The H. E. Butt Foundation is the largest private employer in Leakey, Texas—a small town in Real County—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:
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.