115th Anniversary

For 115 years, Family Service Association has been empowering, guiding, educating, counseling, motivating and strengthening individuals, families and targeted groups. Family Service has supported thousands of individuals and families by assisting them in finding solutions, healing, hope and redirection on their journeys of transformation.

Our story begins in 1903, when three business men and a small group of altruistic women launched a grass roots campaign to help the poor and the hungry. They could not have foreseen that their charitable mission, begun on a $5,000 budget, would endure and indeed thrive for more than a century. Originally called The Charity Association of San Antonio and Bexar County, that agency evolved to become Family Service Association of San Antonio, the city’s oldest human service agency.;xNLx;;xNLx;OUR MISSION: Empowering individuals and families to transform their lives and strengthen their community.;xNLx;;xNLx;Our Values: Excellence, Respect, Accountability, Integrity, Responsiveness.

A Legacy of Innovative Social Service

After leasing The Neighborhood Place since 2006, we completed a capital campaign to purchase and renovate the campus to better serve the community. We received a $2 million endowment for early childhood well-being and education. In expanding Trauma-Informed Care, we were able to sustain lives touched by emotional shock from a stressful event or injury. Our Journeys of Transformation luncheons focus on events, initiatives and growth in our city. Our services expanded to touch nearly 100,000 individuals in Bexar County and 15 surrounding counties, with 600 staff and over 10,000 volunteers on an annual budget of more than $25 million. We continue to earn local and national recognition for innovative, effective services that strengthen families, lift people out of poverty, improve access to education and build community partnerships. After 16 years as President/CEO, Nancy Hard announced her retirement in 2017.

Healing Wounds of Social Turbulence

In a decade when war, civil rights issues and college youth uprisings threatened the fragile fabric of American life, the agency stated its mission was “… to assist families desiring better family life." We were positioned to meet this goal from a permanent home after receiving a gift of land and funds to build an office at 230 Pereida Street, which remained our headquarters until 2003. The Community Chest became the United Fund and was the primary funding source for the newly-named Family Service Association of San Antonio, Inc. Annual budget reached $172,083.

Real Stories of Transformation

Stories of transformation emerged as the defining goal of Family Service with 18 services addressing four areas of impact. Proven tools with evidence-based outcomes were applied to help transform the hurting into healthy, productive, strong, independent individuals and families. The agency deeply influenced progress for tens of thousands of vulnerable children and families enrolled in our Early Childhood Education and Parenting Programs. The Neighborhood Place evolved into a dynamic community center for child abuse prevention, financial empowerment, teen technology, senior social activities and more. By the end of the decade, agency services guided and strengthened more than 90,000 individuals to transcend the challenges of poverty, debt, abuse, depression, powerlessness, isolation, and other impediments to success.

Serving 80,000

By 2005, we were serving more than 45,000 individuals, and extended operations to three counties and ten community offices. A spirit of collaboration and national recognition for our services marked this decade of growth. We innovated programs to address families in crisis and military families devastated by war, serving as a reliable, steady presence through societal change for more than 107 years. Services extended into 28 counties by the end of the decade, protecting, guiding, counseling, motivating and caring for more than 80,000 individuals on a budget of nearly $5 million. In a year when one in three San Antonio teens dropped out of high school, 98% of the youth we served at 11 high schools and 34 middle schools graduated. We leased and repurposed a closed elementary school to create The Neighborhood Place on the West side of San Antonio. We were recognized as one of San Antonio’s Top Work Places.

The Seeds of a New Profession

Studying patterns of poverty and collaborating with President Theodore Roosevelt at the national level, the agency helped plant the seeds of social work as a new profession. In what would become a philosophy of forging community partnerships for the optimum benefit of clients, the agency centralized services with other benevolence groups to assist clients with relief, employment, transportation and medical care, and took on a new name to reflect the expansion: The Associated Charities of San Antonio and Bexar County.

Laying Foundations

We helped organize and became charter members of the Community Chest, the predecessor of the United Fund and finally, United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County. With a budget of $22,000, assistance covered a full spectrum to relieve distresses attributed primarily to “Death, desertion and ill health of the breadwinner.” The guiding mantra, which still motivates the agency a century later, was stated as: “Our first wish always is to keep the home together.” The original variation of Adopt-A-Family was born in this decade, and flourishes still.

A New Century with New Vision

It was a time of strategizing for the future in a new century and of transitioning from a charity to a not-for-profit organization. We developed bold initiatives and our spectrum of services broadened to include every age from birth to end of life. Through Smart Start, we paved the way for Family Service to become a standard bearer in early childhood education. We began recycling student uniforms to give children and teens a chance to start school with a fresh outfit and outlook. We also assisted older adults who remained independent in their homes, youths were supported through our Youth Against Gang Activity Program, and also offered practical advice to teen parents. In 2003, Family Service completed a capital campaign and found a new home at 702 San Pedro, which continues to serve as the agency's headquarters. In this decade, our widely diversified portfolio included a respected slate of public and private investors. In 2001, Nancy Hard was named Executive Director.

Counseling for Families

By the 1950s, social workers were concentrating on the family and how it was affected by issues of health, economics and mental/emotional challenges. Marriage and family counseling was now offered, and in 1954, for the first time, modest fees were charged for those who could afford to pay. After years of operating from a series of loaned spaces, the agency received the gift of a cottage on King William Street, which would serve as its home for the next 11 years. Esther Bonnet served as Executive Director from 1955 to 1969.

Addressing Changing Social Needs

In this decade, we assumed our current identity as Family Service Association of San Antonio, Inc., and became nationally accredited, the first national accreditation to be achieved. Expanding our range and purpose to address societal change, we added an array of diverse services that included Child Sexual Abuse Counseling, Protective Services for Adults at Risk, Homemaker Aides and Family Life Education. At the same time, the Board of Directors discontinued direct financial assistance in order to redirect funds to professional services. Two satellite locations were opened. Budget, $191,449; families served, 1,000. From 1969 through his retirement in 1981, James R. Gamble, Jr, served as Executive Director.

Family Casework Dawns

Social work evolved as a profession, gaining strength in numbers and unanimity of purpose, resulting in support for family casework, which was provided by the Community Chest. With these changes, our agency was renamed Family Welfare Association of San Antonio, Inc., reflecting its new service direction. Tuberculosis was the number one health threat, which drained the coffers of the agency and urged formation of a government tuberculosis program. Needs swelled to more than 1,300 annual applications for assistance, and the budget grew to $125,000. When longtime Executive Secretary Imogene Callaway retired in 1945, Mrs. Edwin Gunkle became the first paid executive director of the agency, serving through 1955.

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