Giving Goes Glam Fashion Raises Much Needed Funds

Community models strut the runway for the 8th Annual Giving Goes Glam Fashion Show and Luncheon, presented by CHI St. Luke’s Health – The Woodlands Hospital with Exclusive Automotive Partner Sewell. Combining fashion and philanthropy, the New York–style runway show highlighted spring trends provided by Saks Fifth Avenue at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center on Friday, April 5th. Over 730 guests arrived dressed to impress in support of two local organizations, The Junior League of The Woodlands and Interfaith of The Woodlands, raising more than $315,000 for both organizations.

Jennifer Colerick, President of Junior League of The Woodlands shared, “This event has evolved so much over these past eight years. To continue with this partnership and watch it thrive, all in service of our community is remarkable.”

The venue was adorned with beautiful geodes generously on loan from The Houston Museum of Natural Science, an array of fresh florals, underwritten by Piney Rose Floral, and a stunning amethyst color palette provided the perfect backdrop for the gemstone themed event. Co-chairs, Nicole Murphy, and Emily Wilcox greeted guests with a champagne-themed raffle for a Market Street shopping spree, along with an enticing silent auction including 100 packages. DJ Kenny Sanchez provided the music backdrop while guests waited to enter the Ballroom.
Logan Lester, Miss Texas USA 2018, emceed the event that opened with a moving video showcasing both organizations’ heartfelt service throughout the community. The live auction featured an all-inclusive “New York City Girl’s Weekend Getaway,” raising $9,000! Next, six outstanding volunteers were presented as the 2019 community models and included Perisha Burnham, Stacey Fontenot, Bobbi Jo Miller, Dr. Ty Tillman, Dr. Debbie Sukin and Amy Torres. Each model was applauded for her commitment their long-standing service throughout South Montgomery County.

The grand finale of the event was the Saks Fifth Avenue Fashion Show, directed by fan favorite and producer extraordinaire, Lenny Matuszewski, highlighting a wide variety of designs from the new spring line spanning everything from formal to leisure wear.

Interfaith of The Woodlands President and CEO, Missy Herndon, shared, “Our organizations are dedicated to serving and building our community. We stand here representing a combined 80 years of service to our community, millions of volunteer hours and thousands of lives impacted by the many programs, services, and leadership of great organizations.” Following the Fashion Show, the celebration continued at the new Como Club at the Westin for the always sold-out “After Party” sponsored by The Kink Team Luxe. The afternoon provided much-needed funds for both organizations with a message that “Giving is Glamorous!”

Interfaith of The Woodlands is a nonprofit social service agency celebrating its 45th year of providing numerous programs and services to meet the needs of The Woodlands community and surrounding area. For more information on Interfaith’s programs and services or to become a volunteer, please visit woodlandsinterfaith.org or call 281-367-1230.
The Junior League of The Woodlands is an organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable. For information on The Junior League of The Woodlands, please visit jlthewoodlands.org

 

The Woodlands Weddings – Ben and Cassi

As the gorgeous spring flowers begin to bloom, love (and weddings) is definitely in the air! We can’t help but swoon at a beautiful love story. We will be featuring occasional weddings with ties to The Woodlands on the website of The Book The Woodlands. Enjoy our first story, Ben and Cassi. 

Photography Courtesy Jenna McElroy

Connections to The Woodlands 

I graduated from The Woodlands high school; my parents still live in the Woodlands. Ben is from Iowa!  

How it all Began 

We met through work at Ben Taub county hospital in the Med Center. We are both medical device reps and were working for the same company at the time. Ben moved from D.C. to Houston and was visiting his accounts in the territory. We met in the Urology Operating Room during a procedurenot the most romantic place in the world 😂 

We officially started dating a few months after meeting and have been inseparable ever since! We dated for almost a year and a half before we got engaged.  

Proposal & Engagement 

Ben proposed to me on the beach in Galveston, a place that was very special to us. We spent a lot of time in Galveston with my family, and one of our first dates was a day down in Galveston. We had a Friendsgiving with some of our friends and family at a beach house, and Ben and I went on a walk before everyone ate dinner. He gave me a beautiful card, got down on one knee and made me the happiest person on this planet. When we walked back to the house my family and friends from out of town were all there.  

We were engaged for 11 months. Wedding planning wasn’t stressful at all because our event planner,  Jen Lowrance took care of EVERYTHING. It flew by! 

The Big Day- Wedding & Highlights  

We got married at Chapel in the Woods at Woodlands Church. Our reception was at Chandelier Grove. It was the most beautiful, incredible day of our lives. It was beyond my dream wedding.  

A memory that was so special was our last dance. The guests went outside for our sendoff, and we had one last dance just the two of us in the barn. It was really emotional and probably the only time all day we got to slow down and take in everything. 

It was incredibly moving to get married in the church where I grew up. My family has found a home and a church family there since we moved to The Woodlands in 2006.  

Honeymoon and Happily Ever After 

We currently live in the Heights in Houston, and we went to Antigua for our honeymoon at a beautiful place called Cocos Hotel.  

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If you would like to have your Woodlands Wedding featured on the website for The Book The Woodlands, contact jromano@woodlandsinterfaith.org 

 

Destination 30A- A Woodlander’s Guide to the Emerald Coast

If you live in Texas or really anywhere in the South, you have probably seen the iconic round blue and yellow “30A” sticker adorning cars. Many know exactly what it stands for and some may wonder what this place called “30A” is all about and why it has a strong enough following for people to slap a sticker on their car to showcase their love for it.

30A is a 19.1 mile stretch of beach communities along the Emerald Coast of the Florida Panhandle, arguably the most beautiful span of beaches in the U.S. The pristine blue and green waters rival the Caribbean and the pure white sand is like no other in the world. The iconic 30A is a gem in its own right and offers unique and quaint communities throughout. Each one of these communities stand alone with their own distinct personalities, yet will always share one common denominator, the magical blue and green waters that fade into the white powder sand.

Many potential 30A visitors are overwhelmed by the decisions to make before booking their trip due to the numerous options including how to get there, where to stay, what to eat and what to do. Good news! I have some great insight to help you make your 30A experience memorable enough to slap a sticker on your car when you leave!

How to Get There…

If you choose to fly, 30A is a quick 1.5-hour flight from Houston to Panama City.  Once in Panama City, you have a 30-minute drive to 30A. The airport is small and easy to navigate. There are plenty of Ubers and rental cars available at Panama City Airport.

If you decide to make the 9.5-hour drive to 30A from The Woodlands, you know that a few stops will be necessary. However, they don’t have to be painful. Most rentals along 30A are from Saturday to Saturday which means the traffic coming and going during the peak season is a sure thing, especially as you get closer to your destination. So for most of you renting during that period, this information can make your trip just a bit easier.

Leave early and make it to Baton Rouge for an early lunch. There is a great spot just off the interstate, rightfully named City Pork (Hollydale location). Call ahead and order lunch to go. They offer easy lunches that meet Louisiana flavor standards, trust me, I’m from New Orleans, and I approve. They will conveniently package it for you to take on the road.

Once you arrive in Mobile, you are guaranteed to feel the “beach traffic.”The mobile tunnel is a dreaded landmark for many seasoned beachgoers. It is slow moving and can add up to an hour to your trip if you get there at the wrong time. Avoid rush hour and try to plan your trip to arrive in Mobile as early as possible. If you choose to split the trip, I suggest staying overnight in Mobile at The Battle House Hotel and doing a quick tour of the U.S.S Alabama in the morning (you can’t check in to your beach house until 4 pm anyway). The battleship deserves a walkthrough. We took our kids to this museum last year, and our kids still talk about it today and bonus, our kids can’t ask what that ship is all about every single time we pass it.

The upside…once you get through Mobile you are only 2.5 hours from your happy place! To ease the last leg of the trip, Texas’ beloved destination/gas station, Buc-ee’s is in your future as they just opened their first out of state MASSIVE establishment about 30 miles east of Mobile so HOLD IT!

And before you know it, there it is…the highly anticipated exit 85! The last leg of your trip! You are only 30 minutes away from your vacation. Your kids are hungry, and you are thirsty. Don’t bother with the grocery stores on Saturday because everyone else is. We order pizzas from Pizza by the Sea (there are several locations) and pick it up on our way in town. You’re welcome!

So now you know how to get there. The other big question is, “where am I staying?” While 30A offers endless options that are sure to provide everyone with their “perfect spot,”it is helpful to be well versed on your options.

A Few of the Popular 30A Communities

Watercolor Beach

This resort planned community is ideal for the active lifestyle. Here you can take advantage of the miles of walking and biking trails that preserve the nature and beauty of the woods. Western Lake, the county’s largest natural dune lake calls Watercolor it’s home offering stand up paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Additionally, there are several beautiful wooden footbridges that crossover Western Lake and are a photographer’s dream come true! Watercolor also offers a children’s summer camp, five community pools, a lazy river and a beachfront beach club that is currently under renovation and is slated to be complete this summer. Be sure to stop at Fish Out Of Water for an ocean view lunch or dinner and make sure you order the warm pimento cheese!

Grayton Beach

The local vibe is alive and well in this eclectic community. Here, the locals will welcome you with open arms, sandy feet, and a cold beverage! This beach allows permitted vehicles to drive right on the beach adding to its laid back attitude. A coastal dune lake borders one side of this town offering the chance to jump on a paddle board and cruise through the still waters that often connect to the Gulf of Mexico. Off the beaten path, you can enjoy the unique Shops at Grayton Beach. Stop in for breakfast at Black Bear and treat yourself to a piece of art from one of the local galleries. Grayton is home to Chiringo, a fun and festive beach bar and restaurant that has been known to turn into an energetic nightlife scene. On rainy days, grab the kids and head to Shards for a fun glass art project that you can take home as a souvenir.

Blue Mountain Beach

Considered one of the less-developed communities on 30A, Blue Mountain Beach still attracts many visitors for this very reason. This area happens to have the highest elevation along Florida’s Gulf Coast, allowing breathtaking views. The famous Blue Mountain Creamery is a must for an afternoon treat.  Grab dinner at Stinky’s Fish Camp for the perfect family-friendly night out. If there is a wait, head over to Stinky’s bait shop for a drink and live music to pass the time. You can’t leave Blue Mountain without visiting the ultra-popular Justin Gaffrey art gallery. Here you will discover the vast mediums Justin uses to express his vision. His work is truly unparalleled.

Seaside

This cozy community is picture perfect. The quaint cottages wrapped with white picket fences, cobblestone streets, and unique storefronts give you the feeling you are walking through a movie set, and you are! The famous Truman Show starring Jim Carrey was filmed here and released in 1998. Seaside offers a surreal environment that has its visitors coming back for more year after year. From the movies under the stars to the unique book store (Sundog Books) and the town grocery (Modica Market), one can’t help but be drawn to this town. Breakfast at Great Southern Cafe and dinner on the rooftop deck at Bud & Alley’s is a must!

 

Alys Beach

Here, the brilliant-white homes and villas are what allows Alys to hold the bragging rights as being the most striking community along 30A. A stroll down this iconic stretch flanked with tropical palms will stay with you forever. Lunch at Georges is always a good idea. Finish off your evening poolside at one of the most beautiful outdoor restaurants in the area, Caliza with luxurious cabanas and where coastal cuisine is taken very seriously. Alys Beach has high standards, and it shows.

 

Rosemary Beach

Flickering lanterns and wood planked pathways guide you through this charming community. Rosemary offers one of the larger shopping experiences on 30A including the popular hidden Lantern Bookstore, Willow Clothing, and Patchouliesto name a few and of course, the obligatory visit to the Sugar Shack will be on your daily agenda. New to this area is Pescado that offers highly sought after seats on their deck with breathtaking views. Be sure to plan ahead to partake in this unforgettable experience as reservations are almost always necessary and it is an adult only establishment.

 

Wanting more?

 

30A truly is a way of “vacation” life, and for some, it’s a way of “real” life. If you decide you want a piece of this paradise to call your own, the local realtors are as warm and welcoming as the beaches that drew you here. Stop by The Beach Group and ask for James Watts. His team is the best in the area and can help you find your happy place.

Other 30A “Must Do’s”

Take a surf lesson with Austin Magee at Austin Magee Surf School in Seaside.

Hike through the Point Washington State Forest.

Visit Eden State Park and Plantation.

Charter a deep sea fishing trip off of Grayton Beach.

Take a paddleboard yoga class at the Boathouse in Watercolor.

Visit one of the many Farmers Markets.

Book a trip during Songwriters Festival, Seeing Red Wine Festival and Watercolor’s Christmas festival.

Grab a blanket and head to the beach for the sunset…look for the green flash.

Rent bikes and explore the towns around you.

I hope this helps to make your 30A experience an unforgettable one that will keep you going back for more and when you go, you will understand why most people can’t say they have only visited 30A once.   There is a reason why my family and 3.5 million visitors call 30A their vacation spot every year…go find out for yourself!

 

Courtesy Christine Mitchell Photography

Nicole Murphy

Owner, Mersea Watercolor

Nicole Murphy has lived in The Woodlands with her husband and two children for 14 years. She is passionate about giving back to several local charities where she is highly involved. Nicole enjoys traveling to her beach home in watercolor Florida with her husband, children, and friends.

Community Models Take the Stage at 2019 Giving Goes Glam

Interfaith of The Woodlands and Junior League of The Woodlands are pleased to announce the highly anticipated Community Models for Giving Goes Glam 2019.

The 8thAnnual Fashion Show and Luncheon, presented by CHI St. Luke’s Health, will be held at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center on Friday, April 5, 2019.  Chaired by Nicole Murphy and Emily Wilcox, this event raises critical funds for community outreach efforts.

Perisha Burnham, Stacey Fontenot, and Bobbi Jo Miller will walk the runway representing Junior League of The Woodlands.  “Each model has deep ties within this community, working tirelessly to support our programs.  Because of these efforts, they were awarded as our 2018 outstanding active member, provisional member and sustaining member, respectively.  We are deeply grateful for their dedication to the Junior League,” commented Jennifer Colerick, Junior League of The Woodlands’ President.

Representing Interfaith of The Woodlands are Debbie Sukin, Ty Tillman and Amy Torres; each having volunteered for Interfaith in a variety of roles for many years.  “At the heart of Interfaith are our volunteers, and each of our models has shown a deep commitment to our mission of serving this community. Whether it be serving on our board, fundraising or volunteering for our programs, these women give selflessly time and time again.” shared Missy Herndon, Interfaith of The Woodlands’ President & CEO.

The event includes a New York-style runway show highlighting fashion provided by Saks Fifth Avenue, live entertainment, a chance to win a shopping spree at Market Street The Woodlands, and silent and live auctions.  The perfect combination of fashion, philanthropy, and friendship, Giving Goes Glam’s proceeds benefit the missions of both organizations, supporting programs and services for the South Montgomery County community.

For sponsorship opportunities or further event details, please visit givinggoesglam.org or contact Carolyn Donovan, Interfaith of the Woodlands’ Director of Development, at development@woodlandsinterfaith.org or 832-615-8225.

Interfaith of The Woodlands is a nonprofit social service agency celebrating its 45th year of providing numerous programs and services to meet the needs of The Woodlands community and surrounding area. For more information on Interfaith’s programs and services or to become a volunteer, please visit woodlandsinterfaith.org or call 281-367-1230.

The Junior League of The Woodlands is an organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable. For information on The Junior League of The Woodlands, please visit jlthewoodlands.org or call 281-376-5754.

Photography Courtesy: Mindy Harmon Photography

Top Row (l-r) Debbie Sukin, Missy Herndon, Perisha Burnham, Ty Tillman, Stacey Fontenot, Jennifer Colerick. Row 2 (l-r) Amy Torres, Emily Wilcox, Nicole Murphy, and Bobbi Jo Miller.

Women Empowering Women Featuring Rachel Hollis

Rachel Hollis, author of the New York Times bestseller “Girl Wash Your Face”, brought her inspirational message of empowerment to the sold-out crowd at the Interfaith of The Woodlands’ Women Empowering Women luncheon on February 1st at The Woodlands Resort. Donning a “love for you” t-shirt, Ms. Hollis, had the audience cheering and dancing to her message of self-acceptance and celebrating one’s God-given gifts.  

The Women Empowering Women luncheon, presented by CHI St. Luke’s Health, was the 6th Annual event hosted by the Interfaith Community Clinic, that serves as a medical home for many Montgomery County families. “The enthusiasm for this year’s speaker was remarkable, and very quickly we realized we would have the opportunity to share about the clinic to a whole new audience in addition to our current supporters,” Missy Herndon, President, and CEO of Interfaith Community Clinic. 

Ms. Hollis championed the Interfaith Community Clinic, rallying the 730 guests to contribute to support the clinic’s efforts, and led by example donating back her entire speaking fee to the cause. As a result, the event raised $325,000, shattering the previous luncheon record.  

Rachel Hollis, photo courtesy Derrick Bryant

Junior League of The Woodlands – Rene Romano, Louise Blanchard, Jenny Shirley, and Shonna Spear

WEW Committee: Darin Mittlestaedt, Georgianna Syal, Emma Simms, Missy Herndon, Anita Phillips, Michelle Kink, Dr. Sakina Davis, Jessica Kemp-Park Not Pictured: Kelly Hull, Lee Fackler

Ella and Jo Anne Johnson

Michelle Kink, Jordan Coronado, and Leslie Hogan

Presenting Sponsor CHI St. Luke’s Health with Clinic Director, Anita Phillips

Guest Singer, Cannon Brand entertains audience during coffee and desserts.

Ladies of Southwestern Energy wear T-Shirts honoring Hollis

 

The Interfaith Community Clinic, established in 1996, is a nonprofit Health Care Center providing medical and dental care as well as counseling and patient service assistance to the uninsured and underinsured in Montgomery County. The Interfaith Community Clinic staff, comprised of experienced professional medical and dental volunteers, see over 10,000 patients annually for preventative care and minor illness treatment.

Teens Making a Difference

We have all heard the criticism of Generation Z or the iGeneration… always on their phone, self-absorbed, and can’t live without technology. And while Snapchat and Instagram may be a priority for many, so is volunteering and serving our community. Hundreds of teens in our community are choosing to spend their free time serving others, developing leadership skills and creating deeper bonds with their parents and peers. What is the impressive connection that unites these young people? They are all either NCL (National Charity League) or NCR (National Charity Roundtable) members. 

National Charity League (NCL) 

NCL is an esteemed mother-daughter charitable membership organization that operates nationwide. The young ladies, in grades 7-12, participate and focus on growth and development in community service, leadership, and cultural experiences. With core values including empowering women, inspiring social awareness and compassion, honoring the mother-daughter bond, and mentorship, it is not surprising that these exceptional young women are making a difference here in The Woodlands.

pictured are Morgan McBurney, Sydney Linger and Carina Masuelli of The Woodlands Chapter, Class of 2018

NCL began in 1925 with a philanthropic organization in Los Angeles called the Charity League. The women frequently brought their daughters with them as they made layettes and assembled and delivered baskets of food to the hungry for the American Red Cross. In 1938, these mother-daughter volunteer groups began calling themselves Ticktockers. They banded together in 1947 to become the nation’s first mother-daughter charity, taking the name the National Charity League. There are currently more than 70,000 members in more than 256 chapters in 27 states. 

Madison and Deborah Barnette, Caitlin and Jena McCrann, Ann and Merritt Rice – NCL, The Magnolias – Panther Creek Inspiration Ranch, Summer Camp

The Woodlands chapter, founded in 1988, was the first local chapter and is celebrating its 30th anniversary. In the past year, which runs from April 1-March 31, the members of the six classes (2019-2024) completed over 11,533 combined [Patronesses (mothers) and Ticktockers (daughters)] hours of volunteer work in our community. In addition, NCL members contributed over $20,000 in financial and in-kind donations to the community through fundraisers including their Tea and Style Show, Under the Teacup, held in the fall. The Tea and Style Show is organized, hosted and executed by the 9th-grade members for about 250 people with the junior and seniors serving as models for the style show.
“It is wonderful to see these girls begin to take charge, track their hours and plan their schedules. The sense of accomplishment and leadership development is extraordinary.” Karla LaFitte, President, The Woodlands NCL Chapter  

Interfaith was fortunate to have one of these NCL superstars, Nora Jones, as an intern this past fall, and it is a regular occurrence to come across these amazing teens volunteering in the Interfaith pantry, the Veggie Village, or at any of our many volunteer activities such as stuffing backpacks and the toy or food drives.  

NCL chapters in and around The Woodlands that support Interfaith include Bluebonnets, Magnolias, Texas Laurels, Texas Roses, The Woodlands, and Grand Lillies. Each chapter is autonomous but they often work together and friendships develop with girls across the chapters. Ms. LaFitte emphasized that NCL is a welcoming organization, for girls with all types of interests and includes working and stay-at-home moms, and families at all economic levels.  

Kelley and Kendall Wolf, Santa, Michelle and Avery Markel at Houston Methodist Hospital, The Woodlands

According to Karla LaFitte, “NCL is a unique and special opportunity to share with my daughter. It is quality time doing something we both love – giving back to the community.”

The deadline for applications for the coming year is approaching quickly on January 15. 

National Charity Roundtable (NCR)

National Charity Roundtable (NCR) was established in 2001 as a charitable organization in The Woodlands comprised of parents and sons to serve local philanthropies. The Woodlands Chapter of The National Charity Roundtable is the founding chapter and currently has 170 families with sons in 7th through 12th grades.

Similar to National Charity League, NCR also focuses on three primary areas of development: community service or philanthropic- to identify what needs exist in the community and to assist whenever possible, educational- enhancing the social development and personal confidence of NCR members, and cultural- broadening the cultural development of the young men through exposure to a variety of cultural events. 

Although some may originally join thinking about a college application booster (which it definitely is- demonstrating a sustained voluntary commitment with an organization and learning to handle uncomfortable situations), the rewards of giving back and meaningful friendships that develop, as well as the strengthened parent-child bond and memories created can’t be understated.

Back Row: Will Jaudes, Troy Johnson, Michael Soucek, Julie Crum, Jackson Crum, Stephen White
Middle Row: Scott Myers, Grant Johnson, Ryan Soucek, Shannon Mills, Jackson Mills, Michelle White
Front Row: Luke Myers, William Jaudes, Kelly Sharer, Jason Sharer, Ryan Brunk

Members of NCR work with over 50 different philanthropies in our community including Interfaith, Operation Pets Alive, South Montgomery County Youth Services, and Angel Reach. In addition to volunteering a minimum of 20 hours per year, members also attend five events throughout the year and must be involved in a leadership role in at least one event.

“The desire to serve their community, respectful nature, and the mindfulness and appreciation of others these young men exhibit is remarkable.” Brenda Fluth, President of NCR

The demand from the community is outgrowing the ability of NCR to fulfill all of the requests for assistance. They are hopeful that another local chapter will be created in the near future so that no community need goes unmet. 

New member applications are submitted in March and NCR follows a June 1-May 31 calendar year for activities.

 

Brendan Alam, Andrew Nemeth, Max Fluth, Colby Jackson, Bennett Evans

Hayden Hughes, Jack Nolan, Ila Alam, Nancy Gamble, Brendan Alam, Troy Johnson, Grant Johnson, Jennie Hughes, Rachel Honeyman, Tyler Honeyman, Michelle Nolan, Hudson Hughes, and Gamble Reed

Long-term Benefits

Members of both NCR and NCL also develop bonds with the individuals in the community organizations where they volunteer. One young man, who joined NCR after prodding from his mother, returned home from college over Thanksgiving break and made it a priority to return to the senior living center where he previously volunteered to wish his favorite residents a Happy Thanksgiving.

Shelby Hadrick, Gracie Scrushy and Madelyn Maksimowicz – NCL, The Magnolias Chapter at Panther Creek Inspiration Ranch

A significant benefit that parents from both organizations treasure is the quality time spent shoulder to shoulder with their children. One mother remarked,“we may be having a bad day, and not necessarily on the same page, but by the time we finish working on a project together, we both feel good about what we have accomplished and have moved on from whatever was originally upsetting us.”

Joseph Croxton, Conner Judge, Richard Judge, Brad Ferguson, Annie Ferguson, Ben Ferguson, Blaise Ferguson, Dawn Croxton

NCL and NCR members are impacting The Woodlands today and for generations to come. These committed NCL and NCR volunteers are an invaluable, consistent resource for Interfaith and the community as a whole. As the NCR motto states, “no nation can remain great when duty, honor, and service die in the hearts of young men and women.” It is wonderful to see that, thanks in part to organizations like NCL and NCR the next generation in The Woodlands promises to be full of confident, well-rounded and socially aware citizens.

Click here to find out more about NCL and NCR:

https://www.nationalcharityleague.org/

http://www.ncrwoodlands.org/

2018 Letter from our Editors

As we wind down 2018, we would like to express our sincere gratitude for your partnership in The Book The Woodlands. The Book was created to highlight the incredible people, businesses, and happenings in this amazing community we call home, as well as raise necessary funds for the programs and services of Interfaith of The Woodlands. Your partnership truly makes a difference in fulfilling Interfaith’s mission to serve our neighbors who come to us in their time of need.

Interfaith of The Woodlands has been able to make a huge impact in our community in 2018 with the help of your ad partnership. We are happy to share your ad in part benefited:

· 35,227 individuals for crisis assistance

· 29,406 seniors through transportation, activities and Holiday gifts

· 2,745 children for school supplies

· 18,823 neighbors for food assistance

· 3,777 individuals for clothing vouchers

Your support is appreciated not only for what it helps us achieve but also for the generosity it reflects.

Thank you again for investing and believing in Interfaith for the past 45 years as we work together “To build a more loving and caring community through service.”

We wish you a beautiful holiday season and a blessed 2019!

Missy Herndon, President & CEO Interfaith of The Woodlands

Janelle Romano, Managing Editor The Book The Woodlands

TRIS: Chef Austin Simmons, Cureight-or of Experiences

Gone are the days of having to drive into Houston for your foodie fix. If you are looking for an amazing dining experience, look no further than TRIS (formerly Hubbell & Hudson) on The Waterway. The experience at TRIS is so outstanding, in fact, that it should not be reserved for special occasions, but rather become part of your regular restaurant rotation.

Chef Austin Simmons, born and raised in Texas, graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Austin. He was trained under Dean Fearing, James Beard Award winner, and later John Tesar at the Mansion on Turtle Creek. At a mere 24 years old, he was named the head chef at Hubbell & Hudson. Now, with the transition to TRIS, Chef Simmons has clearly established his culinary voice and is working on his legacy.

The restaurant, named after his daughter, is profoundly personal. Chef Simmons beams when he talks about his wife and young daughter, Tris, and his priority to carve out time for them in spite of his very demanding, chaotic schedule. Chef Simmons’ passion and purpose are driven by every personal interaction he has with a guest. “The best food comes from what you are passionate about,” stated Chef Simmons.

Food from the Soul

It is the busiest time of year in the restaurant business, and Chef Simmons is elevating the expectations of not only his food but of himself and his staff. Chef Simmons stated, “I try every day to come in 1% better than the day before.”

Reimagining favorite dishes and creating extraordinary cuisine out of ordinary ingredients are Chef Simmons’ trademarks. The food at TRIS highlights global, modern flavor, but stays true to the cuisine. Chef Simmons is not about chasing trends, but rather about the seasonality and diversity of the menu. Featuring local ingredients whenever possible, Chef Simmons has created an elevated dining experience that is approachable—not pretentious.

Clearly, his vision is working. TRIS, which opened in September, is always busy; Chef Simmons’ collaborative dinner series, CollaborEIGHT, sold out before TRIS even had a chance to advertise. What’s more, in this year’s Truffle Master competition, Chef Simmons’ grilled cheese beat out those of over 20 other chefs (including from teams headed by Michelin Star-winning chefs). Of course, Chef Simmons’ truffled grilled cheese is anything but ordinary.

It is evident by watching his attention to detail that he cooks from the soul and from the heart, and that feeling comes across on every plate. That same intention is put into every dish, from appetizer to entrée—proven by the fact that the delectable crab appetizer outsells everything on the menu 5 to 1.

The People Business

The food at TRIS is outstanding, but what really makes the experience unforgettable is the amazing service. “We are in the people business—food is merely the vehicle,” remarked Chef Simmons. In an industry where turnover is the norm, Chef Simmons is focused on recruiting and retaining top talent. He hires the right people and then invests in them.

Both the front and back of the house are highly skilled, expertly trained and put the customer first in every aspect. A key component is Chris Perry, the general manager who is constantly striving for perfection. TRIS is the only restaurant of its caliber on Open Table where the service is consistently rated as high as, or higher than, the food.

In order to keep innovating and to continue the development of his team, Chef Simmons designed a collaborative dinner series called CollaborEIGHT, which as was mentioned earlier, sold out before TRIS even began advertising. This collaborative series brings in locally and nationally acclaimed culinary talent and offers an eight-course dining experience for the guests—while also keeping things new and fresh for the chefs. The most recent CollaborEIGHT dinner featured Chef Manabu “Hori” of Kata Robata and an ingredient with which Chef Simmons has already demonstrated significant expertise: the truffle.

The diversity of the new menu at TRIS and the reasonable prices allow for a wider appeal, but the key lies in the quality and consistency of each plate. In spite of the remodel and new menu, TRIS has not raised their prices and remains remarkably affordable. The happy hour menu is composed of many lunch and dinner favorites, available for a steal.

A Truly Memorable Experience

For a truly spectacular experience, don’t miss Cureight, open only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Named one of the Top 10 Best New Restaurants by Texas Monthly, Cureight is the only chef-tasting concept in North Houston. A restaurant within a restaurant, the concept features an eight-course meal, paired with wine, crafted by Chef Simmons. Cureight is even beginning to draw foodies from Houston to—wait for it—The Woodlands. The food is designed and prepared right in front of the guest, and it is Chef Simmons’ creative playground.

With TRIS and Cureight achieving consistent results, Chef Simmons is expanding to create superior culinary experiences on a larger scale. Simmons recently served over 650 individuals for a corporate event, while elevating favorite dishes and remaining true to the vision of food with soul. He hopes to be known as the leading provider of curated events and experiences.

“This is a performance-based business, and we are only as good as the last guest we waited on or meal we served,” stated Chef Simmons. It is no wonder then that many of the guests are recognized and treated as family by the team at TRIS. As Chris Perry remarked, “People come back because they know, regardless of when they come or what they order, [that] it is going to be good.”

Whether you visit TRIS for lunch, happy hour or unadvisedly wait for a special occasion, Chef Simmons and TRIS will definitely create a memorable experience that you will treasure.

Fairytale Pumpkin Pasta & Quail

  • 6 oz unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup shallots, sliced
  • ½ tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 thyme sprigs 
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 3 lb Fairytale pumpkin, peeled, seeded, diced
  • 3 ½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 ½ lbs Pappardelle or Tagliatelle Pasta 
  • 8-16 small semi-boned quail (if desired) 
  • Brown butter, toasted pumpkin seeds, chervil leaves & candied ginger for garnish

Yield: 8 servings

Cook the Quail 4 minutes on each side under a press on a flat-top with rosemary and thyme. Season with salt and white pepper. 

Melt 3 ounces of butter in a large 1 ½ gallon pot, over medium-low heat.

Add the shallots, garlic, thyme (tied in a cheesecloth sachet), salt and pepper.

Sweat the vegetables for 10 to 15 minutes, do not caramelize.

Shallots should be translucent but still, have a little crunch.

Add the pumpkin, and mix well. Add the stock, and bring up to a simmer.

Simmer until the pumpkin is fully cooked, about 30 to 45 minutes,

Remove the thyme, transfer the mixture to a blender, and process, in batches.

Add the remaining butter, in portions, to the soup, while blending.

Cook pasta at al dente, add to the sauce in a saucepan and reduce the sauce into the pasta until thickens. 

Garnish with brown butter, toasted pumpkin seeds, chervil leaves & candied ginger.

 

Photography Courtesy:  Derrick Bryant Photography.

Holiday Sparkle

It’s the most wonderful time of the year with cooler weather, holiday decorations and festive cheer. Holiday parties also fill our calendars, and chances are, figuring out what to wear can be daunting. I am sharing my three favorite trends that I plan on taking with me on the holiday circuit!

  1. Plan on heading to the office party right after the work day is over? Start the day in a work-approved sweater and pencil skirt. When the clock strikes 6, perk up your work outfit with the tried-and-true holiday accessory—sparkle! Festive earrings, hair accessories, belt and shoes all add to the holiday spirit.

LAYZER SLOUCHY RHINESTONE BOOTS | MACY’S

EMBELLISHED BOW BARRETTE | J.CREW

FARAH BELT | INTERMIX

 

MULTICOLORED BEADED SANDALS | ZARA

  1. Red is the instinctive color of choice for the holidays, but combine it with velvet and you have a time-honored and chic look.

ASHBURY WIDE-LEG VELVET PANTS | NEIMAN MARCUS

SASHA VELVET JUMPSUIT | MACY’S

  1. The every day, cross-body bag has made its way to the evening. Typically we tuck in the beautiful chain and use the bag as a clutch, but now we can celebrate no more lost purses and still be hands-free with the evening bag, plus strap. Sling it over your shoulder or go for cross-body style!

KATE METALLIC STRIPE WALLET ON CHAIN | SAINT LAURENT

KYMMY RHINESTONE SATIN CLUTCH | DILLARD’S

 

Photography Courtesy Katy Cox Photography

Texas Autism Academy: Helping Students Succeed

By Janelle Romano

Nestled into a quaint little office park in The Woodlands is a spectacular private school that offers hope and educational alternatives for children with autism. Texas Autism Academy (TAA) opened last year with a vision to help the 1 in 59 students diagnosed with autism each year. Before this, special education teachers Jane Walls, Cary Mollinedo and Shelinta Perez worked in the public school system and saw these special children, trying their best to succeed in a system that was missing key components to help them.  That was when Walls, Mollinedo and Perez knew that they could make a difference.

In the Beginning

Jane Walls, President of the TAA, grew up with a brother who was autistic. She knew that with the right support and resources, children could not only assimilate into the public education system, but also flourish. Jane’s brother, Armando, had done just that. Although Armando initially floundered in school and was not given much hope to succeed in a traditional environment, he has gone on to receive his degree from Texas A&M, become a teacher and now is working on his master’s degree.

The challenge presented to Jane Walls was to develop a model that could be applied to other children with autism—to bridge the gap and give them a chance for academic and personal success. Hoping to help as many children as possible, the founders of the Texas Autism Academy originally aimed to open a charter school. However, after a trip to San Antonio to visit the only state-funded school for children with disabilities in Texas, they were disappointed. They learned that, as remarkable and wonderful as it was, the state-funded charter school stopped at second grade, and there were no funds available for any additional schools in Texas.

Walls, Mollinedo and Perez knew that tuition for a private school would be cost prohibitive for many parents of children with autism; insurance rarely covers the full expenses of therapy, and applied behavior therapy alone can cost up to $8,000 per year—out of pocket. As a result, the three of them created a nonprofit (ASD Hope, Inc.) and formed the Texas Autism Academy to serve children four to twelve years of age. They hoped that by forming a nonprofit umbrella organization, they could not only raise awareness for autism education but also raise money that would fund scholarships and provide access to education for more children.

In 2017, they began with two children and ended the school year with five. All three teachers worked for free that first year. This year, TAA has twelve children (all of the five children from the previous year have returned), the teachers are receiving a modest salary (less than what they were making in the public school) and they have hired a board-certified behavior analyst to work with the students full-time.

Philosophy and Method

Many parents do not know where to turn when they find their child, with or without a diagnosis, struggling in school, as educational options for children with autism are very limited. To receive additional support in a public school classroom, a child needs both a medical and an educational diagnosis, which can take up to a year to document. Even upon receiving a diagnosis, assistance and an Individual Education Plan (IEP), many of these students continue to struggle due to the size of the classes and quickly fall behind their peers.

Texas Autism Academy addresses and corrects behavior and social challenges through applied behavior analysis. Many of the parents and students are familiar with these techniques from autism therapy; however, TAA integrates the applied behavior principals into the curriculum through a methodical, data-driven process. The ratio of 7 students to 2 teachers allows TAA to not only customize the speed and level of learning but also to address social and behavioral needs as they occur, allowing the children to focus on learning.

Additionally, TAA removes the pressure of standardized testing and creates a new IEP every nine weeks, for each student, utilizing the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) to track progress. Students learn, advance and get back on track to reintegrate, ideally on grade level, into an inclusion environment. These kids who have become accustomed to exclusion are thriving with a peer group and friends who celebrate each other’s achievements, allowing these children the opportunity and the feeling, sometimes for the first time, of success.

Cindy Baylor, a TAA parent, has this to say about the school: “We were so thrilled to find TAA last year. We tried private school, but they lacked the resources; public school had the resources, but was too overwhelming for our son. TAA has been an incredible blessing for our family. I am a mental health professional, and I am amazed at how the TAA staff encourages our child and can handle any situation that may arise. TAA gave our son the confidence and social skills he needed to be comfortable and thrive with his peers. We started a PTO (parent teacher organization) this year to raise funds for the school. . . . Our goal is to make this amazing option accessible to more families.”

Results

Success looks different for each individual, and every child with autism is unique. However, every parent wants their child to reach their potential—academically and socially. The innovative program at TAA results in children mastering skills, overcoming obstacles and conquering fears. Parents primarily come to Texas Autism Academy to boost their child’s confidence and to bridge the gap, allowing reentry into a traditional school setting. However, parents ultimately find that what begins as a short-term solution is irreplaceable when they see the progress, both personally and academically, that their children have made in this unique learning environment.

“There is no judgment here. The kids are truly supportive of each other and celebrate all of their accomplishments together. When we started creating, planning, and preparing to open Texas Autism Academy, we recognized the importance of educating and developing the whole child with autism.  Our students are thriving academically and behaviorally, but what warms my heart the most is watching them develop lasting friendships,” says Cary Mollinedo, Director of Texas Autism Academy.

To learn more about how you can help volunteer, donate or collaborate with TAA please, go to texasautismacademy.org or call 281-771-5348.
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