Communities In Schools, RecoveryWerks! receive year-end McKenna Foundation Impact Grants

December 12, 2023

Communities In Schools and RecoveryWerks! each received an unrestricted $10,000 Impact Grant from the McKenna Foundation, highlighting the end of a successful 2023 grant-gifting season.

The announcement of the awarding of the grants came during the annual Christmas Breakfast at the McKenna Events Center on Dec. 12.

The Foundation previously asked nonprofit partners to nominate one of their peers. This year, however, the Foundation invited the public to participate in selecting two deserving nonprofit organizations serving Comal County to receive grants. The Foundation received more than 3,300 nominations from members of the public.

In addition to nominating an agency, the Foundation asked participants to include a statement supporting their nominee.

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.

“RecoveryWerks! stands out as an organization deserving special recognition due to its unwavering commitment to supporting individuals in their journey towards recovery from addiction and mental health challenges,” an individual wrote in their nomination statement. “Through their innovative programs and empathetic approach, they’ve created a nurturing environment that fosters health and empowerment. Their dedication to destigmatizing mental health issues and providing accessible resources reflects their profound impact on countless lives, making them a beacon of hope within the community.”

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.

Staffers work with family members on how to enable recovery versus enabling addiction. The agency maintains a 12-step support group meeting for parents and grandparents, while other counselors have a 12-step support meeting for the teens.

The agency also offers 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.

“When we started this, there was such a big stigma, and I didn’t know how things would work out in New Braunfels, said Program Director Joanne Daxon to breakfast attendees. “We did start up with such a small group, and I am just honored to be part of RecoveryWerks! I’m totally grateful.”

Communities In Schools of South Central Texas celebrated its 30th anniversary this year in its mission of supporting and changing the lives of area students.

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.

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.

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

In nominating CIS, one person wrote that the agency “continuously goes above and beyond to do whatever it takes to help students and families with all the challenges in their daily lives.”

“Additionally,” the individual went on, “the mental health crisis in our schools is not getting better, and with the assistance of CIS, the students are shown tools and coping skills to help them navigate the big emotions students need help with.”

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 an excellent moral compass. All CIS services and programs support the goal of providing safe and healthy environments for students at school and home for our community’s good.

“What an opportunity to hear back from our constituents, then to also be recognized in front of my peers,” CEO Chris Douglas said to breakfast attendees. “I am blessed to be here – it will be 27 years. It’s just amazing work, right? Working in a nonprofit – there’s nothing like it…this money means a lot to us this year.”

During the 2021-2022 school year, CIS staff members, 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.

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.

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 more than $2.1 million in grants to 42 nonprofit organizations in Comal County.

Visit the Foundation’s website at

Inaugural Tree of Angels ceremony honors local violent crime victims, families, friends

December 11, 2023

Many anticipate the joyous events that make up the holiday season. However, those affected by violent crime or the loss of a loved one, can find this time incredibly challenging.

Families and friends of victims of violent crime gathered at the McKenna Events Center on Dec. 6 for the Tree of Angels ceremony, a meaningful Christmas program held explicitly in memory and support of victims of violent crime. The New Braunfels Police Department and the local law enforcement and justice community organized the event.

The Tree of Angels allows communities to recognize that the holiday season is a difficult time for families and friends who have suffered the impact of a violent crime. It was the first time the New Braunfels community hosted a Tree of Angels ceremony.

“My heart is both heavy and hopeful,” said Delilah Reyes of the Thriving Heart Crisis Center, addressing attendees. “The holiday season is often filled with joy and celebration. It can also be a time of profound difficulties for families and friends of those who have lost their loved one to an act of violence.”

During the invocation, Bishop Michael Franklin, president of the MLK Association, cited the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The special event honored and supported surviving victims and victims’ families by making it possible for loved ones to bring an angel ornament to place on a Christmas tree.

“We would like to dedicate this tree tonight to victims who have lost their lives to violent crime or are missing,” said New Braunfels Police Department crime victim liaison Lisa Sargent. “Tonight, we honor them and recognize the void left behind and the impact that is left on the families, friends and our community,”

Members of the New Braunfels Police Department Honor Guard escorted each family to the tree to place their angel ornament.

Vanessa Paulini, a crime victim liaison with the Comal County Sheriff’s Office, read a proclamation issued by Comal County commissioners. The New Braunfels City Council also issued a proclamation recognizing the event.

The first program was established in December 1991 by Verna Lee, executive advisor of People Against Violent Crime in Austin. Since then, the Tree of Angels has become a tradition in many communities.

A candle-lighting ceremony also was part of the service, with New Braunfels Police Chief Keith Lane, District Attorney Jennifer Tharp and Comal County Sheriff Mark Reynolds lighting candles representing peace, hope and healing.

“These candles represent a journey we are all taking,” said NBPD crime victim liaison Priscilla Drozd, introducing the candle-lighting ceremony. “It’s not by choice, but of circumstances, and in the darkness, we can find light.”

In addition, event organizers set up a lighted display containing the names of violent crime victims and a table for those wishing to bring a photo of their loved ones.

Below the names of the crime victims, the lighted board states, “Your wings were ready, but our hearts were not.”

Performing on guitar, NBPD Lt. Joe Robles provided music for the event, leading attendees in singing “Silent Night” to end the service.

The Tree of Angels is on dislay at the New Braunfels Police Department headquarters on West San Antonio Street through the holiday season.

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 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

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