McKenna Foundation seeking input from local childcare providers

The Mckenna Foundation is seeking support and participation from local early childcare providers to push forward in creating an ambitious yet practical future for our youngest learners.

The McKenna Foundation is organizing a series of collaborative sessions to address the challenges faced by local childcare providers and parents. These sessions aim to create a pathway toward affordable and high-quality early childhood care while simultaneously running a successful business.

To accomplish this, the Foundation is seeking the unique insights and experiences of local childcare providers to help shape a promising future for our children.

Local childcare providers are invited to join us and participate in the first Path Forward for Early Learning and Care meeting on August 24, from 10 am to 1 pm at the McKenna Events Center. Local providers who participate in all three sessions will be entered to win a complimentary field trip to the McKenna Children’s Museum for up to 50 children currently enrolled at their center.

If you are a local childcare provider and would like to participate in the Path Forward for Early Learning and Care sessions, RSVP by emailing Kristen Fain at

The McKenna Foundation recognizes that the challenges in early childhood care are significant and multifaceted, with a few of the key issues including:

HIGH COSTS: Childcare often costs more than in-state college tuition, making it a significant financial burden for families.

LOW WAGES: Childcare workers earn significantly less than workers in other sectors, such as retail.

LEGISLATION: Changes in licensure and business models are causing many childcare centers in Texas to close.

FUNDING GAPS: There is insufficient funding and support for early childhood education compared to K-12 education.

STAFFING: There is a high turnover rate and a shortage of trained teachers in the field.


These challenges highlight the need for increased investment and support for early childhood education to ensure that children, families, and childcare workers can thrive in our community.

For more information on early childhood care and education, click here.

New sauna amenities ready for seniors at 7Ten Activity Center

The new sauna at the 7Ten Activity Center is a relaxing feature that is available to seniors, veterans and disabled adults who are members of the Comal County Senior Citizens Foundation.

The sauna, located in the locker rooms for men and women, can help individuals enjoy the benefits of heat therapy, such as better blood circulation, less stress and more detoxification.

The Center’s executive director, Ken Lowery, said clients have given him a lot of positive feedback on the new amenity.

“Our clients are saying there won’t be long before there’s a waiting list to use the steam room,” Lowery said. We’ve completely renovated the steam rooms. We tore out the old and brought in new tile, flooring, drains and steaming equipment. It’s all in concrete now, so it will not deteriorate.”

The sauna is one of the many attractions at the 7Ten Activity Center, which used to be the YMCA building. The Foundation bought and renovated the 20,000-square-foot building a year ago and moved from its old location across the street. The Center’s executive director, Ken Lowery, says the aim is to make the building a modern and versatile facility for senior residents.

The Center offers a variety of activities for seniors, veterans, and disabled adults who want to stay active and engaged. The building contains administrative offices, a central area with three to four separate rooms, outdoor pools, locker rooms, and exercise spaces.

The central area has tile flooring and movable walls, allowing different configurations and uses. Groups can use the rooms for meetings, family gatherings and special events, generating income for the Center, which supports vital programs such as Meals on Wheels and wellness initiatives.

The Center offers a variety of programs, services, and activities for its members. A large room for arts and crafts is at the back of the building. Daily activities include card games, bingo, bean bag tournaments, dominoes, and craft classes. The Center also organizes bus trips and tours to different places, allowing seniors to explore and have fun.

The Center has an exercise area that overlooks the outdoor pool. It includes traditional equipment like treadmills, stationary bikes, and elliptical machines. It also has Echelon Reflect home gym mirrors, which provide virtual personalized training sessions for senior clients.

The Center is committed to the Meals on Wheels program, which serves about 14,000 meals each month to senior residents in Comal, Guadalupe, Wilson, and Karnes counties. The meals are free for the clients. The Center also offers a pet program covering home-bound clients’ veterinary care and food.

The Center was established in 1985 and supports seniors and disabled individuals aged 18 and older. The Center has expanded its services over the years and now offers a range of programs for its members.

The Center is proud to partner with the McKenna Foundation, which recently granted the Center $50,000 to support its senior nutrition program in Comal County. The program addresses food insecurity, hunger, and social isolation among senior residents. It includes initiatives such as Meals on Wheels and congregate meal programs offered at the Center.

For more information about the Center and its memberships, call 830-629-4547.

Herald-Zeitung: New Braunfels ISD unveils renovated Gateway building to help serve special ed students

February 12, 2024: The New Braunfels Independent School District and the Rock Haus Foundation recently celebrated the completion of a newly-renovated building, specifically designed to support students in the school district’s Gateway program. The Gateway program serves students aged 18 to 22 with special needs who have completed the campus-based portion of their education. It prepares them and their families for life after school, including aspects such as employment, volunteerism, recreation, transportation, and social events. The renovated building, located at 511 E. North St. in New Braunfels, will be home to this important program, with an expected move-in by Gateway during the 2023-24 school year.

Read more here.

NORAD is Ready to Track Santa’s Flight for the 68th Year

December 21, 2023: The North American Aerospace Defense Command is ready to track Santa on Dec. 24, for the program’s 68th year. NORAD monitors and defends North American airspace 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. On Dec. 24, NORAD has one additional mission: tracking Santa Claus as he makes his way across the globe, delivering presents to children.

The NORAD Tracks Santa website ( launched on Dec. 1. It features Santa’s North Pole Village, which includes a holiday countdown, games, movie theater, holiday music, web store, and more. The website is available in nine languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Chinese, and new this year, Korean.

The official NORAD Tracks Santa app is also in the Apple App and Google Play stores, to count down the days until Santa’s journey on mobile devices. NORAD Tracks Santa will also be available on digital media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and X, and on contributor platforms, Amazon Alexa, Bing, SiriusXM, and OnStar.

Trackers worldwide can call 1-877-HI-NORAD to ask our live operators about Santa’s location from 7 a.m. CST on Dec. 24 to 1 a.m. CST on Dec. 25. Also, website visitors will see Santa’s flight from 5 a.m. CST Dec. 24 to 1 a.m. CST Dec. 25.

The modern tradition of tracking Santa began in 1955 when a young child accidentally dialed the unlisted phone number of the CONAD Operations Center upon seeing an newspaper advertisement telling kids to call Santa. The Director of Operations, Colonel Harry Shoup, answered the phone and instructed his staff to check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole.

Thus a tradition was born, and continued when NORAD was formed in 1958. Each year since, NORAD has dutifully reported Santa’s location on Dec. 24 to millions of children and families across the globe.

McKenna Foundation marks 15 years of grantmaking

December 21, 2023: Community members, partners and friends gathered earlier this month to join the McKenna Foundation in celebrating a milestone – 15 years of grantmaking to nonprofit organizations in Comal County.

The Foundation began making grants to community nonprofits in 2009 and has since awarded more than 500 grants to 85 nonprofit organizations serving 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.

Broken down, the Foundation has gifted $726,630 for community development programs, $1.14 million for capacity building programs, $2.75 million for education programs, $2.97 million for family relationship programs, $3.58 million for physical health programs, $4.6 million for mental health programs, $5.89 million for capital funding programs and $6.96 million for basic needs programs.

“We are in the people business, the best kind of business there is,” said McKenna Foundation CEO Alice Jewell, addressing celebration attendees. “We have the ability to impact the entire community — from those in the most vulnerable situations to the people with the resources to care for them.”
In 2023, the Foundation gifted more than $2.1 million in grants to 42 nonprofit organizations in Comal County, serving 72,133 people.

Some have asked what this celebration tonight is all about – the answer is easy, Jewell said
“This celebration is about people,” Jewell said. “The people who built McKenna Memorial Hospital over its 54-year history as patients, staff and leadership. The people with the vision to negotiate the sale of a premiere hospital system and create an entity whose sole mission is to improve the lives of people. The people who took that Hospital and expanded and enriched its offerings for a more holistic opportunity for health care right here in New Braunfels. The people who, this very day, are committed to carrying on a legacy that is passionate and intentional. Those people are you. Physicians, clinicians, social workers, board members, volunteers, leaders, friends.”

The Foundation also oversees the McKenna Events Center and the Children’s Museum, which opened on April 1, 2006. Since then, those offerings remained a community need through which McKenna has served thousands of residents as a community partner.

“The grantmaking, Children’s Museum and Events Center are executed every day by an incredible staff team here at McKenna, who make this operation possible and impactful,” Jewell said. “Our culture here is one of caring for people first, and I am so grateful for their dedication to each other and our mission.”

The Children’s Museum has seen nearly 1.2 million visitors and the Events Center has hosted about 9,000 events.

Jewell also recognized Bill Morton, who was the Chair of the McKenna System Board of Directors, as well as prior Foundation chiefs Tim Brierty and Jerry Major.

The beginning of what would become the McKenna Foundation goes back about 70 years to when population growth prompted the need for a full-service hospital to serve the New Braunfels area.

Although two attempts in the late 1940s to establish a county-funded hospital in New Braunfels failed, a group of business and civic leaders led by Howard McKenna kept pursuing that vision.

The group set out to privately secure the funds to build a new hospital. Along with a host of peers, Mr. 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.

Mr. McKenna’s vision became a reality when New Braunfels residents 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 occurred 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 over 20 years.

Tremendous growth came to the Hospital during the following decades, including several multimillion-dollar facilities and equipment expansions. What began as a small community hospital became 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 that benefit 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 occurred on Jan. 31.

Genifer Rucker began her 30-year healthcare career as a transporter for the radiology department at McKenna Hospital, now Christus Santa Rosa Hospital. She currently serves as the Hospital’s president.

“McKenna is my family’s hospital,” Rucker said. “I feel so proud now that I’ve been asked to come back and lead and preserve the legacy that McKenna and all of you have participated in. I feel very obligated and very proud to preserve the culture, compassion and quality of care we provide for this community.”

The hospital sale brought two significant benefits to the New Braunfels community: the assurance of quality health care by Christus and the funding to create the McKenna Foundation, whose mission is to advance the well-being of the greater New Braunfels community.

“The McKenna family is one that is expanding every day, with one of my favorite branches of the tree being our nonprofit partners,” Jewell said. “Over 15 years, we have met some real characters. We fell in love with you and the work that you do serving people in this community. You all know that we are here for you — to support you from the front or the back or walk alongside.”

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.

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.

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.