Each year, Communities In Schools chapters provide tutoring, mentoring, college readiness training, access to mental health care and more for students around the country.

The local branch of CIS serves more than 34,000 students at 59 schools throughout Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe, Gonzales and Wilson counties, according to the organization website.

In order to meet the needs of local students, the nonprofit organization regularly hosts fundraising events, said Christine Douglas, CEO of CIS of South Central Texas, many of which were canceled or delayed in 2020 and early 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“When [COVID-19] hit in February, early March, we were in the middle of our biggest fundraiser. ... It was going to be three events and then a finals, and it was called Battle of the Bands,” Douglas said.

The organization was only able to host the first of the multi-event fundraiser before rising local coronavirus cases led to the cancellation of the remaining events.

“From that point on, we were not able to hold any fundraisers at all throughout that whole year of 2020,” Douglas said.

CIS is funded in part through contracts with school districts, and 20% of its budget comes from the Texas Education Agency. The remaining funding is provided through donations, fundraising efforts and events.

In New Braunfels, the annual Wurstfest celebration is another significant fundraising effort for CIS, Douglas said. Volunteers with the organization sell fried pickles, shrimp and more during the 10-day event.

However, when the Marktplatz building on the Wurstfest grounds was destroyed in a fire shortly after the 2019 festival, nonprofit organizations, including CIS, lost their booths, equipment and supplies.

“We were lucky enough to have insurance on some of our items that were there, so we got about $8,000 from our insurance but had to pay a whole lot more than that to be able to get the things we needed for the booth,” Douglas said. “We still paid $28,000 last year to outfit the booth with some of the equipment that we needed. And then this year, we're looking at about another $25,000-$30,000.”

During Wassailfest in 2019, proceeds from a Wade Bowen concert were given to some of the nonprofit organizations that lost their equipment, Douglas said, and CIS received an $1,800 donation.

In preparation for 2021, Douglas said she and her team began planning new or modified fundraisers that would allow the organization to expand their services.

New Braunfels ISD requested CIS staff be added to 10 elementary schools, Douglas said, and her team is working to expand counseling and suicide prevention services in schools in the wake of a growing need for mental health support among students.

“Adding staff to those 10 elementary schools has been a huge investment on our part to have staff and supplies, and computer equipment, and all of the things that we need to do our programming there,” she said. “And we know that our students are really struggling with mental health issues, and we have to be there for them, and that means additional time.”

In April, CIS hosted An Evening Under the Stars, an outdoor event that included live music and food. The event was so popular that Douglas said her team plans to replicate the event in 2022.

In October, the organization held its annual Dining With the Stars event in partnership with La Cosecha in New Braunfels and raised $150,000.

The event featured a set menu, and community members volunteer as local “celebrity” waiters, with all ticket sales and tips benefiting CIS.

“We were stunned, literally stunned at the generosity of the people in attendance, and the waiters who gave their time and asked their friends to donate was just mind-boggling,” Douglas said.

When Wurstfest made a comeback in 2021, Douglas and countless volunteers once again served guests at their new and improved vendor booth and made $69,000, which is $400 more than in 2019.

As Douglas and her team prepare for 2022, she said she is grateful for the support of the community and looks forward to continuing to serve students throughout the community.

“We have been so fortunate to develop a wide following who likes to come to events,” she said. “We hope to continue that and to bring in some maybe new people who haven't had the chance to participate as much.”