The Barnabas Connection assists people in need through advocacy, education and direct services.
What we do
The Barnabas Connection is a 501(c)(3) organization governed by a board of directors with members from the community at large and ecumenical partners.
Barnabas has grown to include:
- Advocacy with local utility providers and county and government services
- Annual events that provide for specific community needs, and
- Direct financial assistance to clients.
“All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connect us as neighbors—in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”
The Barnabas Connection developed as a result of a Wimberley UMC (WUMC) Sunday school class helping a family with basic needs connect with critical resources that improved their lives in a significant way. This experience inspired a vision to create a volunteer-based outreach and phone help line program that provides information and access to health and human resources for individuals and families in need of basic services.
The Barnabas Connection Program Director began working to implement services on June 1, 2004, and volunteers began answering calls on the phone line on August 9, 2004. Over the first year or two, volunteers responded to 20 to 30 calls per month and provided referrals for various health and human service options from a printed resource guide.
Today, Barnabas volunteers can respond to an average of 6 to 8 calls per day, with up to 12 calls daily and an average of 100 calls per month. Volunteers now provide referrals via an online software database created specifically for our program. This software program provides an array of referrals based on the caller’s issues and compiles and tracks caller information, data and activity.
The Barnabas Connection provides health & human services, client advocacy, and community education. Barnabas has grown to include advocacy with local utility providers and county and government services; annual events that provide for specific community needs, and direct financial assistance to clients.
After seeing many families struggle to provide for their children during the back-to-school season, the Barnabas Connection began hosting the Back to School Fiesta in an annual event at the Wimberley United Methodist Church that initially helped provide 100 children with free school supplies and backpacks through the support of just a few community partners. The Back to School Fiesta has developed into a community-wide event with 20+ funding partners that include local churches, civic organizations, and corporate donors. The Fiesta provides school supplies, backpacks, a gift card for new shoes, haircuts, immunizations and access to local community organizations at no cost to approximately 500 children. Local organizations are also on site providing information and assistance. This event continues to provide the tools to be successful in school to more children each year.
Barnabas Connection began administering the Operation Good Shepherd Fund – a financial assistance fund provided by the Wimberley Ministerial Alliance. When families are in financial crisis due to housing, transportation, medical or utility needs, this initial financial help relieves the crisis situation and is an opportunity to connect with the family in crisis in a meaningful way. Once we can help alleviate the most critical issues, we can help the family establish sustainable living conditions through other resources that include the Online Job Connection, Habitat for Humanity, Federal Health and Human Service applications, specific resources to support parents and children in their community and school environments. In 2012, the Wimberley Ministerial Alliance committed to funding a part time assistant under the supervision of the Barnabas Director. The assistant meets directly with clients in need and provides the financial and application assistance.
The Barnabas Connection launched a free online job connection service that was accessed through the Wimberley UMC website. This tool allowed employers and those looking for work to post requests and offerings of services and work. Our clients could use the local public library to access the internet and participate in this invaluable job site. This tool is under construction due to website transitions.
The Barnabas Connection began working with the Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) Board and Staff in 2009 to raise awareness among the PEC stakeholders about the need for policies and procedures that support and assist their low-income clients. PEC policies have been found to be very punitive to low-income and disabled clients, and the Barnabas Connection continues to advocate for policy change that is supportive of low-income families and disabled individuals. The PEC Board passed multiple changes to policies in September of 2011 due to Barnabas’ advocacy.
Barnabas presented a study of Ruby Payne’s book, Bridges Out of Poverty to Barnabas volunteers, and local community and faith-based assistance partners and community leaders. We hoped to encourage an in-depth dialogue and greater understanding of the issues of poverty.
The Barnabas Connection Board of Directors participated in a study and discussion of the book, “When Helping Hurts” with the clergy of the Wimberley Ministerial Alliance. The discussion led to a small task group to consider ways “Operation Good Shepherd” and the services offered by Barnabas could be more in line with the premise of the book. The ongoing discussion with the task group led to a community meeting in May, 2014 to discuss the idea of a “social service community center” and was attended by clergy, social service providers, and civic and city leaders. From the meeting a group has stepped forward interested in pursuing next steps in the conversation.
Fall of 2013
The decision was made with Wimberley UMC’s blessing to pursue separate 501(c)3 status for The Barnabas Connection and the application was submitted in February 2014. The Barnabas Connection received 501(c)3 status in the Fall of 2014 and was made effective retroactive to the date of incorporation September 10, 2014.
The Barnabas Connection hosted a meeting with area Christmas assistance providers to propose the concept of a “Christmas Store” which would allow families in need to shop for items for their family at a reduced cost. From that meeting and following discussions came the decision to host a pilot Christmas Store project between two churches and a limited number of families to learn and determine next steps for the community. Today we are in our 7th year of hosting the Christmas store. In 2019 71 families were able to shop at The Christmas Store, thanks to the generosity of our donors.
The Barnabas Connection hosted a meeting with area Christmas assistance providers to propose the concept of a “Christmas Store” which would allow families in need to shop for items for their family at a reduced cost. From that meeting and following discussions came the decision to host a pilot ChristmasImmediately after the Memorial weekend Wimberley flood at the request of local officials, The Barnabas Connection expanded its operations to help provide vetted information to the public and meet the short and long term financial and emotional needs of local residents impacted by the disaster. By Monday, we had created the “Wimberley Flood Information 2015” Facebook page and continued to provide key notices from community and public officials and maintain over 15,000 followers through the crisis and recovery. We also placed volunteer staff at Brookshire Brothers for several weeks to provide information and answer questions. By Tuesday of that fateful week, we had been asked to receive and manage donations to assist in the rebuilding efforts. We stationed volunteer staff at the Bridges Gym facility and then the Disaster Recovery Center (held at the Danforth Junior High) to provide financial assistance through gift card support through mid-July. As of mid-September, that fund, along with donations of gift cards, had received over $1,000,000 from individuals, businesses, and events! We were honored to work with other local organizations as well as city and state officials to coordinate the disbursement of funds through a long term recovery process.
2020 – #Covid19
In 2020 the Barnabas Connection established an “Emergency Relief” fund to be used in response to the impact of COVID-19 on our community and any future community emergencies. These funds help cover basic needs such as rent, house payments, medical bills, utility bills, and necessities needed for families and individuals who have lost income and jobs and have been directly impacted by COVID-19 – some of whom have been out of work for months now or have multiple family members suffering from COVID-19.
In 2020 Barnabas was awarded a $25,000 grant from the St. David’s Foundation and an additional $30,000 from an anonymous community member, which was match with $30,000 from our donors, community members, churches, and business.
The Wimberley community has faced unprecedented challenges amidst the pandemic, as evidenced by a 90% increase in calls to our HELPline, and these funds have directly allowed us to continue to serve our neighbors in need. As of October 2020, Barnabas has provided $43,000 in COVID relief to community members in need. We are incredibly thankful to our donors, for helping us continue to serve our neighbors in need.