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.
Immediately 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.
Emergency Relief Fund
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.
Wimberley Community Emergency Response:
This Facebook Page was established in 2020 during COVID so that we could share messages from the City, County, and State. We also were able to use this Facebook page during the winter storms to get fast emergency information out to the community. It has been continued to be used for weather alerts or any other information that is needed to be shared in mass by City, County, or State.
Summer and Winter Food Program-
During the end of the 2019-2020 school year and summer 2020 Barnabas worked with many local churches and Nonprofits to make sure students who were at home due to online learning and students in summer still received food, breakfast, and weekend backpacks of food. This was a great need since 32% of students ( many who are Barnabas Clients) are on free and reduced lunch and many more were impacted by COVID-19.
At the 2020 Christmas Store, we took a survey of our clients after they finished shopping. We were able to learn many things from that survey. One of the things we learned was that many students needed food during the winter breaks as many families rely on the free/reduced food service during school days. Once again we partnered with the local churches and nonprofits to provide food for families in need.
2021 – Winter Storm Relief
In Feb 2021 The Barnabas Connection established a Winter Relief Fund. This fund was used to help community members who were impacted by the Texas Winter Storms. To date, there has been $40,566 in Winter Relief.
In Feb of 2021 Texas was hit with a devastating winter storm. From the first warning of bad weather, Barnabas worked with our community to prepare residents, sharing on our social media and working with local city officials at https://www.facebook.com/wimberleycommunityemergencyresponse and www.barnabasconnects.org
For the next 2 weeks, we saw so many community members, nonprofits, and businesses come together as we would work together to deliver food and water and food to those who were shut in or in need. Barnabas has run a HELPline since its very inception, and this number along with an extra number that would be set up by Cypress Creek Church to help field calls just for water needs ( the demand was so high), allowed us to match community volunteers who were able to navigate the very treacherous storms to get to those who were in need, and even those who needed emergency help.
During the first week, we found there was no water to be bought in our town or any surrounding towns, so we put out an SOS. The local ISD had their coaches clear out all of their concession stands and the local Youth Sports Association donated all the water they had as well. Local community members, the pastor of Cypress Creek Church, Lions club members, the Ace Hardware Owner, and Jeep Club members drove water all around town as people called in for the need. Amigos de Jesus Food Pantry opened its doors and let us clear out the food to deliver food to those who were iced in.
As the week went on and the ice cleared we continued to see a need because of pipes bursting and there was no water for sale. We continued to deliver food and water and set up a spaghetti dinner drive-through and delivery for the whole community- generously hosted by the Baptist Church. A team of volunteers delivered over 500 meals and water ( donated by HAYS CO and 2 palettes purchased by Barnabas) out to the community. In addition, Fig tree delivered a bag of food for every child in the home and Barnabas took Breakfast Cereal and Formula provided by Heart of Texas Pregnancy Resource Center and Blankets from Amigos de Jesus.
This allowed us to walk in the community in some places where a light needed to be shone and spread the Love of God and bring awareness to some inequities that exist. Had it not been for this crisis, it is very possible these blessings would have not happened. The calls of crisis that were coming into our helpline from an area of our community were dire, some people had been without water for days. These same people had not had a way to access us by phone and when they finally did these were their words:
Todas las familias tenemos una semana sin agua. Tenemos que estar deshaciendo la nieve para echarle al baño, pero no tenemos para bañar ni para nada.” (All of the families have gone a week without water. We have been melting snow to use in the bathroom, but we don’t have water to bathe or for anything else.)
When a volunteer responded that someone would be heading out to them with help:
“Quiere que lleguen pronto porque estamos ansiosos por el agua y una comidita porque la verdad es que se nos hace mucha falta del favor de Dios.” (Hoping that they arrive soon because we are anxious to have water and a little bit of food because the truth is that we have really felt a lack of God’s favor.)
It became apparent to many of us that these communities needed more, and Cypress Creek Church mobilized to set up a food and water distribution, asking if we wanted to partner with them. As CCC and their amazing team were undertaking the huge task of all the behind-the-scenes tech and registration work, the Barnabas team worked to shop for additional food to supplement the amazing donation that CCC had secured from the Hays County Food Bank. Our community came together to provide all needed items-(Crisis Bread Basket donating food, Amigos de Jesus donating food, HEB donating water, Heart of Texas Pregnancy Resource Center donating formula and Diapers, Fig Tree donating snacks for kids, Ace Hardware and Sonora Bank donating bags for food), or financial donations from the community to help assist with the purchases. When it seemed like we wouldn’t have the time to get everything done, our families worked tirelessly for the entire day and Cypress Creek’s Team showed up on Sunday ( in mass) to get it all wrapped up.
During the event, we worked beside each of the partners to serve all of the community members, connecting with nonprofits and community members, discovering other unmet needs we were able to fill.
After the food and water event, we had the opportunity to follow up and continue serving these most vulnerable and still impacted and to take with us on several trips with us the City Mayor, City Council Members, Pastors, and members of nonprofits-many who had not been aware of the high levels of need before this time. We are thankful for their commitment to our community making a change and helping us do that.
We have continued to serve in the community, helping those most impacted by the Winter Storms. Unfortunately, as is too often, these are also our most vulnerable community members. Since then, we have been working to create a plan with the Mayor, City Planner, Non-Profits, and churches for a better emergency plan going forward. We have also hired someone to be a voice and contact for our most vulnerable areas- our Community Liaison.
Held for the first time in August 2021, the Back-to-School Celebration is an expansion of the Back-to-School Fiesta to include ALL community members with children, by having a community celebration after the supply portion of The Back-to-School Fiesta.
The Goal of the Celebration is:
-To generate EXCITEMENT in the community for ALL kids/families in a fun and safe setting as we celebrate being able to come TOGETHER for the start of the school year.
-To provide RESOURCES and REFERRALS for ALL families in the Wimberley Valley.
-To continue to provide supplies and backpacks for students in need, while identifying new areas of need through reaching out to all families via local nonprofits and community partners.
In September of 2021 The Barnabas Connection was approached by The Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Wimberley to submit a proposal to their members with how they would use the space should they sell the building. The Barnabas board worked to map out a vision for the space, one that had been a vision and dream of the board since its inception.
In October of 2021, thanks to the kindness of the Lutheran Church and the generosity of the Barnabas donors, Barnabas was pleased to announce that they were able to purchase the building, carrying no monthly mortgage and with clear title. This allowed Barnabas to purchase a building and the LCR to still hold their monthly service without having the financial obligation of owning a building.
From October of 2021 to current (May of 2022), Barnabas, their volunteers, board members, donors, and community have been working together to clean, sort, organize, make ready and transform the space into their own. During this time, Barnabas has been able to host an Emergency Preparedness/Strategic Planning Retreat, their 9th Annual Christmas Store, and the opening of their new program, The Closet. In addition, Barnabas has been able to be the host for several of the Wimberley Non Profit Alliance Meetings, the Emergency Preparedness Team Meetings, and has been able to provide space to local partner nonprofits for them to host their board meetings.
In November of 2021, The Barnabas Connection began planning the process of creating a comprehensive strategic plan for fiscal years 2022-2024. From the beginning, the leadership of the Barnabas Connection had a vision to bring the community together to craft a mission and vision for their new building and create a collaborative emergency preparedness plan that would support the Wimberley Valley. This plan reflects the input of the engaged citizens, community and business partners, local government officials, and the Board of Directors and staff of the Barnabas Connection. The Barnabas Connection’s mission, vision, and values provide the foundation for the plan’s key goals and objectives. They developed the strategic objectives in each goal area taking into consideration the Wimberley Valley’s challenges and opportunities. There was a strong commitment to provide services for improving lives for all who live in the Wimberley Valley. With the purchase of the new building, they plan to transition it to be utilized to support existing and new programming and a place to serve the community in the event of need or crisis.
The funds raised at the RED, WHITE, BLUES, and BARNABAS will be used to support the outfitting of the needed items to prepare the building to be an Emergency Shelter in a community crisis. These are items such as a whole building generator, rainwater collection tanks, cots, personal kits, and many more items that would be used during a shelter. Any additional funds raised will be spilt between the Emergency Relief Fund and General Fund.
An open house is planned for December 3rd, 2022 in which Barnabas plans to showcase their new building, honor their past history and share their plans for the future with the community.