Smart Service

Hill Country Family Services compassionately assists families in crisis.

By:
Trisha Doucette

As the widely recognized formula for setting and achieving goals, SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Stamped) is just one method that Hill Country Family Services (HCFS) uses to ensure the success of the clients they serve. It is also how Staci Almager, Chief Executive Officer for HCFS, envisioned the non-profit she took the reins of in October 2018 to provide effective resources within Kendall County and accountability for community supporters.

Almager’s first goal was to create a model for HCFS that did not reflect duplication within the other non-profits in Boerne and Kendall County. She saw the opportunity for collaboration between other non-profits in the community and initiated relationships. “I work on a daily basis with about 12 of my peers from other non-profits. Not one organization can solve every problem. We operate almost as one—all the non-profits,” she explains. Through strategic evaluation, everyone was able to determine the gaps of service in the community, and HCFS became the outlet for those in crisis situations.

As a family crisis center, HCFS has seen how circumstances can spiral. But everything is situational. Almager says, “We try to make sure all the facts are present and we make decisions based on how to find ways to keep the family intact; to make sure people are really given the grace that they need when situations are completely out of their control. We don’t pick bad things to happen to us.”

Through financial literacy training, which includes clients setting their own SMART goals, and available counseling from a licensed clinical social worker that also encompasses mental and behavioral health, individuals are better prepared to overcome obstacles. “A crisis doesn’t last forever. We want to step in and make sure you can get out of it as fast as possible. My goal is for every single situation to be wrapped up within three months, equipped with the right tools to succeed. We revisit with clients constantly to make sure they are taking the necessary steps to reduce their barriers,” says Almager.

Most individuals are introduced to HCFS through a series of referral programs developed in conjunction with The City of Boerne. HCFS also has deep relationships with the faith-based community and active partnerships with the Sheriff’s department and Boerne Police department who both hired and trained mental health Police Officers to vet situations and determine the best resources. School district counselors, doctors’ offices and other non-profit peers provide referrals, and the organization is very active on social media to communicate what they do. “We also refer people to other non-profits that fit their age and demographic so we are not duplicating services. We connect people to non-profits who can help with the situation they are in,” Almager says.

While the vetting process is rigorous, some examples of service provided in crisis situations have included assistance with medical bills when people have lost their job and insurance, rent and mortgage assistance, emergency utility assistance, providing healthy self- selection groceries for short periods of time and serving women coming out of the Women’s Shelter who need clothes and home goods. Naturally, they respond to requests from her non-profits. Then there are what Almager calls the “So Whats” — the out-of-the-ordinary requests that might not fall under her umbrella but are too important to disregard. “If someone needs help, we all work together,” says Almager. For instance, at the height of Covid-19 on Good Friday, a federal holiday, Boerne ISD needed help feeding 300 kids. Between food from HCFS, the chef and kitchen from Kronkosky Place and distribution by school counselors and nurses, the kids were fed. Another example resulted from the unprecedented freeze in February of 2021. There was not a plan in place for the homeless community so Almager worked with City Manager Ben Thatcher and Adult Services Librarian Robin Stauber to open the Boerne Public Library’s community room for people to have a warm place to stay. “We didn’t have a plan for that. Afterwards, Gary Cook, Executive Director of Boerne First Baptist Church and I, all the non-profits and the faith-based community created an emergency matrix, which was sent to Ben Thatcher at the City of Boerne to approve. Emergencies can happen and with everyone’s help, we need to make sure we can make it work,” notes Almager. HCFS has partnerships and alliances with more than 40 other local organizations, including Blessings in a Backpack, the Boerne Community Coalition and the Kendall County Economic Development Corporation, to name a few.

HCFS operates an on annual budget of $1.4 million and its financial support is very diversified. Almost a third of the budget comes from grants and foundations. Almager writes the grants and develops the programs in order to fulfill the requirements. The City and County also provide money. Another third comes from individual donations, major gifts and trusts. Giving Tuesday is an important source. The popular Random Hangers Thrift Store provides 25 percent of the budget and while events are limited, the annual Golf Tournament at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch is always a success.

Nearly 1,200 individuals each year are provided crisis relief from HCFS, and accountability is a priority for Almager as it relates to addressing and resolving the social determinants of health within The City and County. “I show the efficacy, completion and outcome of all of the families we service and report back to donors, The City and community,” she says.

The Cordillera Ranch community has very close ties with HCFS with one of our members, Ron Fielding. “I have had the privilege of serving on the Hill Country Family Services Board over the past several years. Today, this Boerne-based, community-serving nonprofit has delivered remarkable outcomes driven by their mission of helping area families overcome sudden, often severe, personal crisis. Our community at large greatly benefits from their efforts,” says Fielding. Our Clubhouse and Lodging Manager Graham House also serves on the Board of Directors, and adds, “Our partners and alliances in Boerne have contributed to our tremendous growth with supporting families in need. More importantly is our community assistance with the future growth of Kendall County and the upcoming needs of families. Your continued support will enable us to handle the future crises of families and also grow our facilities and services. I am proud of the work we do and the impact we have on families to see them return to a normal and productive life.”

With a staff of 15, more than 1000 volunteers and future plans to rebuild the current facilities, the organization is primed to serve the community that Almager credits for the success of Hill Country Family Services, saying, “Boerne is the most benevolent community I have ever lived in. People show up financially, emotionally and physically. It’s a very engaged community.”

Hill Country Family Services
830.249.8643 :: HCFSTX.org

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