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

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.”

National Nonprofit Day commemorates nonprofit organizations’ ongoing efforts to serve community

August 17, 2023

Today is National Nonprofit Day, commemorating the Tariff Act, which the U.S. Congress signed into law in 1894. The Tariff Act taxed corporations but excluded nonprofits in honor of their unique importance and significant societal contributions. Thank you to all nonprofits for your tireless work and dedication to making a positive impact on communities and causes around the world. Sherita J. Herring, an author and respected speaker, launched National Nonprofit Day.

Locally, nonprofit organizations have shown their resilience, simultaneously facing a pandemic and an increased need for services. During the pandemic, these vital organizations generated more revenue, hired more staff and served more people with life-saving goods and services. Without them, numerous families would have been homeless, hungry and hopeless.

“Nonprofits fill a significant role in this community in helping people survive and thrive — and they do it with professionalism, utmost care and precision from both a business and emotional perspective,” said McKenna Foundation CEO Alice Jewell. “They help people, but only with the support of the community around them.”

According to a 2021 McKenna Foundation survey, local nonprofit organizations served 272,281 unique clients in 2021, an 11% increase from the 245,226 clients seen in 2019.

Local nonprofits showed a 46% increase in annual revenue between 2019 and 2021. Organizations saw a yearly revenue of $82 million in 2021. Nonprofits also experienced a 36% increase in full-time jobs, from 542 in 2019 to 738 in 2021.

Nonprofit organizations put $68 million back into the local economy in 2021, a 33% increase from 2019.

“The goal of the McKenna Foundation is to support growing and thriving nonprofits that strengthen social services for residents of New Braunfels and Comal County,” said Kristen Fain, the McKenna Foundation’s program officer. “Ultimately, we work toward a lasting impact on the lives of people in our community. People change people’s lives. The nonprofit community is strong but needs to scale up to meet growing demand. The community needs more today, so we have to invest in people for tomorrow.”

Here are some other statistics about nonprofit organizations in Texas:

— There are 140,043 organizations in Texas, according to Cause IQ. These Texas nonprofit organizations employ 917,476 people, earn more than $191 billion in revenue annually and maintain assets of $499 billion.

— Organizations with less than $1 million in revenue account for 3.4% of combined nonprofit revenues, whereas organizations in Texas with more than $100 million account for 67.2% of nonprofit earnings.

— There are 10,357 organizations in the greater San Antonio metro area, including the cities of San Antonio and New Braunfels. These San Antonio metro nonprofits employ 78,493 people, earn more than $14 billion in revenue annually and maintain assets of $31 billion.

— Churches, schools, and foundations dominate the nonprofit sector, accounting for almost 40% of all nonprofits in the United States, according to Cause IQ. After that, about 15% of organizations are classic civil, social and business engagement organizations, including little leagues, chambers of commerce and fraternal organizations. The following 7% include emergency assistance providers, residential care facilities, and other human services. Another 7% are museums, arts groups and other cultural and humanities nonprofits. The remaining types of nonprofits

— about one-third of all nonprofits — all have 4% or less of the total and include everything from unions to environmental advocacy to think tanks and civil rights.

— According to Giving USA, charitable giving by individuals, endowments, foundations and corporations in the U.S. amounted to $449.64 billion in 2019, one of the highest years ever for charitable giving.

For a nonprofit resource directory, click here.

Communities in Schools marking 30 years of supporting South Central Texas students

August 7, 2023

Communities In Schools of South Central Texas is marking 30 years of supporting and changing the lives of area students.

Communities In Schools South Central Texas began its mission by the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce to assist students in grades K-12 to achieve in schools, graduate and experience success throughout their lives.

“It started small,” Chief Executive Officer Chris Douglas said. “It came about because of a group of Chamber of Commerce members and educators. There’s a group called the Business Education Partnership, which aims to help support education in the community. The educators came to them and said, ‘We need help. We have kids who have problems at home, and we don’t have anyone at home in our school who can go help them.'”

The group found information about the Communities in Schools program, which was already operating in other areas of the state. State funding was available to commence a new program here.

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.

“At the beginning, it was hard for people to know who we were and what we did because our offices were inside of a school district, and all of our staff served at schools,” Douglas said. “If you didn’t know who we were, you didn’t know we existed.”

In 1998, thanks to the Braunfels Foundation Trust, CIS established its home in the Hinman House in downtown New Braunfels, allowing the agency to receive some visibility and name recognition. The historic home, which dates to around 1868, remains the CIS headquarters today.

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.

“You don’t think about it, but do you have any idea how many kids are in middle school and have never had their own pair of shoes? They’re using a hand-me-down pair,” Douglas said. “What does that do to their self-esteem? They believe that they are a second-rate person because they don’t have their own pair of shoes.”

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

During the program’s infancy here in South Central Texas, according to Chief Program Officer Susan Wetz, some of the main issues the organization combating were a lot of basic needs and helping to make kids feel comfortable at school.”

“It’s interesting to see the trajectory of how far we have come,” Wetz said. “But back then, we were reaching out to the community to help educate them but also to establish those partnerships, getting out to the churches and specific organizations to develop partnerships so they could support our students and the needs they had.”

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

During the 2021-2022 school year, CIS staff members and its army of 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.

In 2012, an evaluation underwritten by The Atlantic Philanthropies comparing the results to over 1,600 studies screened by the U.S. Dept. of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse concluded that the CIS model resulted in the strongest reduction in dropout rates of any existing fully scaled dropout prevention program that has been evaluated.

That success continued during the 2021-2022 school year. Among CIS case-managed students, 98% of seniors graduated or received a GED and 99% remained in school until the end of the school year.

In addition, 79% met or made progress toward their attendance improvement goal, 99% of students in K-11 earned promoted to the next grade, 92% met or made progress towards their academic improvement goals, and 81% met or made progress towards their behavior improvement goals.

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.

CIS began addressing student mental health as a critical priority in 2014. The agency provides mental health services, including contracted mental health counselors and the implementation of our Signs of Suicide (SOS) program to focus on students’ mental health and suicide prevention. SOS provides tools for adults and students to identify signs and symptoms of depression, suicidality and self-injury in themselves and their peers.

The program teaches students the importance of involving a caring adult to get help for suicidal peers. CIS has designed this school-based mental health program to help youth navigate the often tricky path of adolescence. Using a simple and easy-to-remember acronym ACT (acknowledge, care and tell), students learn steps to take if they encounter a situation that requires help from a trusted adult.

The organization provided 47,590 hours of mental health services during the 2021-2022 school year. The Texas Education Agency and Health and Human Services Commission has recognized CIS with a best practice designation for its early mental health and intervention practices.

The unique CIS model works because it’s based on national research, driven by community relationships and supported by local resources. Most importantly, it works because CIS staff members, volunteers and mentors see it in their faces and hear it in the stories of thousands of students and alums assisted in the last 30 years.

CIS programs also go beyond the moment students cross the stage to receive their high school diplomas.

Providing tutoring, literacy programs, career planning, employment training and job shadowing, leadership skills training, and CIS’ unique Project Success college readiness program gives students the skill set necessary to be successful in today’s workforce.

Project Success, which began in 2006, is designed to remove barriers to college and career access and increase a CIS student’s ability to succeed in life after high school. The program provides individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, field trips to area colleges/universities and local corporations, assistance with SAT/ACT testing, college applications, financial aid and scholarship assistance.

CIS developed Bootcamp, an intensive eight-week summer program led by CIS staff and alums to enhance Project Success and impact more young lives. It’s an adventure wilderness program providing the necessary skills to help our young people become accomplished and productive community citizens.

Bootcampers learn leadership skills, participate in team-building activities, and receive GRIT training (persistence, determination and resilience). Participants go on field trips to local businesses and colleges to discover insider tips on career opportunities, industry expectations, college resources, resume building and interviewing skills. In 2013, CIS created an alumni association.

University professors and community business leaders teach study and time management skills, professor expectations, dressing for business success, banking skills, interviewing skills, and business expectations. Bootcamp participants also help with community projects, such as food distribution, volunteering at local churches and working on service projects at state parks.

CIS, a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization governed by a board of directors, is not a branch of the school districts but is funded partly by contracts with school districts, with 20% of its budget coming from the Texas Education Agency. Fundraising efforts, generous individual, foundation and corporation donors, events such as An Evening Under the Stars, Dining with the Stars, NBU Kinderschuhe, Pack the Bus and the CIS Wurstfest booth account for the bulk of remaining needed funds.

In 2010, CIS opened a thrift store at 1058 Business IH 35 North. Proceeds support the thousands of students and families the organization serves. The store accepts gently used clothing, housewares, home décor, furniture and other items.

For more about the organization or to learn about giving opportunities or becoming a mentor, email or visit online at Visit the CIS national website at


Do you want to help shape the future of New Braunfels? Take the Strategic Plan survey.

The City of New Braunfels has begun the process of creating its next Strategic Plan, which will lay out the City’s guiding principles, strategic priorities, mission and vision for the future.

A strategic plan serves as a blueprint for the long-term sustainability of the City, its programming, services, operations and infrastructure.

To learn more about the New Braunfels Strategic Plan process, find updates, give your input and more, visit

Community Impact: Homelessness in Comal County increased by 10% this year, survey reveals

July 25, 2023

The results of a homelessness survey suggest that there are about 10% more people in Comal County without a permanent roof over their heads this year compared to 2022.

The results of the 2023 annual snapshot count identified more individuals in Comal County are self-reporting as experiencing chronic homelessness compared to prior counts, the Comal County Homeless Coalition reported.

Read more.