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.”