New Braunfels leader shares story to encourage support for children facing domestic violence

Early intervention in family violence can help end generational trauma

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas – The Crisis Center of Comal County is looking to rebuild after a fire destroyed the shelter in April 2022, and leaders are also looking to expand services beyond New Braunfels.

Heather Harrison was once a scared 11-year-old living in a women’s shelter with her mother and sister. Now the development director of the nonprofit Hope Hospice, she hopes sharing her story will help encourage youth facing domestic violence at home and community support for the Crisis Center of Comal County.

In the ‘90s, when Harrison was taken to a safe house, the shelter had a different name, but the mission to protect families of domestic violence and sexual assault was the same. She remembers being ashamed of her life situation at the moment, and she hopes her words will encourage young children going through similar situations now.

“This doesn’t define you, but it will change you. It will absolutely open up doors for you that didn’t exist previously if you want those opened, and temporarily, it’s maybe a little uncomfortable, but it will set you into greater success long term,” Harrison said.

As a child, her family was part of the fundraising campaign that helped build the shelter that burned down in April 2022.

“It’s an honor for me to be able to be a part of it and to know that the services provided in the shelter make generational impacts,” Harrison said.

Julie Strentzch, Ph.D, the CEO of the Crisis Center of Comal County, says life-changing stories like Harrison’s show the impact the shelter can make in people’s lives.

“It’s really hardest for the children. They’re being ripped up from the family,” Strentzch said.

Last year, the shelter helped more than 500 people. Out of that, about 200 were children, Strentzch said.

The center is undergoing a capital campaign to rebuild the shelter and expand services beyond New Braunfels.

On Thursday, the nonprofit held its annual gala. The event brings in about 8% of the center’s operating budget to pay the bills and staff.

Strentzch hopes the community will get involved in helping by supporting agencies near them, and it doesn’t always mean giving money.

“Even if it’s not us, there’s nonprofits in this area that need your help and your support,” she said.

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About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.