In San Antonio, our Capacity-Building Initiative finished its inaugural year of, well, building capacity in the local nonprofits we’re serving. Here’s what that means: each year, we form a Peer Learning Cohort, which is a small group of nonprofits that agrees to work for 36 months—with us and with each other—at becoming more effective at leading, learning, managing, planning, overseeing, and generating resources.
“Our goal is to help these vital organizations operate at peak performance,” says Perri Rosheger, who directs this effort. “We knew we couldn’t address all the needs of vulnerable families and children in San Antonio ourselves, so we decided to focus on bolstering the good work that’s already happening.”
The Capacity-Building Initiative’s first cohort had five nonprofits, and the second has six. These organizations represent a breadth of services being offered to the community, from after-school activities to distressed housing restoration to mental healthcare and more. “We’re encouraged by what we’re seeing so far,” says Perri. “Not only are these nonprofits maturing, but we’re also seeing them cooperate with each other for greater impact in the community.”
Recently, two members of the first cohort, Good Samaritan Center and Christian Hope Resource Center, signed a memorandum of agreement in a grant application for a workforce development effort in San Antonio’s West Side neighborhood. We’re excited to see these kinds of partnerships emerge to create more opportunities for underserved families and children in our backyard.
Also in San Antonio, we continued to press forward with a Mental Health Initiative that has been quietly taking shape in recent years with research, collaboration, and early pilots. Our goals here include ensuring that youth get the help they need when mental health challenges arise and that people concerned about their mental health find strong support in local faith communities.
“This work is not about any particular mental health ‘issue,’” says Angela Briaud, who directs the project. “Our approach is to connect institutions like churches, schools, and out-of-school-time programs to the training and resources they need to serve their communities’ mental health needs with empathy and urgency.”
Several activities are now underway, including a pilot project at LEE High School designed to increase practices that cultivate mental and emotional wellness in institutions that work with youth. Early indicators of this project’s success have been “really promising,” says Briaud. “Pre and midway surveys show educators have increased confidence in working with students experiencing mental health challenges.”
In addition, we’ve launched two significant, one-of-kind studies—first, an inventory of existing faith-based mental health initiatives and projects in San Antonio, conducted in partnership with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute; and second, a close study of pastors and congregations inside select Protestant and Catholic churches, conducted in partnership with the University of Texas-San Antonio.
The results of both studies have begun to come in, and we are excited to share the findings and see them put to use in the years ahead.