Article by: Missy Herndon
In 1999, in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of The Woodlands, an initiative was started to honor our local Hometown Heroes: individuals and businesses who exemplify the values of our great community. A Hometown Hero is a positive role model, usually with an extensive history of volunteerism who has sacrificed personal gain to achieve noble goals. Some may have received special awards or recognitions; others may have brought positive recognition to our hometown. All are leaders, who have shown courage and strength, who have been nominated by their fellow neighbors and peers.
Mr. George P. Mitchell inducted the first class of Hometown Heroes over 20 years ago at the very first Celebration of Excellence Gala. Since that time, 133 individuals, businesses, institutions and non-profit organizations have received this honor. All of this has been made possible through the generosity of The Woodlands Development Company and The Woodlands Villager. This year, we are excited to add seven more Hometown Heroes to our distinguished list of honorees! Once again, we celebrate these individuals and organizations, along with all of our Hometown Heroes at The Woodlands’ Celebration of Excellence Gala, which will be held on Saturday, October 5, 2019, at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott.
Nominations for Hometown Heroes open every year, mid-May, and are selected by a committee of Hometown Heroes from previous years.
Please join me in congratulating our 2019 Hometown Heroes.
JERISSA BELSHA, MD
Dr. Jerissa Belsha is a native Texan, born in Lockhart, Texas to a loving family where her parents worked as a school teacher and principal for the local elementary school. After graduating high school as valedictorian, she went on to attend Texas A&M University, graduating first in her class with a Biomedical Science degree. She completed her medical degree and pediatric residency at the University of Texas at Houston, where she was awarded Intern of the Year and served as Chief Resident. During her medical training, she was able to volunteer with World Medical Missions in Papua New Guinea, serve at HIV clinics in Botswana and Romania and gain valuable experience through a medical internship in Beijing, China.
After residency, Dr. Belsha joined a pediatric hospitalist group caring for newborns and sick children in north Houston hospitals. In 2015, she joined the local practice called Agape Physicians and has been caring for the children of The Woodlands community ever since.
Dr. Belsha has been described by her friends as a “quiet leader.” Her reach among charitable causes is considerable throughout the greater Houston area. Each year, she coordinates a group of 20 women to put together over 200 stockings for Houston’s Little Footprints program. To benefit Love Fosters Hope, Jerissa helps organize a family field day to benefit foster children within the organization and along with her husband, mentored two teenagers, helping to fulfill a need in their lives for parental figures. She is an active volunteer for many area charities including Interfaith, The Will Herndon Research Fund, Love Fosters Hope, Giving Goes Glam, Free the Captives, Montgomery County Food Bank and A Dress for Barbara.
Outside of The Woodlands, Jerissa has a passion to help others and served as a physician on numerous medical mission trips to Honduras and Costa Rica through The Woodlands United Methodist Church. In her most recent mission trip this past spring, she encouraged several friends to join her where they were able to serve over 700 patients in the course of three days. Her love of others is evident in all she does within her medical practice, throughout the community and most importantly with her family; husband, Thomas and their two children, Emma and Logan. Residents of The Woodlands since 2010, The Belsha Family embodies the spirit of giving.
MARY-LOU E. FITCH
Mary-Lou Fitch arrived in The Woodlands in 1989 and hasn’t stopped working in support of the community ever since. Mary-Lou was instrumental in forming many organizations in The Woodlands area including Class Act Productions, Grogan’s Point Residents’ Association and The Woodlands Orchestra. Mary Lou has been an active volunteer with a number of local groups, including Meals on Wheels, The Woodlands Pavilion Partners Wine Dinner, Cypress Woodlands Junior Forum, National Charity League – The Woodlands Chapter, and CASA. She has served on The Planning Committee for The Celebration of Excellence Gala since inception and regularly volunteers for Interfaith of The Woodlands driving senior neighbors to their medical appointments. She has also served as a former Board Member at MCYS and in various other roles with the organization.
Most recently, Mary-Lou joined the American Heart Association’s Circle of Red, volunteering for their Go Red Luncheon. She is also a member of The Montgomery County Republican Women and has served on their board as Vice President of fundraising. She loves her community and is always willing to help out, hosting many fundraisers and events in her home. Mary-Lou has called The Woodlands her home since 1987 and doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon, adding to her 30 years of volunteering and service. In her spare time, Mary Lou enjoys traveling to visit her four grown daughters and six grandchildren.
STEPHEN C. HEAD, Ph.D.
Stephen C. Head, Ph.D. became the fourth chancellor of Lone Star College (LSC) in 2014 after thirty years of service to LSC. Located in the north Houston metropolitan area, LSC is one of the largest community colleges in the nation. His priorities are student access, equality, success and completion; academic quality; workforce programs in alignment with community needs; and collaborative agreements with educational, business, civic and charitable organizations. He views the college as a critical contributor to the social, cultural and economic well-being of the community. His values include operating the college on a sound, fiscally conservative model based on data, efficiencies, accountability, and common sense. He emphasizes transparency, ethical behavior and a culture of high expectations and achievement. Dr. Head is active in a number of local, state and national organizations that support the community college mission.
Dr. Head and his wife, Linda, both work at Lone Star College and reside in The Woodlands. They have four successful children and three grandchildren.
Alex Sutton serves as Co-President of The Woodlands Development Company, a division of The Howard Hughes Corporation. He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Civil Engineering from Rice University and a Master’s in Business Administration from The University of Houston.
Alex is a Licensed Professional Engineer, a Certified Public Accountant and has authored a number of technical papers and articles, holding two patents for computer-aided management approaches to managing public works systems. His responsibilities at The Woodlands primarily focus on project and land development and commercial activities. He and his family moved to The Woodlands upon joining The Company in 1994.
His civic and industry involvement includes service as the current Chairman of The Interfaith Board of Directors, Chairman of the North Houston Association, Director, The Montgomery County Foundation, Director, The Woodlands Economic Development Partnership, Director and Past Chairman, Montgomery County Youth Services, Director, The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, Director and Secretary, The Woodlands Township, and he is a Member of the Urban Land Institute. An Eagle Scout, he was named The Tall Timbers District’s 2012 “Good Scout” honoree.
Alex and his wife Sharon live in The Woodlands Town Center and are members of The Woodlands United Methodist Church. They have four adult children and six grandchildren, four of whom reside in The Woodlands.
Josh Urban moved to The Woodlands in 1994 with his family. An avid runner, there was not a week that went by that most people would not see Josh and his brother, Gabe, running throughout The Woodlands on their daily long runs. This commitment led Josh to finish 2nd in the Houston Marathon, with his brother not far behind.
Urban began his tenure with Memorial Hermann in 2000 as an administrative fellow reporting to Dan Wolterman, former President and CEO of Memorial Hermann Health System. From there, he went on to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, working his way up from Director of Hospital Operations to Chief Ambulatory Services Officer. In 2008, Urban joined Memorial Hermann The Woodlands as Chief Operating Officer under now-retired CEO Steve Sanders. Just five years later, he assumed the position of CEO. In that time, he has managed expansion and renovation projects in excess of $250 million and led the hospital’s pursuit of Level II Trauma designation. In addition, Urban has been instrumental in creating a culture of excellence, which has been recognized nationally in the areas of quality, patient safety, and patient satisfaction. Under his direction, Memorial Hermann is the third largest employer in Montgomery County, with over 2,500 employees in the community.
An IRONMAN himself, Josh was a major influencer in bringing the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas event to The Woodlands which has generated revenue close to $14 million for The Woodlands community during each of the last nine years.
A 2011 graduate of Leadership Montgomery County, Urban currently serves on the boards of multiple business and civic organizations, including The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership and Interfaith of the Woodlands. He resides in The Woodlands with his wife and son. In his spare time, he enjoys running, fishing, hunting, and travel.
MARKET STREET THE WOODLANDS
Market Street The Woodlands, established in 2004, has been providing The Woodlands a center for an exquisite shopping experience, a variety of fine dining establishments, a movie theater and green space where visitors can relax and enjoy the company of others. In these 15 years, they have become the go-to destination for retail therapy, as well as community events.
Market Street has committed themselves to The Woodlands community in many ways. They lend their support to dozens of area non-profit organizations; not only with sponsorships dollars but also by encouraging their employees to serve on their boards and various committees. Additionally, Market Street is known to connect their tenants with charitable organizations, helping to raise awareness of local causes and increase philanthropic support. Their Change for Charity program selects one non-profit organization for each quarter of the year as the beneficiary of the coins collected through the street parking meters. Since the program began, customer donations have exceeded $200,000.
Their Central Park area features a green space, performance stage and splash pad, giving families and visitors a beautiful place to gather. This area is also home to many events Market Street produces including their Spring and Fall Concert Series, Spring Fine Arts Show, Holiday Tree Lighting and Grand Chanukah Celebration. They have also generously hosted local events such as The Woodlands 4th of July Parade, The Woodlands’ Car Club Cars & Coffee For a Cause, the annual HEB Wine Walk, Cultural & Heritage Festival, Ten 4 Texas Road Race, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk, which bring hundreds of people together for fellowship and comradery.
LEADERSHIP MONTGOMERY COUNTY
Leadership Montgomery County (LMC) is dedicated to developing and enhancing the current and future leaders of Montgomery County by preparing emerging and existing leaders to understand local issues, grow their leadership skills, and connect with others to better serve Montgomery County.
LMC’s core program is a class of business and community leaders that spans nine months between September and May. Throughout this time, participants learn through sessions on Infrastructure, Education, Government, Public Safety, Economic Development, Healthcare, Serving Our Community and Leadership Development. The LMC program promotes knowledge, awareness, and insight into our community, providing an educational forum and leadership development opportunities for participants.
Leadership Montgomery County originally began as Leadership Conroe, launched in 1987 through the Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce. In 1995, through a collaboration with The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, the program evolved into Leadership Montgomery County. Since that time the Greater East Montgomery County Chamber, the Greater Magnolia Parkway Chamber, the Montgomery County Hispanic Chamber, and the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce have also become partner chambers, as LMC transitioned into a nonprofit of its own. True to its original mission, LMC has been shaping strong leaders throughout the community, producing more than 850 graduates during the past 32 years.
LMC graduates continue to grow as leaders through alumni lifetime learning offerings including educational programs, social activities, and opportunities to give back. LMC alumni can be found throughout the community serving as nonprofit board members, political leaders, CEOs, and much more.