HEALTHY REAL COUNTY
The H. E. Butt Family Foundation is the largest private employer in Leakey, Texas—a small town in Real County, Texas—just down Highway 83 from the Canyon and even closer to our hearts. The town and its outlying areas have an aging population, higher-than-average poverty, and a high rate of unemployment. In order to help our neighbors thrive in their community, the Foundation has been exploring new, strategic ways to invest in Real County. Moving forward, we want to be even more strategic by listening to the community, understanding their dreams for the future, identifying their assets, and helping build local consensus and ownership around driving positive, lasting change.
While nurturing partnerships and working with local leaders, local emergency service providers, the Real County Library, healthcare providers, and other entities, the Foundation’s Healthy Real County initiative has been investing in three emerging areas of community development:
- collaborative space
- childhood mentoring
- faith and the arts
SAN ANTONIO MENTAL HEALTH
In 2017, the Foundation began working with the UTSA Department of Sociology to study pastors and congregations in San Antonio to learn about the relationship between knowledge and practices of church leaders and members surrounding mental health. The Congregations and Health Study has received institutional review board approval, the research instruments are completed, and the program is commencing with a pilot congregation in San Antonio.
Toward the same end, the Foundation has begun a new, citywide Youth Worker Mental Wellness Collaboration among six San Antonio organizations: Clarity Child Guidance Center, Ecumenical Center, P16Plus, Excel Beyond the Bell, Communities in Schools, and Bexar County Health Collaborative. Each has broad access to youth workers—pastors, coaches, youth ministers, program directors, etc.—and some organizations also have mental health expertise.
The Foundation also began a partnership last year with Grace Alliance, a Waco-based social services organization focused on “making mental health recovery accessible to anyone, anywhere, anytime.” They are an evidence-based program, facilitating support groups in churches and online, with over 150 active groups worldwide, including almost 20 in San Antonio.
SAN ANTONIO CAPACITY-BUILDING
Starting in September 2017, the Foundation began convening a facilitated peer-learning cohort of 15 leaders from five organizations, including San Antonio’s Good Samaritan Center, P16 Plus Council of Greater Bexar County, Rise Recovery, Say Sí, and the San Antonio Christian Hope Resource Center. Each of these organizations is provided with an outside assessment using the Impact Capacity Assessment Tool (iCAT). The assessment through a context lens leads to the completion of a custom two- to three-year capacity-building plan for each organization. During the cohort year, the organizational leaders meet on five occasions, and HEBFF provides a small amount of operating support to each organization. Once the leaders complete the cohort program, they will continue to plug into peer learning and capacity-building opportunities for two more years.
We are testing our approach along the way and seeking feedback from the cohort after each gathering. We also have enlisted the support of experts in the field and an advisory council to ask hard questions as we progress through the 24-month pilot.
In 2017 we tested public storytelling through a nonprofit newsroom we called Folo Media. Led by two seasoned journalists on our staff, Patton Dodd and Alice Rhee, Folo spent the year taking a close look at the conditions and experiences of some of the most vulnerable families and children in San Antonio.
While children in some parts of San Antonio have every opportunity to thrive, children in huge swaths of the city struggle against very limited opportunities to do a lot of the basic things that make for a strong future: enjoy access to good physical and mental health care, join a cohesive faith community, and more.
Yet many of us rarely encounter those children or enter their neighborhoods—even though they are very much our neighbors, especially as Jesus defined “neighbor” in the story of the Good Samaritan.
Early in 2018, we put the project on a hiatus in order to reassess how best to approach this work. The team is reorganizing their efforts while drawing on models of other organizations across the nation that use public storytelling and events to catalyze more opportunities for families and children in need.