CollaborEIGHT Dinner Series Features Two Powerhouse Chefs in The Woodlands

The last CollaborEIGHT dinner prior to the pandemic brought together two powerhouse chefs in The Woodlands, Chef Austin Simmons of TRIS and Cureight, and relative newcomer to the area, Chef Stefano Ferrero of Zanti Cucina Italiana, for a remarkable evening of spectacular food and atmosphere.

Jo Anne and Troy Johnson

Butter Poached King Crab

As Chef Austin stated when the meal began, “If you leave here hungry tonight, it is your fault.” I think it is safe to say, no one left hungry and not a single person could consume another bite by the time the evening concluded. As is the format for each of the CollaborEIGHT dinners, both chefs present four courses served with wine pairings. The meal began with a refreshing Shellfish Ceviche with Shrimp Cracker by Chef Austin that was absolutely sublime! The Langoustine Caviar Risotto paired with “Artesis” Cotes du Rhone Blanc by Chef Stefano was out-of-this-world and another highlight of the evening. There was no shortage of meat either as Chef Simmons, recently named “Best Chef” by the Houston Press and who has become a local expert in the field of meat aging and exceptional cuts of beef, showcased his knowledge and skills.

The savory Dry Aged Beef on Truffle Ravioli by Chef Austin, and Braised Beef Cheeks by Chef Ferrero left guests needing to adjust their belt buckles. Each course delivered titillating flavor combinations that delighted the taste buds. The obvious respect and mutual admiration between the chefs was a wonderful complement to the outstanding display of food and technique.

Chef Austin puts the finishing touches on his Dry Aged Beef on Truffle Ravioli

Braised Beef Cheeks

“While The CollaborEIGHT Dinner Series helps highlight many well-acclaimed chefs to our guests at TRIS, our team benefits the most from these events,” stated Chef Austin. “Providing an eight course dinner experience to a large crowd is always a big task, that we achieve working as a team. We all see these collaborations as an opportunity to learn from each other in the kitchen.”

Jonathan Hitchcock; Alejandro & Majo Pelaez; Elvira Graham; Lonny Soza; Matt & Christin Allphin; Silvia Gonzalez; Pedro Cajiga; Santiago Pelaez, Zanti Founder & CE0; Haydar Kustu, Director of Business Development & Marketing, Black Forest Ventures/TRIS

Chef Austin looks on as Chef Stefano prepares the Langoustine – Caviar risotto for service.

Chef Stefano Ferrero, originally from Piemonte, Italy, has fond memories of cooking with both his father and grandmother prior to attending and graduating with a degree in gastronomy from SPAI University of Lugano where he had the opportunity to work with distinguished chefs from different backgrounds. Chef Ferrero comes to The Woodlands as Head Chef at Zanti, the namesake of Founder and CEO Santiago Paleaz. Chef Ferrero and Zanti Cucina Italiana are already making their mark on The Woodlands culinary scene in spite of opening only a year ago, and were thrilled to be invited to collaborate with Chef Austin.

Pistachio Profiterole

Key Lime Tart

Do not miss the opportunity to attend a CollaborEIGHT dinner when they resume, although I have a hard time imagining how it could top the collaboration between Chef Austin and Chef Ferrero.

Chef Austin Simmons and Chef Stefano Ferrero

For more information or to make a reservation at TRIS or Cureight: triswoodlands.com; cureightwoodlands.com, and for Zanti Cucina Italiana:  zanticucina.com.

Article by: Janelle Romano

Fair Trade Market

Think of a product you purchased recently. Do you know where it was made, or by whom? Did you know everyday purchases can have a positive impact on the world? When we buy fair trade products, we are profoundly benefiting the lives of artisans and farmers around the globe who operate under fair trade principles while making their wares.

Fair trade products are handmade by artisans and farmers who are producing beautiful, high-quality goods including bags, jewelry, home goods, candles, scarves, ornaments, olive oil, coffee, chocolate, spices and a variety of items. Every product is unique and not mass produced. The purchase of a fair trade item allows one to form a link with the person who made it. The goods usually feature a handwritten nametag and sometimes even a picture of the artisan themselves. The Fair Trade Federation regulates the fair trade movement in North America; it creates opportunities intended to alleviate poverty by strengthening and promoting only organizations that are fully committed to complying with fair trade principles. The Federation ensures that farmers and artisans are compensated promptly and fairly for their hard work; it also safeguards the rights of children, respects their cultural identity, and promotes environmental stewardship.

Kristen Welch is a blogger and published author who has been a fair trade pioneer in our community. Ten years ago, she founded Mercy House, which funds a maternity home in Kenya, which rescues pregnant girls from extreme poverty through partnerships, teaching them sustainable, fair trade practices. Later, she opened Mercy House Global Market, a nonprofit fair trade retail store with two locations in The Woodlands. Here she is educating people about the differences between a fair trade product and something they purchase from a big box store.

“We see fair trade as a way to come alongside people without giving them a handout, it is more of a hand up, giving them an opportunity, by providing them jobs so they can solve their own problems,” commented Welch. When we purchase products that are made according to fair trade principles, we are empowering women and minorities, by purchasing affordable, high‑quality products. We are cutting out exploitative intermediaries who hold an unfair advantage over the vendors, thereby increasing the margins earned by these social enterprises, supporting their families and the wider community.

“Everything has a special story,” said Lisa Rose while describing some of the beautiful quilling crafts inside Hands of Faith, a nonprofit fair trade store located in the Lord of Life Lutheran Church. Rose is the Chair of the Hands of Faith Committee, and she leads the volunteer-only store that works with crafters and producers in over 30 countries. “Fair trade is a way of helping people in a way that is sustainable, giving them a skill and a sense of pride in being able to create something that someone would like to buy, not just because it is supporting a good ministry but because it’s an item people actually want to purchase,” she added.

Another store in The Woodlands is The Trading Co., a fair trade shop operated by The Woodlands Church. Caroline Shook, a store representative and active member of the congregation, emphasized the importance and honor they feel being able to serve the community locally and internationally through their store. “We want to make sure that the fair trade vendors we work with have the core beliefs that we share, that they are faith-based, that our missions align. We want to love the artisans even if we don’t have direct contact with them,” Shook remarked.

These local options allow one to buy with purpose, to give back, by shopping for gifts or themselves. “I think people primarily are compassionate; they want to be a part of making a difference when purchasing things that help people. They just don’t necessarily know how to find them or source them,” mentioned Welch. Every purchase makes a difference because, through the collective efforts, it fuels entrepreneurship and provides stability and well-being to entire families and their surrounding communities. Every time one picks a fair trade item, it is a step towards the eradication of global poverty, and we contribute to increased global equality.

Article by: Ana Beatriz Priego

Getting Fit for GGG

The excitement is building for The Woodlands fashion event of the year, Giving Goes Glam (GGG)! The 8th annual fashion show and luncheon presented by CHI St. Luke’s Health and co-chaired by Nicole Broha Murphy and Emily King Wilcox, benefits Interfaith of The Woodlands and Junior League of The Woodlands, Inc.

Local women leaders will be honored through the community model presentations and professional models will strut the runway in designs provided by Saks Fifth Avenue in a wonderful collaboration of friendship, philanthropy, and fashion.

In anticipation of GGG, we thought it would be fun to follow a couple of the local models who will be gracing the catwalk in the chic event. Let’s be honest, these women don’t need any help getting fit or glamorous, but we thought we would let them do the “work” and glisten on our behalf. They will be exploring the benefits of some of the local fitness studios so that we can all get motivated to get fit and look fabulous in our stylish attire for GGG on Friday, April 5.

Our first stop is SPENGA. The first SPENGA location in Texas opened this past fall on The Woodlands Waterway, and they graciously hosted a fundraiser for Giving Goes Glam this past week. SPENGA sessions combine 20 minutes of Spin, 20 minutes of strength training and 20 minutes of yoga for an amazing cardiovascular, strength and flexibility workout.  To learn more visit, https://spenga.com/

Here are what some of our class participants had to say about the workout…

“It was an amazing workout! Just when I thought I couldn’t take anymore, we moved to another type of exercise.”

“It was a wonderful full-body workout, and finishing with yoga was sublime!”

Comment below and share on facebook to let us know what you will be doing to get fit for GGG. One random comment will be selected to receive a fabulous prize that will help YOU get Glam for Giving Goes Glam!

For more information on Giving Goes Glam, please visit givinggoesglam.org

 

 

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.

Veggie Village Part 2 – Volunteers

Veggie Volunteers

How does the Veggie Village produce such an abundant harvest of crops? Volunteers have played a crucial part in the development of the Veggie Village since its inception. The operation of the Veggie Village gardens is led by Lori Schinsing of Interfaith. However, as Lori says, “the Veggie Village volunteers are like no other- they are a second family.” Not only were volunteers instrumental in securing the funding and development of the gardens, they continue to be the primary source of operational labor. Veggie Village relies heavily on a consistent base of committed, knowledgeable, caring volunteers. Three times per year (January, June and September) Veggie Village holds an All Hands Day where they enlist not only the help of their regular 30+ volunteers, but also the help of local National Charity League (NCL) and National Charity Roundtable (NCR) member volunteers to help remove and chop up remaining crops for compost, clear out the gardens and spread the compost.

In addition, a mutually beneficial relationship has developed between the Veggie Village gardens and local Girl and Boy Scout Troops. The Wendtwoods Learning Garden regularly hosts scout troops and exposes them to the sights, tastes, and sounds of the garden as well as the concept of food insecurity and giving back. As scouts grow, they have also become important sources of volunteers. Eagle scouts created and installed rainwater harvesting systems at both gardens in The Woodlands. A girl scout working on her gold award created a living teepee in the Wendtwoods Learning Garden complete with sensory areas where children can climb inside, read and be surrounded by nature. Additionally, scout troops have helped build raised beds to make both gardens mobility accessible.

Many of the recurring volunteers are garden advisors, including master gardeners, individuals who have been through an extensive certification process and are required to complete a minimum of 30 hours of gardening-related community service each year. The master gardeners and garden advisors have been invaluable in imparting design expertise, instruction, irrigation and composting knowledge to the operations of the gardens. The garden advising team meets monthly to address issues related to the garden and also helps Veggie Village gardeners by hosting workshops and assisting with their harvest. All of the volunteers, regardless of their role seem to have one thing in common, passion. Lori Shinsing, Veggie Village Director stated,

“We are passionate about what we do, what we are growing, and what happens at Veggie Village.”

One of the most beautiful aspects of the Veggie Village gardens is that in addition to the wonderful benefit of producing healthy, organic food for our neighbors in need, the gardens provide an opportunity for many who would not otherwise be able to be of service to the community. It is truly remarkable to find a program that does so much good on so many levels. Veggie Village harvests more than just produce, it offers hope for a harvest of a better tomorrow for us all.

Legacy of Caring

In 1975, Don Gebert and his family arrived in Texas, sight unseen, to help an oil and gas businessman build a new town. This businessman was George Mitchell, founder of The Woodlands, who 45 years ago made a commitment to create a community, not only with master plans for neighborhoods, schools and a city center, but with heart and soul. He wanted to include the spiritual side of life. He had dreams to build a more loving and caring community.

“Mr. Mitchell was visionary enough to see that building a new town physically was not enough. You have to have people who care, people who believe, people who know how to dream, people who want to build a more loving and caring community,” Gebert says. Including religious life was a significant piece within the original design of The Woodlands, and Mitchell needed someone to carry it out.

As a Lutheran minister, Gebert had been working in inner city Philadelphia, collaborating across racial and socioeconomic divides in the 1960s. When Mitchell approached him for The Woodlands position, Gebert was Associate Director for The Philadelphia Foundation, the largest philanthropic body in the area, which was dedicated to helping the needy and improving lives. He was both a pastor and a missionary along with his wife, Barbara. His life was devoted to others, and that wasn’t going to stop when he moved to Texas.

The Woodlands, in its infancy stage, only had around 100 families residing in the small suburban area. Gebert had been carefully recruited to be the connection for religious communities within The Woodlands, to incorporate the spiritual aspect into the community. In preparation for this, Mitchell and his team had created the nonprofit, The Woodlands Religious Community, Inc., in 1973, which Gebert later renamed Interfaith of The Woodlands.

“Interfaith has been one of the key points of The Woodlands in my opinion,” George Mitchell has remarked.

Gebert decided he needed to get know people. He hopped on his moped and visited residents one by one, sometimes following moving vans to find and greet the newcomers. With those conversations, he recorded ages, special needs and religious preferences for everyone who lived in the community. The residents were a key component of getting programs started. “So many people wanted to help. I don’t deserve all of the credit. The pioneers who lived here believed we could do something that had never been done before—they deserve the credit,” Gebert says.

In his 10 years of service to Interfaith, Gebert helped 16 churches start their congregations and attain sites for their worship services. Religious faiths of all kinds became members of Interfaith, and giving back to help others was something they all could do together. Because Mitchell helped fund his new town with Housing of Urban Development (HUD) resources, there were plenty of opportunities for neighbors to help neighbors. Many of the programs he founded with the help of steady volunteers are still in existence today, with a much larger reach due to expansion: The Villager, Interfaith of The Woodlands Directory, Interfaith Child Development Center, the Interfaith Employment Project now operating as Workforce Solutions, assistance for seniors adults and so many more.

Revered Gebert often shares, “Everything that started on the human side in The Woodlands in the early days was started by Interfaith.”

Ann Snyder, Executive Director of Generosity and Schools at The Woodlands United Methodist Church, devoted over 12 years as President and CEO of Interfaith beginning in 2003, but her work with the nonprofit began many years prior as a volunteer, followed by serving as a board member. When she became President, her goal was to ensure that Interfaith stood with a solid foundation. During the first part of her leadership, she had two important goals: to visit every member congregation and to have a conversation with every staff member. “People gave a lifetime to the organization, and it was important they know how valuable they were,” Snyder says.

As The Woodlands grew in the business arena, the nonprofit began connecting with corporate entities and creating a board of directors with expertise, knowledge and heart. It was during this time that Interfaith gained a significant amount of support among corporations and leadership in the town. “I think we helped open the windows for all that was good about this organization. It was not me, it was a team,” Snyder says. When she reflects on Interfaith’s 45th anniversary, she says, “It’s the foundation of The Woodlands. Mr. Mitchell wanted a community that embraced diversity. It’s for everyone.” During Snyder’s tenure, many important programs were initiated, such as childcare at Lonestar College, expansion of the Interfaith Child Development Center, job training and the management of the Interfaith Community Clinic.

Missy Herndon, current President and CEO of Interfaith, began volunteering with the organization before beginning her career at Interfaith in 2013. When she was named President in 2016, she had prior experience with the organization, both as a volunteer and on staff as Director of Programs and Services, which brings important perspective for leadership. Hurricane Harvey became one of Herndon’s first and most significant challenges when Interfaith was tasked with organizing Montgomery County’s massive relief efforts, which provided aid and support for more than 28,000 people. “There was no better example of how the community steps up to help each other,” she says. Led by a rock-solid group of staff from Interfaith, more than 12,000 volunteers stepped forward with confidence and dedication to Interfaith’s colossal goal, demonstrating its strong support system. “The number of people serving last year during Hurricane Harvey was staggering,” says Gordy Bunch, Chairman of The Woodlands Township Board of Directors. “Interfaith is a full-time, engaged community partner.”

Member congregations continue to be heavily involved in the success and longevity of Interfaith, with their volunteer assistance as well as financial support. 63 religious institutions work together as member congregations in the name of service to create unity amid diversity, which was one of the original mottos in the early years. “My dream was to wipe the slate clean. We could have a religious community where everyone who was different, was precious,” Gebert recalls. That value has remained and been strengthened over the years, with a focus on helping others a major tenant of religions of all kinds.

Today, under Herndon’s leadership, Interfaith continues its dedication to impacting lives through compassion and service. Nearly 35,227 individuals were served in 2017 through the nonprofit’s crisis assistance program, and Interfaith helped 1,000 seniors remain in their homes by providing assistance in all areas of life. “Our hometown is better off for having Interfaith. It has been an integral part of our community for over 40 years,” says Bunch.

From helping a few neighbors to helping hundreds of thousands, Interfaith has continually created services that meet the needs of the people in The Woodlands. Everything seemed to begin by helping just one parent, one senior citizen, one struggling family. The programs arose out of real necessities, and its staff and volunteers brought those programs to fruition. As the support from the community grew, Interfaith was able to provide more assistance to more people.

Don Gebert remains in awe of how far it has come since the first day he arrived in Texas. Knowing all the obstacles they faced in the beginning, he still calls it a miracle 45 years later.

Interfaith’s hope for the future is the same as it was 45 years ago. “Our priority will always be serving people. Our goal is to never say no. We are the connection where people of all faiths, from all economic and educational backgrounds, from the spiritual, corporate and civic communities, neighbors and individuals, are able to come together in the name of service,” says Herndon.

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

Generations of Fashion

Fall officially began on September 22, and for the sweater lovers out there, counting down may have begun in July. Taking cues from the fashion runways earlier in the year, retail stores are finally stocking up on the big fall trends.

Modeling the styles, colors and prints for Fall 2018 is a three-generation family of women: Ann Ryder along with her daughter and granddaughter, Jena and Caitlin McCrann. The fashion lens tends to focus on the young, but I am always inspired by women of every age! These next few pages will showcase fashion as being ageless. Caitlin, Jena and Ann have embraced their personal style, choosing outfits that make them feel beautiful and confident.

Poised Youth

A resident of The Woodlands since she was two years old, Caitlin McCrann currently attends The Woodlands High School as a sophomore. Caitlin spent ten years dancing at Boni’s Dance & Performing Arts Studio. Entering high school, she discovered track and field, where she enjoys running and high jumping. Caitlin also volunteers for the National Charity League and HOPE Youth Leadership Community and is actively involved with her Youth Group at the Woodlands Church. In her spare time she enjoys painting with acrylics, supporting her Highlanders at sporting events and hanging out with her friends.

Hemline at Market Street is one of her favorite places to shop. The mix-and-match approach of pairing two prints is a favorite of hers; combining camouflage with different patterns or silhouettes takes the utilitarian edge off and lends your look to a more modern and feminine feel.

Mom on the Go

Jena McCrann has been a resident of The Woodlands for the past 14 years. Married to Justin and celebrating her 20th wedding anniversary in 2019, they are parents to Caitlin and Loudon. Jena is from Annapolis, Maryland and received her Bachelors in dietetics from James Madison University and her Masters in occupational therapy from Towson University. She practiced occupational therapy for sixteen years, and she now works as Director of the National League of Junior Cotillions–The Woodlands Chapter alongside her sister-in-law, Madeline McCrann. She fills her time playing tennis, driving carpool and cheering on the sidelines for her kids.

Jena gravitates towards Club Monaco’s classic style and effortlessly pulls off this fall look in a sleek leather miniskirt and cashmere sweater. This season, we’re seeing sweaters in all knits, textures and silhouettes. Chances are, that sweater you already have in your closet is trending right now!

Modern Matriarch

Ann Ryder moved to The Woodlands from Annapolis, Maryland and quickly found her way to Interfaith, where she has been actively involved and working with them ever since. Ann has over 30 years of experience in publications and marketing in a variety of industries. Her passion and involvement with the nonprofit community struck after her time as the Special Events Coordinator for the Grant-A-Wish Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland, now known as The Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Foundation. She and her husband John are avid golfers and take full advantage of all the activities The Woodlands has to offer, including attending a variety of concerts at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Spending precious time with her three daughters and seven grandchildren is a joy.

Stylish and always impeccably dressed, it was no surprise that Ann was drawn to Tory Burch’s exquisite caftan. Fall floral prints have another year of fashion power and Tory Burch showcased them perfectly in the Michaela Caftan. Tassels are featured in the shawl sleeves, hues of dark floral are bordered with stripes and metallic gold sheen all draw our eyes to this bohemian dress. Pack it for a beach getaway or wear it to your next outdoor party. Complete the outfit with the Georgina bootie; instead of the usual black, play into the animal print or go bold with white. Whether paired with jeans, capris, skirts or dresses, booties go with virtually everything and are the ultimate footwear for this season!

 

A big thank you to Hemline, Club Monaco and Tory Burch of Market Street The Woodlands.

“Fashion is a creative expression, it shouldn’t dictate your age.” Liat Newman, Novellamag.com

Animal Rescue

For years, the Montgomery County and Conroe Area Animal Shelters have been frontline soldiers in the battle to save local animals. However, county-wide indifference, inconsistent management and a perpetual deluge of homeless animals kept those facilities pushed well beyond their physical and financial means, and their live release rates hovered at a paltry 50%.

Consequently, local animal lovers became activists and formed additional rescue organizations in and around The Woodlands. Working both independently and in partnership with MCAS and CAAS, these warriors have transformed the community mindset and powered Montgomery County toward a no-kill designation—the shelter gold-standard, stipulating that at least 90% of animals taken into a shelter must either be released or find new homes.

After years as a shelter volunteer, The Woodlands resident Marcia Piotter was frustrated. “In that role, I could only make program and policy suggestions,” Marcia said. “I wanted to form a nonprofit that could bring about real change for homeless animals by implementing proven, life-saving programs.”

In 2011, she did. Marcia began Operation Pets Alive hoping to receive twenty animals into its foster and adoption program. Seven years later, OPA has more than five hundred dogs, cats, puppies and kittens mercifully tucked away in foster families and available for adoption at one of the several OPA-staged events every weekend.

OPA’s objective is to lessen the number of animals entering animal shelters like MCAS and CAAS. “We work with the shelters to determine their needs, and we stretch our comfort zone to tackle some of their at-risk animals: those injured, with contagious diseases, pregnant and nursing mothers or neo-natal babies,” Marcia said.

In a short period of time, OPA has become a force for change. How? “With a lot of help from my friends! And our thirteen hundred volunteers,” Marcia laughs. “Every one of us is passionate about doing this work honestly and responsibly, while keeping the focus always on the animals. We’ve also been truly blessed with undying community and corporate support. That has kept us going and helped us launch pivotal programs. That support has, literally, saved thousands of lives.”

OPA’s initiative, Trap, Neuter, Return, is one of those pivotal programs. By neutering, vaccinating and returning feral cats to their colonies, OPA has been instrumental in reducing local shelter intake numbers. OPA’s transport programs, Flight for Life and Pups on Trucks, have opened new and significant channels to rehoming homeless animals.

A quick computation shows that over ten thousand animal lives have been saved by OPA programs. However, other local animal programs have contributed greatly to The Woodlands’ progress toward becoming a no-kill town.

Lone Star Animal Welfare League (LSAWL) is a significant crusader in the movement to save animal lives. Over the years, with the generous help of local veterinarians and stalwart corporate support, LSAWL has been able to spay and neuter over 4,500 dogs and cats. In addition, LSAWL runs a labrador rescue operation that has proudly saved over 3,000 labs.

Friends of Montgomery County Animal Shelter is another workhorse 501(c)(3). Like the others, it saves, fosters and finds forever homes for animals in its care and provides substantial support to our shelters.

Pure Mutts Animal Sanctuary began when area residents Priyanka Johri and Rovi Grover realized the need for a different kind of shelter. The couple cares for dogs that are injured, elderly, have special needs or are diagnosed with a terminal illness, rehoming when they can and ensuring that the other dogs’ last days are comfortable and filled with love.

S.A.F.E. House, Woodlands Animal Rescue, Montgomery County SPCA and breed-specific rescue groups like Greyhound Pets of America, All Border Collie Rescue of The Woodlands and Poodle Rescue of Houston are just a few others in the list of many organizations committed to preserving animals’ lives.

Montgomery County commissioners and city councils have honored citizen demand for no-kill sheltering and improved shelter operations. Because of the increase in funding and support, and the sound management team of Director Aaron Johnson and Assistant Director Mark Wysocki, MCAS has more and better medical equipment and treatment partnerships; an improved air-exchange system to control disease; transport capability, new kennels and new, more effective programs for adoption. Dogs Playing for Life, for example, gets dogs out of their kennels to de-stress and learn social skills, making them more adoptable. And, more significantly, Montgomery County now supports a Community Cat program.

Tremendous progress has been made in The Woodlands. At the end of 2017, MCAS had a live-release rate of over 92%. CAAS followed close at just under 89%. Even so, litters of six, seven, eight puppies and kittens are brought to shelters in our community on a regular basis. The MCAS website keeps a current tally of animals housed, and on the day this article was written, that number was a staggering 901: a blunt, bewildering reminder that neglect and abuse are enemies that the community cannot stop fighting.

If you’re considering adding a pet to your household, contact any of the organizations listed. Adoption fees vary, but these animals have been fully vetted for heartworms and FIV; they’ve been de-wormed, vaccinated, spayed and neutered; and some have even been microchipped.

What you get in return will be priceless.

HOPE Under the Stars 2018

Nearly 800 people packed the Woodlands Resort on Saturday, October 24 to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of HOPE Under the Stars. The event raised over $900,000 for research to save Will Herndon, a now 15-year-old boy suffering from a rare, fatal brain disease called juvenile Batten—a disease that just 10 years ago offered no hope for a treatment or a cure.

Will and Nicole Murphy presented HOPE Under the Stars along with Wells Fargo Private Bank. Will and Nicole Murphy were also honored at the event and recognized as honorary chairs for their tireless dedication in the fight to save Will Herndon and to find a cure for juvenile Batten disease. Guests were decked out in their best Saturday evening attire, and the room was filled with black and gold HOPE shirts which adorned all of the amazing women who serve on the committee for the remarkable event, which was chaired by Erin Doré and Beth Landgraf.

The energy and excitement was palpable and began immediately with a stunning performance of “Lean On Me” by the gospel choir of Sam Houston State University. They were followed by Missy and Wayne Herndon, who shared some groundbreaking research developments from the past year and those to come in 2019, due to the incredible contributions and determination of the HOPE Under the Stars community of donors and friends.

Will Murphy once again emceed the evening and conducted the fast-moving live auction, which featured an adorable labradoodle puppy and a painting by Will Herndon, among other items. The show-stopper of the evening was an address by 13-year-old Steele Herndon, who spoke incredibly eloquently and with such fierce conviction about the effect of juvenile Batten disease on his brother, himself and his family. The entire audience was riveted by his spellbinding speech.

The program concluded with a surprise, 3rd Line brass band performance that was provided by J&D Entertainment. Guests stayed until late in the evening, dancing the night away at the fabulous after party, HOPE after Dark, presented by Waste Connections.

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