the early days
In the late 1800s, New Braunfels was predominantly a farming and ranching community. As more industry emerged and the city population increased in the early 20th century, it became apparent to community leaders that a full-service hospital was needed in the area.
After two attempts to establish a county-funded hospital narrowly failed in the late 1940s, a group of business and civic leaders led by Howard C. McKenna of the Mission Valley Textiles Mill set out to privately secure the necessary funds to build a new hospital. Along with city leaders such as Alfred Liebscher, R.B. Vickers, Arlon Krueger, Ben Krueger, Harry Richards, John Langston and Mrs. R. Wright, McKenna persuaded the City of New Braunfels in 1951 to support health care for its citizens by providing the hospital site. These and other individuals organized a fundraising effort in 1952, often going door to door, asking local citizens for their support. The generosity of the people of New Braunfels produced more than $500,000 for the initiative, which was augmented by a $280,000 Hill-Burton grant.
In October 1952, a groundbreaking ceremony commemorating the beginning of hospital construction was held at the hospital site. October 1953 marked the grand opening celebration for the new 40-bed New Braunfels Hospital. The original structure, which still stands as the central core of the hospital, opened its doors to patients in November of 1953. In 1973, New Braunfels Hospital changed its name to McKenna Memorial Hospital in honor of Howard C. McKenna, who served as president of the Hospital’s board of trustees for more than 20 years.
Health System Expansion
During the following decades, the area and hospital experienced tremendous growth. This included several multi-million dollar expansions of facilities and equipment. New services were added in order to meet community needs and expand the organization’s benefit to the community. What began as a small community hospital grew into a nationally recognized regional health system.
The McKenna Health System became a vital part of New Braunfels and Comal County, providing significant programs, services and resources benefiting the health and well-being of the community in addition to an outstanding hospital facility which remained the system’s flagship. System offerings included:
- McKenna HealthLink
- McKenna Healthcare Foundation
- McKenna Sports, Fitness and Rehabilitation Center
- McKenna Children’s Museum
- McKenna Village
- McKenna Events Center
- At Home Medical Equipment
- At Home Care
The McKenna Legacy
After operating as a highly successful, independent hospital for more than 50 years, the board once again demonstrated their vision to ensure the hospital’s long-term success. The decision to sell McKenna Memorial Hospital at the height of its service, quality and financial success to a system with extensive resources ensured long-term growth and service to the community. The sale of McKenna Memorial Hospital to CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health Care occurred on January 31, 2008.
Following the hospital sale, two great benefits were realized for the New Braunfels community.
First, the assurance of quality health care for the area via CHRISTUS Santa Rosa. Secondly, the sale proceeds provided the funding to create the McKenna Foundation, whose mission is to advance the well-being of the New Braunfels community now and for generations to come.
The McKenna Foundation continues to oversee the operations of the McKenna Center, including the McKenna Events Center and McKenna Children’s Museum. Each of these programs specifically addresses a community need, with a particular focus on positive early childhood experiences, healthy lifestyles and capacity building for the non-profit community. The McKenna Center opened its doors on April 1, 2006, and since that time has served thousands of residents as a community partner.
Inspiration, Influence and Impact
The McKenna Foundation Board of Trustees oversees a significant endowment which generates income to address social needs in New Braunfels and Comal County. The Foundation began making grants to community non-profits in 2009. Since that time McKenna has developed the resources necessary to strategically address basic needs, health, education, family relationships and community development services. Such support, including funding for non-profit partners addressing these areas, offers an extraordinary benefit unique among areas the size of greater New Braunfels.