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.

Holiday Gift Guide 2018

We are so excited to announce with The Book The Woodlands Volume 3 our new 2018 Holiday Gift Guide!  It includes a wide array of options from local retailers right here in The Woodlands. Check out unique gift ideas in the Holiday Gift Guide in the current issue of The Book The Woodlands, and don’t forget to check out the Junior League Holiday Market next weekend for more Holiday finds!

Faiths Together

FaithsTogether is a group of community members and leaders that seeks to promote unity within The Woodlands while celebrating religious differences through respectful dialogue. Created in response to social injustice concerns, a group of concerned individuals from various faith communities came together to discuss how best to address these important issues. FaithsTogether was formed with the leadership of Reverend Charles Hendricks of The Woodlands Presbyterian Church, Rabbi James Brandt of Congregation Beth Shalom and representatives of twelve other faith communities, including Hindu Community, Unity Christian Truth Center, Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic Church, Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church, Northwoods Unitarian Universalist, Christ Church United Methodist, All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church and Lord of Life Lutheran Church.

FaithsTogether’s founding mission defines the group as “a fellowship of religious communities, which honors spiritual diversity by building relationships and understanding among people of different faiths.” The original committee decided that the best way to initiate unity in our community was to coordinate an event in the month of November around the idea of thankfulness. The first Giving Thanks Observance was held in the same year, hosted by The Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church. According to Reverend Charles Hendricks, the church’s lead pastor at the time, Mr. George Mitchell was in attendance and commented that “this is what The Woodlands should be.”

Since then, the annual Observance has rotated to different faith communities each year, with annual themes such as “Healing Our Lives,” “We are Neighbors,” “Getting to Know You—We Are Once in Community” and “Celebrating Faith and Friends.” Current committee member Sherri Duchin shared, “One of my personal favorite programs was when we looked at the role of our religious faiths in life cycle events such as birth, coming of age, weddings and funerals. We hosted this observance at Congregation Beth Shalom, and the Hindu community walked the audience through a Hindu wedding that was meaningful, colorful and musical!”

This year is the 20th anniversary of the Giving Thanks Observance, and FaithsTogether will mark this special occasion by returning to the original location at The Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church. The annual Giving Thanks Observance is a beautiful time of fellowship and celebrating the human spirit, and it is proof that people of different faiths can worship together. The opening of each observance is special in its own right: after a welcome from the hosting clergy, the “shofar” is sounded, a ram’s horn that is often used in Judaism to stir one’s conscience; the Islamic call to prayer is recited in its distinctive rhythmic and lyrical verse; and the “shankha,” or conch shell, is blown to symbolize the sacred syllable Om in Hinduism.

Having experienced the Observances myself, I can attest that these three actions of faith really create an atmosphere of worship and unity, and they set the stage for a parade of faith expressions among people with a common conviction to understand and love their neighbors. During the Observance, each faith practice performs or presents something significant to their faith at the time, but some of the most special performances are the inter-religious presentations like a youth choir or skit. Witnessing the next generation embracing faith traditions other than their own, in an expression of loving tolerance and respect for their peers, is a reminder of why The Woodlands is such a unique community. Carol East, Founder and current committee member of FaithsTogether, shared her favorite moment of the annual observance: “My most meaningful memories of . . . FaithsTogether’s [Giving Thanks Observance] have occurred at every gathering for 19 years. While sitting in the midst of a group representing at least 13 faith communities, I sensed and personally experienced overwhelming, palpable feelings of joy, acceptance, respect and unconditional love among everyone present.”

More recently, FaithsTogether has tried to enhance interfaith dialogue and relationship building beyond the annual Observance. Jan Chapell, current committee member, stated, “The value of building relationships with people outside of your faith opens the door for comfortable conversations.” Last year, all the youth religious leaders in the community, as well as youth from their faith communities, came together for a night of fellowship. Some other inter-faith events have included members of FaithsTogether lecturing for a World Religion class for Lone Star College’s Life Long Learning Academy each year. They have also invited faith communities to serve the community together in different ways. One way they do this is to volunteer together. For example, they have volunteered the past two years for a Montgomery County Food Fair, a mobile food panty held at Woodforest Stadium. A dinner dialogue was held in 2016 at a committee member’s home, where 40 guests were invited to share a meal and part take in and lead Islamic conversation with their neighbors from other faith practices.

The 20th annual Giving Thanks Observance will be held Tuesday, November 13, 2018 at 7 p.m. at The Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church, and you are personally invited to come and experience the wonder and beauty of this unique event.

If you would like to learn more about FaithsTogether, please email Sherri Duchin at faithstogetherthewoodlands@gmail.com

Generations in The Woodlands

Despite its warm atmosphere as a community of interconnected neighbors, The Woodlands is still a relatively new town; established in 1974, it’s only now that we can describe residents as being multi-generational. Some are surprised at how much The Woodlands has grown in such a short time, but we all know why people want to move here.

In this special article, we will explore the lives of those who moved to The Woodlands in the middle of their careers, those who grew up here and are returning to raise their own families, and those who have just recently made this community their home. These unique individuals and families will describe their favorite parts of The Woodlands, how they have seen it change, how The Woodlands makes it possible for them to serve their neighbors and more.

Ross Flurry

Ross Flurry opened his own mortgage company after the economic crash of 2008. After a few years, he became interested in expanding his career, which meant a possible move in his future. In 2013 his friends invited him to visit their home in The Woodlands, and even though the Houston area was not on his radar, he knew his search was over. “It was a beautiful 75 degree Friday night in Market Street. I was in awe. . . . I looked at my buddy and said ‘Where are we?’ By Sunday of that weekend, I decided I was going to move my business to The Woodlands,” Flurry says.

Flurry took the leap of faith. Over five years later, he is not only the owner of a thriving, local mortgage company, but he also genuinely enjoys living in The Woodlands. As a resident within a luxury apartment building, Flurry is one of many young men and women who have made a home in pedestrian-friendly complexes where it feels more like a city than a suburb.

Favorite Hangout

Flurry: “Hughes Landing. . . . I fell in love with that, because for a mid-30s, single guy new to The Woodlands, it was the place to be. That’s what I do on a Friday night—frequent the restaurants I love, make connections, meet clients. I love that I can walk downstairs and walk back home.”

 

The Weekend

Flurry: “You can find me on Lake Woodlands. On a nice weekend, I am in a kayak for five hours getting some sun. I love to frequent basketball courts and jogging trails. I’ve never had amenities like that. . . . Another thing I love is that we are 45 minutes away from anything you could dream of in Houston. . . . Not every place has that.”

Giving Back

Flurry: “I am currently the VP on the Board of Interfaith Young Professionals which is approaching 130 members. I had always heard of Interfaith, but I didn’t know all that they offered. It wasn’t until Hurricane Harvey that I saw Interfaith—they blew me away with how much they did. I feel like it was a great opportunity to jump in. They all have servant hearts. I wish I had known about it years ago when I got here.”

Changes You’ve Seen Here

Flurry: “The Millennial movement in The Woodlands. The age range 25–44 has grown immensely. The idea used to be . . . you are young and single, what are you doing here in The Woodlands? It’s been a huge increase.”

Favorite Thing About The Woodlands

Flurry: “The opportunities are endless in this town. So many people want to see you succeed. If you continue to be involved, you have the leaders who brought this town up over the years—they are wanting to find the next generation of leaders. My favorite part of living here is how ambitious I have become, because there are so many opportunities.”

 

Parker & Michelle Kink

Parker and Michelle Kink grew up in The Woodlands, but they weren’t always sure they were going to end up here. After attending The University of Texas at Austin, Parker remained there to begin his career in real estate. Michelle attended Texas Tech University and became a teacher in Conroe ISD before also moving to Austin.

They were married in 2016 with no intention of moving back to The Woodlands. “We loved Austin and all it had to offer,” Parker says. But the couple decided the best option would be to move home to The Woodlands, where both families still reside, to follow an opportunity to work for the family business, The Kink Team.

The Kinks welcomed their first daughter, Abigail, into their family this April, and they are privileged to live near their parents and grandparents. “I was blessed to grow up around my grandparents and some extended family, and [I] know how special those relationships are,” Michelle says.

Favorite Hangout

Michelle: We’re foodies. We’re social people. Typically, date night is going to have a drink with friends. One thing we have enjoyed about The Woodlands is that there is so much more live music now.

Parker: We also love Sapporo, the Japanese restaurant. They have the best sushi. They take really good care of us. Corkscrew BBQ in Old Town Spring is another one we like, and there’s a couple great spots with live music.

The Weekend

Michelle: Parker is very athletic, and we both love to be active outside. It’s a good way to take a breather, to refresh.

Parker: I love going to the Sam Houston National Forest. Just to get out in nature. It’s only a 20-minute drive.

Michelle: The nature in [The] Woodlands is so gorgeous and established. Abby loves all the sounds and visual elements such as the birds chirping and trees canopying over the paths.

Giving Back

Parker: One of the reasons [we] got involved with Interfaith Young Professionals is getting plugged in with our age group. It’s a service group, not a networking group.

Michelle: Also, our family is close by. There is always something we need to do for family, whether it’s our grandmother or my sister.

Parker: Right. And for me, it’s my clients as well—[working] in their yard or helping them move something.

Changes You’ve Seen Here

Parker: It feels like less of a small suburb, and more like a bigger town. There’s much more diversity than there was 10 years ago.

Michelle: It’s an exciting time to be in The Woodlands. It’s transitioning to more of a city feel. . . . One thing that has stayed the same [is] the nature aspect—the trails everywhere, beautiful parks. It feels good to be outside.

Favorite Thing About The Woodlands

Michelle: My favorite thing about The Woodlands is that it’s a community tailor-made to raise a family! It has everything such as safety, nature, great schools, convenience, churches. . . . It’s a tight-knit community regardless of how fast the population is growing.

Parker: The best thing about The Woodlands is the people. It’s changed a lot since we were younger, but the original heart of working towards a society where everyone helps each other out really is the culture. It’s not perfect, like anywhere, but . . . you’ll find [people] looking to raise a God-centered, respectable family that’s open to helping where there’s need.

Amy & Randy Jones

When Randy and Amy Jones visited friends in a small suburb called The Woodlands, they were not intending on moving there. “When I grew up, this was just a place that had a golf tournament,” says Randy.

However, after they were married, Amy surprised Randy one day and told him she had put money towards a house in Alden Bridge. They only lived in The Woodlands two years before a job opportunity took them elsewhere, but Randy says, “We needed to find a way to get back to The Woodlands.” Amy has the same sentiment: “We loved it. We loved everything about it. We loved the church, our friends, the community.”

In order to move back to the community that they loved so much, Randy opened his own business in the north Houston area. Now, with four children ranging from 4th grade to college, they are a family thankful to raise kids in The Woodlands. As the Executive Assistant to Dr. Robb at the United Methodist Church since 2009, Amy considers it a joy to serve her church and the community of The Woodlands.

Favorite Hangout

Amy: My favorite thing to do is sit outside. So, if it has outdoor seating, I’ll go there every time. We love the Waterway, Market Street and Hughes Landing.

Randy: Yes, [we love] the fact that there are so many restaurants there. Hughes Landing—you can go and enjoy sitting outside.

The Weekend

Amy: Our weekends are centered around our kids and their activities and sports, lacrosse and football. And we go to church. We also try to get a few hours on the lake when it’s nice out. And then, back to the grocery store to prepare for the week!

Giving Back

Amy: [The] National Charity League and National Charity Round Table allow you to volunteer in many areas with your children. With Harvey, we were able to do a lot of volunteering as a family.

Randy: You can connect with others in your community for common good. That’s a lot of what this community is about. . . . The schools here encourage community service, so the kids are involved too.

Changes You’ve Seen Here

Randy: [It’s hard to believe that] all the development was planned in the beginning. . . . You just don’t have to leave The Woodlands. I look at it as a much more fun place to live now. I can’t think of a single negative.

Amy: The commercial development wasn’t there. Market street wasn’t even there. . . . Even though it’s grown, it’s still maintained the original plan that George Mitchell had. The trees are here, the bald eagle is flying around, the community is thriving, the schools are great, there is a religious place for everyone, there’s nightlife. The original intent of The Woodlands is still here.

Favorite Thing About The Woodlands

Randy and Amy: We love The Woodlands, because it is a loving and caring community. In our greatest highs and darkest lows, the people of The Woodlands are extraordinarily generous. . . . Whether it’s to celebrate a great accomplishment, mourn a family member or friend, band together for a great cause—the people of The Woodlands show up in an astounding way! . . . We go above and beyond to welcome others into our incredible community we call The Woodlands.

Barry & Fran Blanton

Barry and Fran Blanton have seen The Woodlands through much of its growth, having gone to Conroe High School when The Woodlands was simply land and trees. They remember The Last Bottom of the Lake Festival, a celebration of the upcoming filling up of Lake Woodlands, and the time when Greenspoint had the closest shopping mall.

“We lived here when there wasn’t a Woodlands at all,” Fran says. She has given back to the community for 20 years as a teacher in Conroe ISD, a school district that has seen continued expansion over the years. As for Barry, after having commuted to Houston for most of his career, he has now owned a local business in The Woodlands for several years. Barry and Fran feel blessed to have raised children, who are now grown, here in the Woodlands, and they have one granddaughter who lives nearby.

Favorite Hangout

Fran: We love to go to concerts at the Pavilion. We are five minutes away. We are home before most other people are out of traffic.

Barry: And dining out—we do a lot of that. Fran: You feel like Cheers around here. We know people at the restaurants, and even though it’s a pretty big place, it feels friendly.

The Weekend

Barry: We like to get up and run in the morning. We have been active in the running community and very active in a running club.

Fran: Our granddaughter plays soccer at Dynamo Dash, and we spend a lot of weekends either watching her play here or traveling to see her games. The park amenities are also great here, for kids and families.

Giving Back

Barry: We both volunteer a lot. . . . My primary charitable involvement is The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and its Light the Night Walk. My dad died of leukemia, and I’m a non-Hodgkin lymphoma survivor. We’ve had a family team since it’s been in The Woodlands.

Fran: [What makes The Woodlands great is] not only how many opportunities there are, but how many people are willing to help. . . . I work at a Title 1 school, and if a child or family has a need, I can make a few phone calls and teachers or friends will help.

Barry: We run an aid station for the IRONMAN, and it requires 120 people to staff it. People fight over volunteering for it. It’s not an easy job. We enjoy it.

Changes You’ve Seen Here

Barry: It’s way more diverse now than many years ago. And of course, the dining options are drastically different.

Fran: There are so many languages you will hear around The Woodlands. The growth—for instance, Conroe ISD has grown so much over the years. . . . There was nothing out there. . . . Now, I go back there, and it has exploded.

Barry: Hughes Landing is interesting. It’s brought a mix of residences with dining and shopping, as well as office buildings. The Glade Cultural Center is a neat museum and a nice cultural addition to the community.

Favorite Thing About The Woodlands

Fran: I don’t have to go far for anything. . . . It’s all 10 or 15 minutes away for me. But having Houston close by is fun.

Barry: My favorite thing is the sense of community. . . . I sit on some different boards; Leadership Montgomery County is one of my favorite organizations I have been involved with, and I was in the first one, which began in Conroe.

The Book Launches Volume 3

Houston Methodist The Woodlands hosted the launch party for The Book The Woodlands on Wednesday. The event celebrated the visually-stunning, fifth issue of The Book The Woodlands. The Book The Woodlands is a high-end, coffee-table style publication about, for and of The Woodlands. The beautiful hunter-green cover paid homage to Interfaith’s 45th anniversary while the content honored the longevity and character of The Woodlands with several pieces focused on generations. The Book is completely advertiser funded and all of the proceeds proudly go back to help our neighbors in need through the programs and services of Interfaith.

It was wonderful to see so many of our fabulous advertising partners and community leaders in attendance to celebrate the launch. Dr. Debra Sukin, CEO of Houston Methodist The Woodlands and Interfaith board member, kicked off the remarks followed by Missy Herndon, Interfaith President & CEO.

 We are beyond thankful to Houston Methodist for their amazing hospitality and attention to detail as well as the continued support of all of our advertisers and community partners who allow us to create this unique, award-winning publication to help those in need.” Herndon shared.

Upon arrival, guests were treated to the delightful sounds of a contemporary string quartet and an exquisite spread of cuisine and mocktails, and left with delicious macaroons and the newest edition of The Book The Woodlands.

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