“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him…the people who give you their food give you their heart.” While the author of these words did not have our Living Legend Alice Bartling in mind when he wrote them, to the many in our community who have benefited from the SOS Food Bank, he surely could have! Although Gladys is probably best known for her work with the SOS Food Bank, giving her heart through food is just one of the many gifts Gladys has given her community and why The Braunfels Foundation Trust has selected her as a Living Legend of New Braunfels.
Gladys Staats Bartling was born on the family farm near Schumannsville in Guadalupe County. Like most children of the time, she started school at Union Wein County School speaking only German. The family, including sister, Adelaine Biggers and brother, Alton, would eventually move to town. Because of an illness, Gladys started school again, but this time at Carl Schurz Elementary. Gladys graduated from New Braunfels High School in 1953 at age sixteen and ranked number three in her class. Following graduation, she attended Durham Business College and began working as a secretary bookkeeper at Bock Motor Company.
Gladys married Korean War veteran Helmuth Bartling in 1954. The couple spent many happy years following the activities and sporting adventures of their nieces and nephews including church youth trips. While working at First Protestant Church as an executive secretary and bookkeeper, Gladys and Helmuth were encouraged to, and enlisted the help of, Reverend Richard Kuretsch to adopt their two children, Gordon and Julie.
For fourteen years, Gladys volunteered in various positions in the PTA including City Council PTA president. For her contributions, she was awarded Texas PTA’s highest honor, Life Membership Award. A leader in 4-H, in Scouts, in Church Youth, and in the Aggies Mother’s Club, Gladys ran for and was elected to the New Braunfels ISD School Board in 1983. She served on many Long Range Planning Committees and received the NBISD’s highest volunteer honor, the Silver Unicorn Award.
Gladys has served as a volunteer for the Crisis Line, Guadalupe County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council, Comal County Aids Task Force, and for the original Texas Information and Referral Task Force that initiated the 211 phone help line.
In 1988, Gladys initiated and coordinated with First Protestant Church and a dozen other churches in the community to create perhaps her most well known accomplishment: The Spirit of Sharing or SOS Food Bank. A little more than five years later, the Food Bank, with the support of seventeen churches and agencies in New Braunfels, had its own home at 248 West Merriweather. Families receiving assistance are given “Basic Bags” of food which are supplemented with canned goods and bakery and other items, depending on the number of family members. The “Basic Bag” contains frozen meats, one dozen eggs, flour, rice, sugar, beans, pasta, tomato sauce, oatmeal and peanut butter.
In 1990, Helmuth passed away, and Gladys was persuaded to volunteer with the Comal County Senior Citizens Center to help create a new Senior Citizens Center. As director of that organization, Gladys opened the doors in 1991 to yet another community resource in New Braunfels.
A member of First Protestant Church, Gladys sings in the Sanctuary Choir, is active in Women’s Fellowship, and chairs one a bereavement committee. She is currently on the Salvation Army Board of Directors, the President of the SOS Food Bank, a docent with the Heritage Society, and a member of the Sophienburg Museum, Comal County Genealogy Society, and Comal County Senior Citizens Foundation. Gladys is also an alumnus of the New Braunfels Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association, a member of the American Legion Post 35 Auxiliary, VFW Post 7110 Auxiliary, and President of the AARP Chapter 1823. Gladys was a member of the 1993 Leadership New Braunfels class and among her other accomplishments, received the Herald Zeitung’s Unsung Hero Award in 1993.
In her spare time, Gladys works part-time for Cell-U-Insul, Inc., occasionally for Caterall, and since 2001 at Wurstfest.