $5,000 fund runs out.

The second window runs from 8:10 to 8:15 a.m. on Sept. 21 and includes an available fund of $5,000. Only gifts processed online during the specified window will receive a match.

Jacob Huereca, CEO of Connections Individual and Family Services, said The Big Give allows the organization to leverage matching funds to do more for children and families.

“This event provides a wonderful opportunity to share critical information about what organizations do in our communities as well as give our community members opportunities to support these organizations financially,” Huereca said. “During the Big Give, there are ample opportunities for funds to be matched, which means if you donate $20, that can often mean the nonprofit will receive $40 or more depending on the matching funds available. The Big Give significantly impacts nonprofits that rely upon fundraising dollars to provide critical services in our community.”

Debi Dickensheets, executive director of RecoveryWerks!, said McKenna match minutes are a fantastic way for those supporting recovery for teens and their families to achieve an even greater impact.

“A lot of times, our families are financially strapped when they start coming to RecoveryWerks! but they love jumping into the McKenna match minutes through the Big Give,” Dickensheets said. “It allows them to give back to the program and have a bigger impact. We rely on the donations of our community to keep our program funded. McKenna match minutes through the Big Give are a huge part of maintaining these programs available for our teens and their families.”

Agencies that are current and former Foundation grantees whose operations are primarily located in Comal County are eligible for the matching funds. The Foundation recommends donors have their donation form filled out a minute or two beforehand so that once the five-minute period hits, they can submit their donation for the best chances of being matched.

Agencies eligible for the McKenna match are Any Baby Can, Believe It Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Comal and Guadalupe counties, Bulverde Spring Branch Activity Center, CASA of Central Texas, Children’s Advocacy Center of Comal County, Chosen, Comal County Conservation Alliance, Comal County Habitat for Humanity, Communities In Schools South Central Texas, Connections Individual and Family Services, Crisis Center of Comal County, CRRC of Canyon Lake, EdenHill Communities and Family Life Center.

Organizations also eligible are Headwaters at the Comal, Hope Hospice, NB Housing Partners – First Footing Program, New Braunfels Christian Ministries, New Braunfels Food Bank, New Braunfels Public Library Foundation, New Braunfels Youth Collaborative, RecoveryWerks!, River City Advocacy & Counseling Center, Rock Haus Foundation, SJRC Texas, STEPS Solutions That Equip People for Success and The Salvation Army – New Braunfels.

The success of The Big Give will be measured by the amount of money raised and the tremendous impact those dollars will have when nonprofits across Comal County and South Central Texas put them to work. Join the giving on Sept. 20-21 at thebiggive.org.

Suicide prevention organization founder comes to NB Sept. 13 for Brauntex event

September 7, 2023

On Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m., New Braunfles and the Brauntex Theare will welcome Sam Eaton, author of “Recklessly Alive: What My Suicide Attempt Taught Me About God and Living Life to the Fullest.” He’s a powerful voice, dedicated to eradicating suicide deaths worldwide.

In 2011, Eaton gave himself an ultimatum — on Christmas Day, he would either end his life or never think about suicide again.

“I wrote goodbye letters and boxed up my belongings because I believed my life was meaningless and disposable,” Sam says on his recklesslyalive.com website.

In 2020, he published his first book entitled “Recklessly Alive: What My Suicide Attempt Taught Me About God and Living Life to the Fullest.” The book became a No. 1 Amazon best-seller.

Sam will share his story to equip and empower the New Braunfels community to engage in real and honest conversations about mental health, depression and suicide. The presentation is free and open to the public. The Walmart Foundation, Downtown Rotary Club of New Braunfels and Sissy Preston sponsor the event.

The event is free. To reserve a seat, click here.

For more information about the Brauntex, visit brauntex.org.

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 breaks visitor records in 2022

February 9, 2023

The McKenna Children’s Museum in New Braunfels, overseen by the McKenna Foundation, saw a year of record-breaking visitors and sales in 2022.

The Museum admitted 111,965 visitors in 2022, surpassing the previous top mark of 91,427 in 2017.

Admission sales also broke a record, with $523,221 in 2022, surpassing the 2018 mark of $409,052.

The Museum’s membership sales, which totaled $185,372 in 2022 and gift shop sales of $218,108, also represented top marks in those categories.

At the Museum, children discover a world of art and creativity, science and technology, culture, health, and history, engaging with educational exhibits designed to stimulate learning and encourage information.

“We’re very proud of the success we had in 2022,” said Isabel Martinez, the Museum’s operations manager. “We want to thank all of our visitors and members who came to the Museum and hope they will visit us again and again in 2023 for more fun and educational experiences.”

McKenna developed this unique hands-on experience to provide tools to help nurture a child’s well-being. Children explore in a safe and secure place while parents share in their child’s learning experience.

Admission for children older than 12 months and adults is $8 per person. School visits are available year around. Contact the Museum at 830-606-9525 for further information. All children must be accompanied by an adult 16 and up.

The Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed on Sunday and for major holidays.
For more information and a calendar of events, visit https://mckennakids.org.