Program Highlight: House of Neighborly Service
For more than 100 years, the House of Neighborly Service (HNS) has been like a second home to families on San Antonio’s Westside. It was founded in 1917 by Presbyterian missionaries and has been operating out of the same, historic building designed by Harvey P. Smith since 1929. The capacity of HNS to serve people and families will grow significantly once work is completed later this year on the restoration and expansion of that building through their Building Hope Capital Campaign.
As Executive Director Sandra Morales puts it, “We empower our community through education and resources so that they can become sustainable and thrive in life.” The House of Neighborly Service is constantly evolving to provide the resources and programs most needed by the community today. That work centers on four key pillars: Family Support, Food Security, Senior Support and Child Development.
“House of Neighborly Service is one of those special organizations that is purely focused on providing opportunities to everyone who asks, just as we were taught in church to love our neighbors as ourselves,” Becky Dinnin, SVPSA Executive Director said.
Morales and HNS participated in the Social Venture Partners San Antonio fellowship cohort in 2019/2020 and found it incredibly helpful. Although HNS has been around for more than 100 years, she said some policies and procedures were lacking or needed to be updated. Morales said the program felt very personal and was tailored to exactly what they needed as a small nonprofit.
“The SVPSA cohort was such an invaluable experience for me because it helped strengthen my skills as a leader and provided the necessary tools to help sustain my organization,” said Morales. “To this day SVPSA continues to be supportive because they want to see the organizations they support to be successful in the communities we serve.”
House of Neighborly Service proudly provided the first kindergarten program in the area almost a century ago. Today, HNS serves around 32 children ages 14 months – five years in its onsite childcare and development programs. They also partner with both Family Service Association and the Harry Jersig Speech-Language-Hearing Center at Our Lady of the Lake University to provide early intervention services. HNS youth enjoy after school programs centered around STEAM and music activities, and help with homework when they need it.
The Family Support program seeks to empower families with tools and resources to build healthy homes. HNS offers compassionate, non-judgmental support for parents of young children including respite programs and access to clothing, diapers and even cleaning supplies, which have been especially helpful in the pandemic. Families enrolled in the HNS Jump Start program meet regularly with HNS workers for about six months to a year and learn techniques to improve relationships and build better communication patterns in the family. This work is also centered on building children’s resiliency and measuring Social Emotional Learning and executive function skills.
For around 125 seniors in the community, the House of Neighborly Service provides food, social activities, learning opportunities for health and wellness, health screenings and a place and community to celebrate life’s big moments. Community health workers connect seniors with services they need. They don’t just hand them a phone number – they walk them through the process to make sure they don’t give up. During Covid, HNS started offering curbside and home delivery food service, in addition to meals offered onsite, totaling 1,300 meals a month by the end of 2020.
This important work will continue to expand after building improvements are complete at the end of this year. The kitchen area will double in size and will include commercial equipment for the first time, including a walk-in cooler so that meal capacity can expand and include more produce and dairy products. The number of children served will increase from 32 to 50 and there will be better space for staff.
If you are interested in supporting the House of Neighborly Service, there are many ways to help. They deliver meals to seniors Tuesday – Friday each week from 10:30 to noon. All you need is a vehicle, a smile and a mask. There is also a school supply drive underway for the upcoming school year. Three times a year, HNS gathers volunteers to help seniors clean up yards and spruce up their property. Visit hnstoday.org to learn more.