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 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

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 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

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 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.

RecoveryWerks! readies for National Recovery Month; Sept. 15 Open House

Sept. 6, 2023

September is National Recovery Month, an observance promoting and supporting new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the nation’s recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and communities who make recovery possible. The 2023 theme is “Recovery is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community.”

Comal County is home to several organizations that promote, encourage and celebrate recovery daily. RecoveryWerks!, a local nonprofit, is one such organization.

RecoveryWerks! provides recovery support services for teenagers and young adults experiencing problems with substance use. Through state-certified peer recovery support specialists, they provide counseling, peer coaching, support group meetings, sober social activities, role modeling and accountability to help young people discover the freedom of life without the effects of mind-changing chemicals.

“We know that to young people, their peer group means everything,” said Zach Saunders, a licensed chemical dependency counselor and RecoveryWerks! youth services program director. “Nowadays, when a kid tries to become sober, it’s very different. It’s virtually impossible to avoid contact with other kids experiencing substance abuse problems. Ultimately, when we identify a young person with a substance abuse issue, they need a different set of friends. They need a different place to be. That’s what we try to provide.”

In addition to working with teens and young adults, RecoveryWerks! provides similar support to family members, ages nine and above, who have a loved one struggling with substance use disorder.

“Family members come here because their teen is in trouble, and they want to get them help,” said RecoveryWerks! Executive Director Debi Dickensheets. “The parents are concerned with their teenager dying or going down a path that is not recoverable. We work with the family members on how to enable recovery versus enabling addiction. We have a 12-step support group meeting for parents and grandparents, while other counselors are having a 12-step support meeting for the teens. We also have a 12-step support group meeting for brothers and sisters who are not using between the ages of nine and 17. Everybody in the group gets tools on how to help enable recovery.”

The Comal County Commissioners Court recently proclaimed September as National Recovery Month in Comal County, recognizing that while mental health and substance use disorders affect all communities nationwide, many within the community have embarked on a journey of improved health and overall wellness.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, launched National Recovery Month in 1989 to increase public awareness surrounding mental health and addiction recovery.

On Sept. 15, RecoveryWerks! is hosting a fun night for the entire family to celebrate the outpouring of community support for persons in recovery and the many lives changed through the recovery process.

The free event will be held at 790 Landa St. in New Braunfels from 6 – 10 p.m., featuring music, games, prizes, food trucks, community resources tables and an outdoor family movie that begins at sunset. The public is invited to bring lawn chairs, bring the family, and help celebrate National Recovery Month in the community.

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.