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AfterSchool Programs

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To say that this school year has been “unique” would be quite the understatement. Whether your kids are e-learning or on-site or some mixture in-between, it’s been a rough year so far for both the kids as well as Mom! While all of us moms want our kids to succeed as much as possible, this year has brought many challenges that make normal learning more difficult than previous years. As we put the first semester behind us, we assembled a nice list of some enrichment programs available locally that you might not be aware.

From reading to software coding to painting…there’s quite a few options out there for your kids to get plugged in, learn some new skills and information, and find some educational time outside of the typical school day. They’ll enjoy it, and you’ll feel good knowing that you’re providing them every opportunity.

Code Ninjas

At Code Ninjas Boerne, kids learn to code by building their very own video games. Our flexible coding programs for kids make it easy on parents with convenient drop-in hours on weeknights and weekends.

Kids will create, play, and learn at your own pace as you gain ninja skills in coding, robotics, and problem solving. Advance from white to black belt and receive color-coded wristbands to mark your achievements. Support and encouragement provided from Code Senseis® in our state-of-the-art dojo.

httpss://www.codeninjas.com/tx-boerne/

Mathnasium

Mathnasium instructors use our unique assessment process to determine (with great accuracy) exactly what each child knows and what they need to learn. Next, we design a customized learning plan for teaching the concepts the student needs to master. It doesn’t stop there – our encouraging instructors continually check progress along the way to make sure kids truly understand and retain the concepts we’ve taught. The results are transformative – kids will see measurable changes in attitude, confidence, and school progress.

Our instructors will also set aside time to provide homework help. We help kids understand the homework assignment so they feel better prepared to complete the work at home – underscoring their understanding of concepts and transforming homework frustration into a welcome challenge. httpss://www.mathnasium.com/boerne

Challenge Island Boerne

When kids enter the Challenge Island classroom, they are transported to a cross-curricular learning environment worlds away from the regular school experience. The ambience feels positively party-like as our adventurous tribes tackle high-level thinking challenges at whimsical weekly destinations like Jaguar’s Claw (Rainforest Island), Medusa’s Pet Rock Playground (Mythology Island), Wizardry Academy (Hollywood Island) and Kenyan African Safari (Challenge Island World Tour). Kids count down the seconds until Challenge Island day rolls around!

STEAM education, problem-based learning, and critical 21st Century Skills are at the heart of every Challenge Island Afterschool Class. But we don’t stop there. Our proprietary curriculum seamlessly intertwines ELA, STEM, History, Social Studies, Arts, Geography and much more into one thrilling Island adventure!

Our child-driven learning approach makes Challenge Island an enriching and developmentally appropriate experience for a wide span of ages from preschool through middle school and beyond.  httpss://challenge-island.com/boerne/

Stemtastic

STEMtastic after school education classes cover a diverse array of topics from science, to robotics, digital music, gaming, application development, website design and 3D graphic design. STEM programs are made to make the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math fund with hands-on experience. Our goal is to provide the best STEM learning opportunity to help students to become stronger and more confident and go after their dreams.  httpss://www.stemtastic.com/

Bright Learners

Our After School Enrichment classes, which include art, music & movement classes, are designed for 14 learners ages 3-5. Our primary goal is to provide your child an opportunity to explore and develop creativity in a fun and engaging environment. httpss://www.brightlearnerspreschool.com/

Health – Meet Me in the Middle – Brenda Bryson

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by Brenda Bryson

Hello my Texas friends and neighbors, I want to open up the conversation today on some topics that hopefully will encourage some comments and discussion.

When someone says “wellness” what does that make you think of?

When someone says “workout” what image does that create?

Let’s contrast that with the words “physical therapy” and what does that conjure up?

From 23 years of being a physical therapist, let me share some of the comments I get daily on this topic.

“Wellness” has no real urgency to it. It’s a term that seems to go well with a day off and a fun yoga/exercise class followed by lunch with friends. It’s paying for a massage every now and then, but it seems to have a very low commitment attached to it. Wellness also does not seem to have a high value on the credentials of who is performing the service, usually a referral from a friend saying “oh, she is really good” or “it’s really fun” will suffice (word of mouth is a great way to discover things, but sometimes you want to know some credentials).

Workout (what did you think of with this word?) in American terms it seems to have extremes, and somehow those have become norms. It seems that there is a growing problem with obesity and lack of exercise in this country

“The U.S. adult obesity rate stands at 42.4 percent, the first time the national rate has passed the 40 percent mark, and further evidence of the country’s obesity crisis. The national adult obesity rate has increased by 26 percent since 2008. COVID-19 related food insecurity puts more Americans at risk for obesity or worsening obesity.” ( source: httpss://www.tfah.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/TFAHObesityReport_20.pdf)

So, it seems like there are more and more Americans either gaining more weight and working out less, perhaps because they are working so much more just to survive, or people are on the other extreme doing ultra marathons (100KM runs), cross fit like competitions and being obsessed with macros and everything they consume. Another everyday example of an extreme is something like taking up tennis—a great form of exercise. Instead of doing an hour lesson, or one game, it has to be a 3 day tournament with 4-5 hours of activity each day.

The third word I mentioned was “physical therapy”. The feedback I get on this ranges from “I don’t need that, I’m not in a wheelchair”, “I did that once and it hurt and was expensive” and my favorite “I just take Advil every day and then I can keep going”.

My favorite term as I age (I’m 47 and keep trying to do more every year) is Functional Strength.  Katie Chasey defines:  Functional strength is the ability to run your load-joints (shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles) through a full range of motion without pain, stiffness, or restriction. This is also known as load-joint articulation.

In simpler terms this is moving like you were a kid, not doing the same thing every day, but somehow able to handle climbing on the monkey bars, mowing the yard, playing kickball, and not needing Advil or medical intervention.

What would it feel like to have the range of motion and everyday strength to rake the leaves on Saturday, and then go for a hike on Sunday and not feel old or injured? What if you had good body alignment to allow for pushups or pushing the wheelbarrow without straining so much you peed in your pants? What if it was really ok just to do the one hour of tennis, and the next day do a stretch class, and not require bracing/meds/bragging about how sore you are and can’t sit on the commode?

What if being in the middle became the new norm? You would still have some body fat, probably not be a cover model for a fitness magazine, but you would feel good. I grew up on a ranch in Fredericksburg, and all the old ranchers did not look like they really worked out—but they were strong, they were flexible enough to get up and down off the ground in jeans and boots and over years of doing this, they had a great baseline of functional strength and endurance.

What if a commitment to being in the middle meant you did not have to go to physical therapy because of an overuse injury? What if wellness became the trendy thing to actually take care of your body and enjoy it for the long haul? I often compare the human body to car/home maintenance. Your auto insurance does not pay for your tires or your oil changes. You as the car owner have a certain responsibility for taking care of the maintenance of the car, so that it will keep running. The human body is very much the same. Your medical insurance rarely pays for “maintenance” but it is up to each one of us to keep our bodies in tune, so that we can feel good for the long haul.

 

Brenda Bryson, PT, LMT is the owner of monarch physical therapy. She is a hill country native and loves to be active hosting retreats, playing with her dogs, and hosting Airbnber’s at her “glamperhood” in Comfort. Brenda is a seasoned professional in the identification and treatment of many forms of physical pain and hopes to be a resource to those who seek it.

 

 

Denise Graves knows Real Estate!

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Denise Graves knows real estate.

One of the area’s premier real estate agents, she has built an incredible business through her relationships, her professional accolades, and because she just flat out hustles.  She sat down with us for a brief talk about this past year, its challenges, and where she’s headed with her business.

She begins, “We were expecting business as usual this year, just like everyone I suppose. We had a bunch of listings to start the year, and kept with our average of 7 to 10 new listings every month. Then COVID hit. The way the lockdown started was confusing for everyone as things changed so quickly. For us, we had an open house scheduled and we were told by SABOR that we couldn’t have it. But our client expected the open house, and we had promised it, so we did a Facebook LIVE virtual open house in March just because we were scrambling.”

However, as things happened, being forced to scramble can sometimes work out better than expected. She continues, “We’ve started doing Facebook LIVE videos as we preview houses now, and that’s actually been really helpful. I’m very strong willed, and I’m fine with thinking outside the box – and this year has certainly required that. We’ve had to be flexible, set our egos aside sometimes, and just get the job done. With LIVE, it’s a new thing for us because it’s like giving a personalized tour to a lot of people while they are asking questions and so it’s great, yet different. ”

While much has changed and the Graves team has had to adapt, there’s still clients she has to meet and homes she has to show. But even those interactions are different. “Initially it was the unknown with COVID. Some were concerned, some less so.  I’ve had to wear masks and gloves and foot covers in some houses due to the owner’s wishes, and it’s hard. Then I’ve had other people that don’t care about the precautions and so I’m winging it. We’ve shown properties without people ever actually even seeing the property, and so certainly,  that’s a new thing for me. For the whole team, really.”

As the real estate landscape has changed quickly this year, it has had its benefits. With interest rates falling to historic lows, that has certainly enticed many buyers. She explains, “The concern now going into 2021 – we handle high end real estate and we’re just wondering what the market is going to do. The great thing about 2020 is that we’ve learned that we can wiggle through challenges, and  rates are so ridiculously cheap right now. It’s so easy for people to stretch their dollar and help people get even more house for their budget.”

Typically doing $45m in sales year over year, the team is poised to eclipse this for 2020, which is an amazing accomplishment. She credits a few things as for how she has pulled this off: “Be flexible. Always look for new ways to innovate. Video is king right now. People have less personal interaction than they used to, bringing a personal experience to the real estate transaction is where it’s at. People are more focused on relationships, so it’s different but it’s even more important. They’re not seeing people as much – but it makes those interactions we DO have all the more important.  How do we touch people in ways with the limited opportunity? It’s a fascinating time. I have a short attention span and my clients do as well – so we continue to look at ways to interact with our clients in new and unique ways given our challenges.”

With Teri Bomgaars, Emily Boham, Rob Boham, Bill Graves (husband), and Robert Gunter on her team, 2021 is poised to be a record year as well. She continues, “Our goal for 2021 is to innovate – we won’t know until March after the 1st quarter as to what people’s perception of how our new lives are heading – the election is over, vacations are coming, there won’t be a zombie apocalypse…and we will know well what is going on in our world. Inventory is going to be a problem, and that will drive a ton of our business. We have buyers all over the place, but inventory is tough. Right now is the absolute best time to sell – we have buyers just waiting for us to call them with options, and yet options are hard to find.”

With a 20 year career in real estate in this area, her involvement in the community is important to Graves, and she invests heavily in it. “I’m very much with Hill Country Daily Bread supporter. That’s an important mission for me. I love the work they do and getting people back on their feet and giving them a sense of pride and worth – which is just huge for me. It’s not a handout – it’s a hand-up. We realized how hyper local our business is, and how blessed we are to live in a bubble. There’s tremendous unrest in the nation and we’re blessed to live in a supportive, happy bubble. There’s not huge world events happening here in town, and we’re so grateful for that fact – things that are happening in Oregon aren’t happening here – we anchor one another locally and provide peace and that’s huge for us all. It’s also a reminder of why I love this area so very much, and have been so blessed to be part of it.”

Kim Blohm – CEO of Boerne Area Chamber of Commerce

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2020 has not been kind to small business. With the typical challenges and struggles that most every small business has to navigate, 2020 has brought a slew of its own unique challenges, and we are all acutely aware of what they are. But with a worldwide pandemic, diminished occupancy levels, and a nation gripped in fear, local business owners have looked frantically for a beacon in the fog that can provide them with some direction and hope for brighter days.

The Greater Boerne Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Kim Blohm, has thankfully stepped into that responsibility and carried the burden dutifully and with strength. As we close out 2020, Blohm sits down to discuss her roots, her journey to her role, and where she hopes to lead local business next.

 

A Houston area native, Blohm grew up with a strong educational motivation, yet little certainty of where that would take her. She begins, “I was always a good student and I went to private school from K-8th grade so it was 60 kids I grew up with. My brothers moved to public school and I wanted to go, so I went to regular high school and went from 800 kids in my school to 5000 kids, so it was culture shock for me. I was pretty sheltered – so then I learned that you could dye your hair and get a nose ring without permission but I always wanted to do right by my parents so I didn’t get into too much trouble.”

Blohm graduated a year early, and after a short stint at Houston Community College, Blohm was invited to A&M for a quick trip, and as she puts it, “Once you go once, you’re sold. So I enrolled immediately.” Enrolling in Telecommunications and Media Studies, Blohm wanted to move into news broadcasting but says with a laugh, “I worked at the local news station for 6 months. They make no money, work stupid hours, and it’s not nearly as glamorous as you think. So I decided I’d just figure out my career path as it came to me.”

Eventually graduating in 2008, Blohm moved to San Antonio and took a job with an investment group, which she summarizes with “But I hated every minute of it. Luckily the market crashed in ’08, so I got laid off, and trust me, that was a good thing.” She also had been dating seriously Justin, who had a semester left at A&M, and the two wed in 2011.

With a little uncertainty around her, Blohm was substitute teaching at BISD, and working at Generations FCU in a temp role. She explains, “I helped with tax refunds and whatnot – I worked my way up and they had a marketing position open but they said “You don’t have experience with graphic design” so I went to Alamo Community Colleges and did night classes for that until I was certified. I went back and applied and they had already hired someone, but that week she left and I got that job and was there for 5 years.” In this role, Blohm thrived. The reasons why she succeeded translated to her current responsibilities. “It was people helping people – serving the underserved and I loved it. We started with financial literacy and I led the youth financial literacy program. The average age of a member was 65 so we sought out younger members so we got into the schools and we partnered with Alamo Community College and taught classes there every week and it was very successful. It was quite proud for me because we were legitimately making a difference for people. I found that I loved feeling accomplished with helping others.”

Ultimately leaving that position, Blohm looked for a new challenge. She continues, “I talked with a recruiter and they got me into Phyllis Browning as their Marketing Director. I was their 2nd one ever. I liked it – it was a big change. It was no longer serving the underserved, but it was challenging and fun and I saw so many ways we could easily improve things. Their processes weren’t running perfect and it was easy for me to improve. For example, their photography wasn’t so great and I was able to find a guy out of Dallas that did it and he is now the #1 photographer in San Antonio – it helped the firm so much. It really changed the whole real estate industry locally. I loved working with the realtors and getting to know them personally and meeting their goals.”

Justin and Kim welcomed Mason in 2013 and Presley in 2017, and their priorities changed for obvious reasons. While still working with Phyllis Browning, Blohm had local relationships as they were residents in the area, yet commuting heavily. One of those relationships was Joe Granados, the previous Chamber President. “I knew Joe Granados who was the President here at that time – and he had always said he would hire me if he could, so he did in 2018 as VP of Membership and Marketing. And let’s just say that as soon as I took this role, I knew I was going to love it here. First it was hard because everyone wanted to know your connections to the area. They want to know your whole story and are somewhat judgey. Once they let their guard down, then you are able to really show them who you are and that first 6 months was tough as I had to prove myself. But I love the people here so much and there was so much opportunity to bring new life here.”

Granados resigned in January of 2019, which left a leadership void within the Chamber. Blohm explains, “For me I was interim President because as the VP it fell to me. I realized more and more that I could do it. Then I decided that I would go for it, I applied, they did an extensive search to make sure it was legit and I really appreciated that. After 4 months of interviews and their full hiring committee, I was offered the job at the end of April of 2019 and we’ve been having fun ever since.”

However, “fun” is a relative word when presented with the unique challenges that Blohm has had to navigate.

“Well, I got one year of what we’d call normal. Our goal was to focus on growth and retention. We wanted to make sure we were touching the membership and to make sure they didn’t feel like we were taking their money and just never talking to them again. We wanted to be active in all ways. I felt like that first year was successful and we exceeded our goals. We had a great year – pre-pandemic it was great, and even post-pandemic now – it’s been amazing. We had a ton of events and we did 97 ribbon cuttings which is insane. The networking events averaged 20 per year and people were connecting with us and we had 5% membership growth that year and our retention was 78%. We wanted to increase our member retention to 87% going into 2020. We wanted to build on our momentum from 2019 and so that was our focus. We started the year super strong. We had great engagement at our events – we had several events in the spring that just had us heading directly for the goals we talked about.”

Then, she abruptly adds, “And then COVID hit.”

Freezing our local economy, Blohm and her staff moved quickly to find ways to navigate an unknown situation. “If we hadn’t had such a great start to the year, I think it would have been tough to make it through this year. For us, we knew that now is the time to advocate and connect with our members. Especially during such a rough time. We knew it was the time for us to shine, or fail completely. We are literally here to help the business community, and we knew that this was the biggest opportunity we’d probably ever have. People initially couldn’t figure out who was open locally and what they were offering. So we created a BoerneStrong page so that we could do exactly that and educate the community. Staff was all working like crazy to make sure we got REAL info out to the community as well as we all know there is so much misinformation flying around. So we doubled down on becoming a conduit for information that the community really needed to know. We were all working from home and I am so proud of my team for how they responded.”

Like other regular local business, the Chamber had scary days as well as the team tried to figure out how they were going to stay afloat. Blohm explains, “The initial shock or fear was that when the PPP loans came out, we were excluded. It was scary. We tried to keep a really positive attitude and at first we just did the best we could and we had to trust that people would see our value. When renewals came up, it was tough to ask for those renewals just because we knew everyone was hurting. We started calling people 2 months before their renewal dates just so we could start talking about what they need and how we could help. 168 new members joined during a pandemic. 4% growth, and 82.5% member retention. 814 members. It was so humbling to see the response. We felt so blessed. People re-invested in us when they were up for renewal, and we are so blessed to have these members. I have seen so many other Chambers fail throughout this, and my heart breaks for them because you can’t do this job unless you love it and your members. The community has just been incredible. I can’t overstate this. It’s like a Hallmark movie, and I mean that. Their support makes me want to cry.”

While this “chapter” of our lives isn’t over quite yet, the Chamber, like most businesses, is figuring out their new normal and trying to plan for the future. Blohm says, “For 2021, member retention is going to be our goal still. How do we continue to motivate those members and provide value that they want? Events are going to be hard in 2021 because nobody knows what they will look like. There’s a network luncheon, but it will probably be half the size because of attendance numbers…because this is a bit of the new normal until something changes. We did a really cool thing with the City in May and we worked with the City Staff at the Library and we called every single member and just asked them “How are you doing? What do you need? What can we do to help?”. It’s felt great to just be proactive and find ways to help.”

As the organization reimagines how their events will look and how they will continue to provide value to their members, Blohm and her team are working tirelessly. She continues, “We realize that nobody wants to do zoom meetings any more. How do we safely get people together, because we know you all want to do it. It’s a month by month situation because it’s constantly changing as you all know. We have to get approval for many of our events and it’s constantly changing. Our networking luncheons can be more easily controlled as we can sell tickets, but the Networking Mixers will be tough for us until something changes. Many of our groups are meeting in person and there’s probably about 20 to 30 people per meeting – but we love being able to have the interaction. I want to continue to make an impact and add value to our community and to deliver on those promises. They chose to invest in us when it was their last $30 and I value that and I want to make sure we return that trust many times over. That is crucial to me. “

As for community, Blohm is passionate about this area and it’s evident in her words. “It’s so inspiring to be here in Kendall County. .It feels so good to find so many people that love and care about you both as an organization but just as people. They respect the work that we do, and people are grateful for that, and it makes me want to cry. For us, this is our job…but to feel the appreciation for even the small things…it’s just a dream come true.”

From The Publisher

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Dear Kendall County Woman reader,
Oh my gosh! How did the holidays sneak up on me this year? One would think that with all the available time we’ve had at home, we would’ve been busy hand-making chunky blankets and personalized totes for all the people on our list.

Well, that didn’t happen at my house. AND it probably didn’t happen at yours either. So much for working from home, right? I am so very glad to wish 2020 out of my memory. At least all the bad parts, and boy, has it had more than its share. Then I recall that I am covered in blessings, and once I sit and remember all of these, 2020 hasn’t been bad at all.

We have all had illnesses — and health. Financial problems — and solutions of one kind or another. School challenges – and supportive family and school professionals. Days separated from our loved ones who were hospitalized — but then special available time when they were able to come home. Some of our problems have not yet been ‘fixed’ and some of us had things happen that won’t quickly leave our psyches. But all in all, we are still loving and living our lives. Kendall County Women set examples for all of us every day in each of these situations.

For example, this edition of KCW showcases the Kendall County Women’s heart for charity through our discussion with Hattie Allen, the CEO of Kendall County Women’s Shelter. Volunteering time or money to this worthy cause is a perfect way to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. We learn about the challenges of starting a home based business through our story about Scentaholics, and then are encouraged to work through our holiday meals with Clarissa from GrindHouse. This, and so much more, awaits you in this edition!

As always, I am amazed by the strength and fortitude of our sisters here in the County. Rock on!

Sincerely,
Peggy Schooley

Natural and Clean, What Does That Mean?

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When we see the words natural and clean in dog food, we associate it with wholesomeness and safety. However, those marketing buzzwords are being overused in the pet food industry and don’t always mean what we think.

The word natural by definition means “present in or produced by nature”. The official AAFCO definition for “natural” related to pet food, states that NATURAL is a feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subjected to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification extraction, hydrolysis, or fermentation, but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur unavoidably in good manufacturing practices. This lengthy definition is subject to interpretation. The word “natural” appears all over processed dog food packages and labels, ignoring the fact that processed food cannot be natural food.

A real, natural dog food contains all wholefood ingredients and minimally cooking process, with no synthetic additives including vitamins.

Clean, is the new marketing trend for dog food. It means the food that is made of real, recognizable, non-GMO ingredients. The term “clean eating” has become trendy, however it is another buzzword meant to make the consumer believe that clean is equivalent of healthy and trustworthy, when it is not always so. Therefore, when selecting a dog food, beware of labels with formulas that contain a long list of ingredients (that you cannot pronounce) and synthetic vitamins and minerals that are mainly sourced in China. Clean should also be a synonym for whole food ingredients that are minimally processed.

More than ever, dog owners are looking for healthier, more wholesome solutions to feed their pets. With a plethora of products inundating the market, it is oftentimes confusing to select the best option. Our advice is to look for recipes with few ingredients, no synthetic vitamins or nutrients, potato free, and minimally cooking processes involved.

Case in point, Frenchie’s Kitchen recipes contain only 11 simple ingredients, all human-grade and cooked in a USDA inspected plant that manufactures human food. Furthermore, all our vitamins and minerals are USA sourced from whole-food ingredients such as eggshells for calcium and organic kelp powder. If dogs could cook, this is what they’d serve!

Hattie Allen

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Have you ever been in a situation when you knew, without a doubt, that your work made a difference in another person’s life? That, in each person’s troubles, one person by one person, you were trained and available to come alongside them and walk through hard, even terrible, circumstances?

And so began my conversation with Hattie Allen, the CEO of our local Kendall County Women’s Shelter (KCWS). It was a bit of a tricky introduction — it’s hard to identify someone you’ve never met before at a restaurant — when she is wearing a mask! But we managed to do so, and I’m so proud to share some of what I learned from her during those few hours.

Hattie Allen’s background is similar to so many of us in the area. “I’m a fourth generation Fredericksburg TX resident. My greatgreat-great-grandfather came from Germany with his family when he was 9. They made the great choice to live in the Hill Country, and we’ve been ranchers in the area ever since!”

It seems a curious transition, from ranchgirl to CEO of a non-profit organization. “I went to college at Texas Tech, and I was certain I was to be an engineer. That lasted until my junior year, and I knew without a doubt that an engineering career wasn’t for me! After some hours spent with my counselor at school, I realized that an education that led to more opportunity for interpersonal relationships, to work to help people, and to communicate in general suited me better. I moved to a Public Relations degree program, and graduated in 2000. After 9/11 and its after-effects settled some, I earned my Masters in Public Administration in 2005.

“As a part of my program, I joined the Women’s Shelter in Lubbock as an intern. My “title” was Membership Coordinator, but I did whatever they needed – you name it, I probably did it!

“After graduation, I stayed with them as a full-time staff member for several more years.” Hattie continued: “The experiences I had there proved to me that the advocacy role, helping others, learning what resources exist and helping people in need find their way to them – all of that – was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. These women and children have experienced extreme trauma and need all of the help and support we can give them to help them move from surviving to thriving.”

After a few more years in Lubbock, Allen took a role in Austin at the Texas Council of Family Violence. “This program taught me so much. The organization lobbies the government for more programs, among other things, and fundraisers to provide resources and support to local level organizations. I learned about recruiting supporters and training volunteers, and all the options a person in need has available to them. Ultimately, still in Austin, I moved to the Children Advocacy Centers of Texas.”

In 2014 Allen saw the job listing for the Women’s Shelter in Boerne and applied. “The rest is history!”

I realized that I had only a superficial idea of all the work and help provided by Allen and her staff at the KCWS. Maybe that is the same for you, too.

“We provide shelter, obviously, but also counseling, parenting skills, help finding places to live and furnishing them. We always need people with strong backs to help us move furniture into new apartments for clients that need it! We help clients locate jobs and help them learn to handle everything that is on their plates. So many of them are in situations that are almost unbearable. We try to help them find a way to bear the weight.”

I also learned that KCWS serves men in need on a fairly regular basis. “Family trauma doesn’t only affect women, but every member of a family. So often we forget that men are also abused and traumatized by people in their lives — and need all the help we can give them. Sometimes they are the custodial parent and are working to give their children better lives.”

Financials of any non-profit easily tell the story of success or not-so-successful. “The breadth of KCWS’ role in helping families is immense. Such a job requires two main things: people to do the work, and money to pay for the resources required.”

When you think through the various arenas the organization must be prepared to step into, it appears almost overwhelming. KCWS provides counseling, food, shelter, clothing, training. And beyond that, KCWS provides emotional support and encouragement for people who sometimes have no idea what a calm and happy life is.

I asked Hattie to outline what KCWS most needs right now: “Donations! To keep us going, we survive on donations from individuals, businesses, churches, Kendall County, and grants. We work with area Community Foundations, as well.’

This year has been particularly challenging because all three of our major fundraisers have been canceled due to COVID. That is a huge knock on our bottom line. The individual contribution is so very important! Boerne, and Kendall County at large, is a great supporter, and we are trying to make it as easy as possible for folks to support this important work!”

“The second arm of our success is volunteers. People with hearts to help.”

Allen told me that volunteer opportunities are broad and fulfilling. “When you work with a client from the moment they arrive until they move on to the next steps in their life, we need helpers. Volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization.

There are just innumerable opportunities for working with the program…including the children in the shelter — such as helping with Christmas programs. “You have no idea how challenging it is to get a family and their children lined up with Adopt-a-Tree programs and providing the right gifts to the right family members on Christmas morning! We couldn’t do it without our volunteers willing to organize, check and double-check, and help on Christmas morning! But these are such great times to share in. And those are only a few of the things volunteers can and do help with. Volunteers make sure donated furniture is clean and in good shape. Gathering items to make a home livable – from silverware to bedsheets – is hard work and volunteers make it happen. I appreciate our volunteers more than I can say.

‘Especially this year, without our formal fundraising events, volunteers help by making phone calls to organizations and individuals to encourage their donations to the Shelter. They make visits when requested or required, they lick a lot of stamps and mail a lot of letters. Without them we are financially out of business.”

“A few other things our volunteers do: they man a Hot Line and last year we answered almost 300 calls. We are blessed to be able to train volunteers to speak with these callers in need. Volunteers also help with nutrition, finding supplies such as housewares and clothing, and all the requirements in between.”

It is apparent that a ‘volunteer’ to the KCWS sometimes requires some special knowledge or preparation. Allen explained the process:

“Each volunteer (or intern, as the case may be) receives advocacy training, webinar training and other guidance to work with our clients.

‘Staff members have almost all come from a psychology or social work background, or have other experience in working with people affected by trauma. But equally important, whether volunteer or staff member, we look for individuals with a strong sense of compassion and empathy. Without that natural tendency, it is a very difficult place to work every day. Sometimes the work load is heavy. Our staff and volunteer team’s interpersonal support helps keep us all emotionally strong and able to keep going.”

“For those who don’t really want to be involved in the shelter itself, we ALWAYS need strong backs to help with gathering housewares and furniture from our thrift shop or from donators to the client’s new home/apartment.” As an aside, Allen said with a rueful smile: “OK, I admit that sometimes there are stairs involved!” She continued “We are also starting a furniture pick up service for people who are donating heavy items. At any rate, you can see that if you have some time to volunteer, we can use you!”

On a personal note, I asked Hattie to share the hardest experience she deals with. “That’s easy to answer,” she said. “Making sure I have healthy boundaries between my client’s situations and my own life. I’ve had to learn that people sometimes make choices I don’t think are the best ones, but it is, in fact, their choice, and I have to be okay with that. Another one is any situation where children are involved. Kids in difficult situations are definitely a trigger for me!”

As she continued, however, we can get a sense for what keeps her, and the others involved in the work, going day-to-day. “It isn’t so much the ‘hardest’ part that any of us focus on. Instead, it is the success stories! THAT is what keeps us all moving forward. Most of the time our clients make great decisions and I can see that they’ve learned there is a better way to be treated, respected, and not manipulated. When I see that happen, I feel like we’ve actually changed the world for the better.”

Hattie outlined the KCWS’s focus on eliminating abuse for the future by “providing “Safe Dates” and “Expect Respect” programs to high school students. These programs have been making an impact. Fairly often a student will approach me or another staff member after one of these programs to tell us that either they are experiencing abuse, or someone they know is. It allows us an opportunity to work through the situation in a successful way. That is changing people’s futures, truly.”

Our Kendall County Women reader is the audience best suited to help other women in need. You and I are the ones who can join into the KCWS’s community and share in making a difference in lives.

If you prefer to donate in one way or another, items can be donated at KCWS’ donation station located at 934 North School Street. If you are ready to become a volunteer, please visit the website at kcwstexas.org to sign up. Or course, you can also call 830-331-8950 for more information. “We need you and your support to continue making a difference in so many lives!”

Hattie and her husband, Wes, live in Fredericksburg. “In Austin in 2010, we met in the neighborhood dive bar — such a cliche and yet exactly right! He is the best human alive!” Wes is a Roscoe native and is a landscape designer.

Sunscreen Isn’t Just Sunscreen

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With Texas winters just as sunny as Texas summers, it’s still an important time to protect your skin, the RIGHT way. Did you know that only 3% of factors that lead to premature aging are genetic and 97% are related to environmental triggers of reactive oxygen species (free radicals that lead to cellular damage)? The majority of free radicals result from exposure to UV-A and UV-B light but there are other triggers. These triggers, believe it or not, include blue light from phones and computer screens, environmental pollutants, and infrared radiation. Sunscreens alone are ineffective in counteracting these factors. First and foremost, practice avoidance of direct sun exposure, if possible. The era of basking in the sun for hours, to tan our skin, should be a thing of the past if you want to maintain a youthful appearance.

So, how does one effectively avoid sun damage or counteract the years of damage already suffered from environmental factors?
The most effective means of preventing further damage to our skin, in addition to limited exposure, is a miner al/physical sunscreen solution. Common sunscreens are replete with allergens and chemical irritants. Some studies have shown up to 72% commercially available sunscreens have skin irritants and allergens and are very ineffective at blocking the harmful UV rays of the sun, or worse, can damage the skin. Because blue light, and chemical pollutants and airborne particles also contribute to premature wrinkling and discoloration of our skin, it is vital to wear a physical barrier sunscreen inside our homes as well as outside the home.

Although there are benefits of sun exposure (vitamin D strengthens our bones) and blue light (regulation of circadian rhythm), too much of either leads to free radical formation and damage to our skin. It is important to wear a mineral-based sunscreen indoors when exposed to ambient light, phone screens, and computer screens year-round. Most commercial sunscreens are chemical based. These products contain harmful chemicals known to disrupt hormones, contain allergens, and damage the coral reefs. They are also chemically unstable and can actually create free radicals that lead to cellular damage and hormonal disruption.

What to use?
For sunscreen protection, products with Titanium, Zinc Oxide, and/or Iron Oxide are the most effective. SPF should be 50 or less. F or pre-existing sun damage and to maintain youthful skin, antioxidants should be applied twice daily, in the morning and evening. This includes Hydroxy Acids, such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid, and a retinoid/retinoic acid product. Hydroxy Acids are potent antioxidants and lighten skin darkened by sun/light exposure.

Retinoids (retinol and tretinoin) are potent antioxidants effective at increasing collagen synthesis and blood flow in photoaged skin. By increasing collagen and other proteins in the skin responsible for elasticity, hydration, and fullness, they help to maintain a youthful appearance by diminishing fine lines and wrinkles. With all hydroxy acids and retinoids, sensitivity to the sun may occur, another reason to practice limited exposure.

The bottom line is to avoid excessive sun exposure, blue light exposure, and environmental pollutants. As a barrier to photodamage, the best product is a physical sunscreen like the C YRxMD Skincare line’s Tinted Sunblock or Sun Defense. These products should be worn daily, whether inside or outside, and are safe for all ages. To treat sun-damaged skin and to maintain youthful skin, antioxidants such as Hydroxy Acids and Retinols are effective daily treatments. They should be applied twice daily. The Antioxidant Cream and Retinol pads and T retinol 1% creams by CYRxMD are medical-grade products developed by a Ma yo Clinic trained physician, Dr Steven Cyr. 90% of the products in the CYRxMD SKINCARE line ar e free of allergens, chemicals, and preservatives. They are also cruelty free. For a detailed view of the products in the C YRxMD SKINCARE portfolio, please visit cyrmdskincare.com.

Family Volunteering

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Every holiday season, many families in our area take an opportunity to give back locally. From serving food to the homeless, to packing food for the needy, to visiting hospitals…there are so many chances to take some time as a family and make the world a little better. Below you’ll f ind several opportunities to connect with local charities and show your children how fortunate they are by volunteering with organizations that serve those that are in need.

Hill Country Daily Bread
One of the larger non-profits in the area, HCDB serves a LOT of needy families from our area and beyond. Volunteer as a “Family Mentor” and form a Christ-centered relationship and deliver food and other basic resources to a family in need twice a month.
www.hillcountrydailybread.com

Hill Country Animal League
Offering no and low cost spay/neuter services to animals since 1986, this wonderful organization works tirelessly to serve our four legged friends. They also assist with foster and adoption for cats and dogs, and have found countless new families for strays. The thrift store (which finances the clinic), is always looking for volunteers. Simply stop by the thrift store and inquire – organizing donations, helping around the store, and generally being the face of the organization for consumers is a valuable donation of your time and will have your family thankful for the life you’re providing your own pets, and bring a greater appreciation for the work of the organization
www.hcaltx.org

Taking it to the Streets
This organization puts in some serious work. Most every Saturday morning, these folks get together to create a sizeable banquet dinner. Later that afternoon, they load it all up and the group drives to different areas around downtown San Antonio to set up an impromptu dinner location. The homeless and needy in the area flock to their location to receive their free hot meal, served by volunteers aged 5 to 95. Review their calendar on their website and sign up your family today!
www.takingittothestreets.com

Kendall County Women’s Shelter
This is a great organization to partner up with during the holiday season. It’s extremely humbling to give of your time and energies to families going through a hugely traumatic chapter of their lives during a time that they should be wrapping presents for the tree. Whether you are providing direct client services at the shelter or indirect services through the administrative office or thrift store, every hour you contribute is making a difference in the lives of adult and child victims of domestic violence.
www.kcwstexas.org

Boerne Community Coalition
The Boerne Community Coalition (BCC) is a 100% all-volunteer 501c3 organization that works in partnership with other local organizations including churches, schools, non-profits, local government, civic groups and businesses who all share the same vision – that children in our community should not be at risk of being hungry. What began as an effort to provide summer lunches to children eligible for the National School Lunch & School Breakfast Programs has evolved into three programs that provide yearlong support to these children and their families, with a focus on meals, access to enrichment, and help with making homes safer and more livable. The group features a long list of volunteer opportunities in a variety of capacities that will have your family giving thanks for not worrying about where the next meal comes from, and appreciating your Christmas dinner even more.
www.boernecommunitycoalition.com

Hill Country Family Services
A tremendous group, they take families in going through a crisis. It could be a sudden death, the loss of a home, substance abuse…no matter what, if their family is struggling through a crisis, HCFS jumps in to assist. To finance the operation, they have Random Hangers Thrift Store and seek cash donations. In addition, they are always seeking volunteers to jump in and assist families through their time of crisis. Opportunities to help are endless, so contact them so that your family can truly see how blessed you are!
www.hcfstx.org

The AgriCultural Museum & Arts Center
Started in 1986 as the Agricultural Heritage Center, this organization has grown over the years to also include the arts with a recent partnership with Hill Country Council for the Arts. On 5 acres of City Park property, the museum hosts several events during the year including: antique tractor pulls, pumpkin festivals, quiltfest & vintage truck shows, handcrafted markets, bluegrass jams, dutch oven cooking classes, blacksmithing classes, and art classes. Volunteers are welcome to help out at events, to clean displays, or to paint and to build things needed for the museum.
www.theagricultural.org

The Sweet Smell Of Success

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Andria Lugo
A young 30 year old entrepreneur, Andria operates her business, Candles by Scentaholics, started in 2019, focusing on hand-poured soy candles, wax melts, car perfumes and LipBee lip products. These are all made in small batches, with love, in Boerne.

1. How did you get into this business?
I have always been a “Scentaholic”. I would spend most of my time in stores down the candle isles looking for wax melts and candles, not only for my home but as gifts for others, so it just clicked and I thought to myself, “Hey I should just make my own” to save on money. Quickly, after doing my research, that’s exactly what I did. This has the benefit of really helping my family, too. At first it was more of a hobby, but then family members and friends were interested and in love with the products, so my drive to do this grew very quickly. Ten candles became 20, and 20 became 60… and now I now have over 25 fragrances in candles, and I am totally into the whole “clean products” thing. It has improved my breathing, my son’s allergies, and the way we feel in general. We expanded from candles and wax melts to car perfumes and lip products.

2. What makes your candles different than most others?
Honestly, there are so many amazing candle makers out there, but soy candles give a nice, clean, no-waste burn with ZERO toxins. We have a large selection of high quality products, made in our home and poured in small batches with a great AFFORDABLE price. We ship and offer free delivery up to 30 miles out of Boerne!

3. How has 2020 been for your business? How have you persevered?
2020 has been a long year for all of us business owners. As long as we all continue to work hard and do what we love, we will come out of this stronger than ever. Because this is my first year in business, I was very concerned. COVID has certainly impacted everyone. In my case, my candle business has done really great. I’m rocking it and looking forward to 2021!

4. How can people come sample your products?
I am currently located in 3 venues in the surrounding area: Bandera General Store, Bandera Tx; Stuff and More, Comfort, Tx; and Bees Wellness Cafe in San Antonio. I also attend local markets every week. Please follow us on social media FB@Candlesbyscentaholics or instagram@ Candlesby.scentaholics The dates and locations of all the markets I attend are listed there.

5. What’s next for your business? Growth plans?
Next for our business are NEW PRODUCTS and NEW FRAGRANCES. One dream is to have a physical/brick-and-mortar location — and I’ve even toyed with the idea of making it a mobile business. My best dream is that I’d love to bring love and light into everyone’s home.

6. Anything you’d like to say to the women of Kendall County?
Do what you love in life! I’ve owned a few businesses over the years and haven’t always been happy in my line of work. Now that I’m doing what I love, I feel free and happy. I do work very hard, but I’m doing what I love, which makes it worth it!

Andria Lugo
Candlesbyscentaholics@yahoo.com
FB @Candlesbyscentaholics
Instagram @candlesby.scentaholics
830-431-2258