Woodlands Weather Dude

I enjoy weather forecasting and communicating weather risks to people and I have made a career out of it over the last 25 years. In late August 2015, almost on a whim, I started posting about local weather interests on Facebook and Woodlands Weather Dude was born. At that time, the closed group contained only a few dozen members. Now over three years later, the group has grown to over 9,000 followers spread out across The Woodlands and Montgomery County. Although I would like to take full credit for the popularity of the group, I believe there are some larger things at play here that are responsible for this growing popularity.

 

First off, whether we know it or not, the weather touches our lives on a daily basis.

According to a recent Power Research Center study, weather far outpaces other daily news topics on a local level. Over 70% of adults in the Houston area say that the topic of weather is “important for daily life”. In second place was the news topic involving Traffic & Transportation at 52%. Even Government and Politics were only at 26%. Let’s face it; people want to know if the weather is going to have an impact on their kid’s birthday party, commute to work or on their weekend camping trip. Having a cell phone with weather apps or social media, including Woodlands Weather Dude, makes it easier than ever to have access to current and future weather at your fingertips.

 

Secondly, the weather hasn’t exactly been boring around here. In my 27 years of living in Houston, I believe the most active stretch of significant weather occurred here recently over the last few years. Hurricane Harvey (2017) and the two 2016 Floods both had huge impacts on our community and has stirred even more personal interest in the weather, especially during the tropical season.

Finally, I believe the popularity of the WWD Facebook page may also be an unfortunate byproduct of storm anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to Dr. Asim Shah, a Baylor College of Medicine mental health expert, “Close to a year after Harvey, we are still seeing [patients with] depression and anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder as well”.  Although I don’t interact directly with most of my followers, I have had many conversations with fellow co-workers who have been directly (or indirectly) impacted by Harvey or prior storms.  Some of them still suffer from insomnia and storm anxiety and have admitted to becoming obsessed with the weather, especially during thunderstorms.

Weather in Texas can be very scary for many in our area. What I attempt to do on my Facebook site is to provide my own unfiltered view on how a certain weather event is going to pan out.  And I always try to do it without any needless hype, although I have to admit some of our recent weather events over the last couple of years warranted some more serious weather language. During quieter times, I sometimes like to have forecasting contests. So if you have a good idea on when we will see our first 100-degree day or when we encounter our first freeze of the year, give me a follow! If you are a successful forecaster, you could even win a small prize. -WWD

Jeff Royed graduated from the University of Oklahoma where he received his B.S. in Meteorology. Jeff has lived in The Woodlands with his wife and two boys for over eight years. In his spare time, he enjoys running and biking on the local trails. He also likes taking his boys on short camping trips.

 

 

 

 

The Woodlands Christian Academy Celebrates 25th Anniversary – The Silver Ball

The Woodlands Christian Academy celebrated 25 years of providing exemplary Christian education and service to the community at the elegant Silver Ball, their annual auction and gala at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott. The Silver Ball, sponsored by Woodforest National Bank and chaired by Alison and Vernon Veldekens, is one of the largest fundraising events of the year for The Woodlands Christian Academy (TWCA).

The proceeds from the gala will go toward the final phase of the school’s newest academic building which is slated to open in the fall of 2019. The state-of-the-art, 63,000 square-foot building will include 15 classrooms, an art studio, science and robotics labs, and an atrium-style, 363-seat lecture/performance hall.

The glamorous evening was filled with incredible live and silent auction items led by Sponsorship Chairs Christin Allphin and Brandi Watterson, including a guided tour through South Africa, Ritz-Carlton private residence package in Grand Cayman, A Day in the Life of Tilman Fertitta, and a Summer Bash at the Ambler Ranch among others. The auction in conjunction with the sponsorships and donations helped raise an astonishing $2,085,000 for The Woodlands Christian Academy. DJ Men-Yo, former personal DJ for First Lady Michelle Obama, provided entertainment and kept the crowd dancing until late into the evening.
The Woodlands Christian Academy is a PreK – 12th grade college preparatory school that integrates learning with biblical faith and challenges students to reach their highest potential – spiritually, academically, physically and socially. For more information visit www.twca.net

Inspiring Mom Spotlight- Dr. Anu McDonald

We are kicking off our Inspiring Mom Spotlight Series with Dr. Anu McDonald, who shares her sage advice on parenting with The Book readers. A well-known pediatrician in The Woodlands, Dr. McDonald is beloved for her caring and patient nature and has a consistent fan base of both moms and children.

1. What has been your most challenging part of motherhood?
The most challenging part of motherhood for me was when our boys were really young. My husband left his job as a software developer and started medical school at the age of 34. At that time our son was 2, and I was pregnant with our second child and working at Texas Children’s Hospital. While my husband was in medical school I also battled breast cancer. So, we had plenty of challenges during those years!

2. What inspires you as a mom?
The challenge and privilege that my husband and I have in raising our boys to become men of character is what has inspired me and changed me as a person. Raising kids forces us to look at both our strengths and our weaknesses as human beings. Motherhood has taught me about vulnerability, courage, and the need to rely on God to get through difficult times.

3. How do you find time for yourself/spouse/children?
There are seasons of motherhood when it is really hard to find a “balance.” Finding time to eat right and exercise was not always easy, but I did what I could. My kids were fortunate to have grandparents help out a lot throughout their c

hildhood.

4. What are your favorite things/places to spend time with your children in our community?
When our boys were young, we spent a lot of time biking, playing in the parks and swimming in The Woodlands pools. They also played a lot of baseball and golf growing up.

5. What advice would you give new moms?
Hang in there! The days are long; the years are short. Put the phone away and spend face time with your littles. Become your kid’s student. Study your children with intention and appreciate their uniqueness.
Don’t compete with other moms. You don’t have to be a perfect mom to be a good mom.

Dr. Anu McDonald is a pediatrician at Texas Children’s Pediatrics in Sterling Ridge. She went to medical school at Baylor College of Medicine and did her pediatric residency at the Children’s Hospitals in Cincinnati and Austin. She has been a pediatrician for 25 years. Dr. McDonald is passionate about treating “the whole patient.” She has given several talks in the community on the challenges faced in raising kids in affluent areas such as The Woodlands. She lives in The Woodlands with her husband Ryan McDonald who is a neurologist with Mischer Neuroscience Associates. Their sons David and Christopher are 20 and 18, respectively.

 

Art N Fashion 2019

Fashion and philanthropy joined forces at the second Art N Fashion event benefitting local charities at Glade Arts Foundation this week. The New York fashion-themed event featured stunning looks from Max Mara and Norton Ditto Pret-a-Porter Couture. Guests donned their party chic attire to support Angel Reach, Glade Arts Foundation, HOPE, Operation Pets Alive and Yes to Youth!

After walking the red carpet, guests mixed and mingled while visiting exclusive designer booths and dining on spectacular food compliments of TRIS. The theme for the evening was Couples for Causes. Dr. Ann Snyder served as emcee, Jacki Kilgore was the auctioneer, and Manny Patel was the DJ. Thanks to the generosity of the partnering sponsors including Designer Divas, Simran Rihal, Kink Team Luxe, Vander Dys Jewelers, Yee Plastic Surgery, Tris, Norton Ditto, Max Mara, and Neiman Marcus among others, 100% of the proceeds went directly to the five non-profit organizations to benefit their programs in our community.

Art N Fashion was the vision of Kashay Mendes, owner of Designer Divas. The idea was conceived as a way to benefit multiple charities and celebrate fashion and art in the process. This year’s event was in Ms. Mendes’ words, “epic” due to two fundamental changes in Art N Fashion. The event moved from a daytime fashion show to an evening event. Another new addition was moving from female community models to featuring couples in the fashion show who were passionate about supporting the causes featured. The men fully embraced the challenge and really brought the fun and laughter to the amazing show, helping raise substantial funds for the designated charities. “I love to make changes in causes, but also in people as well, I want to touch as many lives as possible- to make a difference. It was so amazing to watch the couples bond and evolve in this process.”

Dr. Brian & Shirelle Chimenti

Karen Mixon, Alison Yee, Elisabeth Stavinoha

Bruce & Diane Kink

Dr. Lucian & Patti Rivela

Mike & Ally Seder

Herndons walk for HOPE

Teresa Alici, Haydar & Ebru Kustu

Heidi Hite and Bobby Davis

Larry & Rhonda Salerno, Sean & Tracey O’Neal

Marina Silver, Monette Smith, Tammy Schroeder

Kashay Mendes, Elvira Graham

Dragos Tapu

Lisa Fifield, Triston Fifield, Michele Till

To learn more about the charities featured at Art N Fashion visit the following links:

HOPE- www.willherndon.org

Angel Reach- www.angelreach.org

Operation Pets Alive- www.operationpetsalive.org

Glade Arts Foundation- www.gladeartsfoundation.org

Yes to Youth- www.sayyestoyouth.org

Round Top is Calling…and I Must Go

If you have been looking for a reason to sneak away with your friends for a “Girlfriend Getaway”, we have the perfect excuse…Round Top Spring Antiques Fair is happening April 1-6. Conveniently located only 90 minutes from The Woodlands it is quick enough for a day trip, but also offers plenty of options to shop and linger for multiple days. Whether you have made the trip before or are a Round Top rookie we have some tips to make this an unforgettable trip for you and your gal pals.

Round Top is home to one of the largest antique fairs in the United States and features more than 350 dealers. The fair spans over 11 miles and happens twice per year (Spring and Fall) with the most well-known spot being Marburger Farms. In the past few years, Round Top has become a household name due to the popularity of Joanna Gaines and the TV show phenomenon Fixer Upper. I have ventured to Round Top twice previously, but have always found it a bit overwhelming, so much so that the first time I left without making a single purchase…and my husband will attest to the fact that doesn’t happen often. So this time I enlisted the help of several seasoned Round Top veterans to guide us all to the locations and the sights filled with the best finds and the tastiest bites.

What girlfriends in the know say…

SHOP

For higher-end pieces and fun experience, the following are a must:

www.thearborsroundtop.com

www.markethillroundtop.com

Market Hill offers an amazing upscale “cafeteria” style lunch and dinner as well as a fun option to grab a bottle of wine or champagne to accompany the excursion!

www.roundtopvendors.com

A small tent of French antiques, jewelry, and amazing hats! This is where the Frenchie guest houses are located. Last year they offered charming lunch boxes that you could pre-order to shop and eat on the go!

www.gypsyville.com

Marburger is more European and high-end pieces, so if you are looking for “deals” save your time and money and hit the stops like Paul Michael, Blue Hills and La Bahia (the first stop). I have always had good luck scoring some unique, reasonable finds there.

 

STAY

www.thefrenchieguesthouses.com

www.roundtopinn.com

www.thewhitehouseonthehill.com

www.lonestarglampinn.com

EAT

For amazing food, don’t miss Royer’s. It is incredible and there will definitely be a wait, but it is worth it! If you want the best pie (and coffee!) in the world, they have Royer’s Pie Haven around the corner.

Royers’

Mandito’s

Lulu’s

The Vintage Round Top also has really helpful information and suggestions:

https://www.thevintageroundtop.com/guide-to-round-top-antiques-week

For More Information!

www.showdaily.us/warrenton.cfm

www.roundtop-marburger.com

www.roundtoptexasantiques.com

Getting away with girlfriends offers advantages beyond pure entertainment. According to Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness, “medical studies show that the bond between women is critical to mental and physical health.” So if you can’t escape for a week to the beach or Vegas with your girlfriends, a quick trip to Round Top may just do the trick.

 

 

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.

Crew in The Woodlands

Long known as the domain of male Ivy Leaguers, the sport of rowing has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years as training programs and facilities have become more widely accessible. You’ve probably seen the boats gliding across Lake Woodlands: long, skinny things with two, four, sometimes eight rowers pulling lengthy oars in unison so gracefully, it looks easy.

It is not easy. Rowing at the competitive level is described as a footrace that begins with a 500-meter sprint, settles into running as fast as you possibly can for 1,500 meters, and finishes with another 500-meter sprint.

Enthusiasts praise rowing for the full-body benefits. Back, glutes, hamstrings, quads, shoulders, biceps, lungs—they all get a workout. Balance, core stability, body strength and cardio endurance are the much-desired benefits. Not to mention the camaraderie of a team, Saturday regattas, and the possibility of a lifelong pursuit.

The Woodlands Rowing Club was first on the scene in 1989. Jim and Dee Hotop took over as directors after moving to The Woodlands in 2011. Dee suggests the only true requirement for potential rowers is the ability to swim. Though rowers are trained to stay in the boat, on occasion swimming is necessitated.

“We’re proud of our all-ages, all-levels program. There’s a place for everyone at The Woodlands Rowing Club,” Dee Hotop says. They should be proud! The club is 29-years-strong and still growing its recreational, competitive, and masters programs. Rosters for TWRC off-campus PE programs for CISD students and summer camps are also increasing. For rowers wanting to compete, Hotop stresses, “We don’t turn anyone away. We’re always looking for new talent. Always looking to grow our teams.”

It’s a commitment, for sure. Junior teams practice year-round, five days a week, with regattas some Saturdays. The results, however, cannot be ignored. TWRC has produced collegiate rowers for the likes of University of Texas, University of Massachusetts and West Point.

“Still, we’re very careful with our athletes. We want them happy and healthy,” she stresses. “It’s how we help them reach their goals. That’s our purpose. If we win races and acquire scholarships in the process, that’s great, but we help our members and students in so many other ways, too.” Ways like tenacity, confidence, teamwork—and fun.

Parati Competitive Rowing is the newest rowing club in The Woodlands. Mike and Jan Rosman established Parati in 2012 as a highly competitive, juniors-only club. In just six years, this club has qualified a staggering 39 boats to compete at the US Rowing Youth National Championship, including two bronze medal wins in 2018. After all, their motto is “paratus enin vitae,” which is Greek for ‘prepared for life.”

Students (grades 8–12) interested in rowing may take advantage of a free learn to row session at Parati. If hooked and ready to excel, they are invited to join a first-year novice team. JV and Varsity teams follow.

Jan doesn’t sugarcoat the commitment. “The training is rigorous: six days a week, forty-eight weeks a year; but that’s what it takes to develop world-class athletes.” Balance, however, is also key. “We’re together a lot, so we make it fun with lots of social activities and community service. Hard work is easier when you’re in the company of friends,” Jan stresses. “The whole development of our kids is our passion, our calling, our heart.”

That dedication is the bedrock on which collegiate rowers are built. Parati athletes have gone on to crew for the University of Texas, Duke, MIT, Boston University, Dartmouth, Villanova, Berkley and the Naval Academy, to name a few.

Both clubs gush over the contribution Woodforest Bank has made to their success. In 2017, Woodforest funded a boathouse at Northshore Park to be shared by The Woodlands Township, The Woodlands Rowing Club and Parati to store their equipment inside.

Rowing is a fulfilling sport that offers a full-body workout. Whether you’re looking to join a team or just do it on your own time, The Woodlands is a great place to discover a new passion.

Resolutions for Good Financial Planning

As we enter 2019, some may be left wondering “where has the time gone”? For many of us, taking stock of the previous year, vision planning, and goal setting for a new year is par for the course. The first of the year is when we tend to get serious about mapping out our physical health and fitness or becoming more involved with our communities and families. For those of you thinking about assessing your financial wellness, this article is for you! This topic can seem overwhelming and complicated, seeming like an intimidating goal to set in the new year, but we assure you, that is not the case.

When you find yourself at a point where life is kicking into high gear, i.e., your career is taking off, income is growing, children develop busy schedules; these competing priorities can really take a toll on you and your budget.

It’s the perfect time to make sure you are taking care of the basics that will take your finances to the next level. If you are examining your spending in the New Year or creating/re-setting your budget, follow this simple tip: The 20/60/20 Rule.  Allocate your income as such: 20% savings/investments, 60% essential expenses (housing, insurance, debt), and 20% discretionary expenses (entertainment, clothing, personal care). Any time you find it difficult to save the allocated 20%, your essential or discretionary spending may be off. The rule can be applied in most households, no matter your household income.

When considering goal-based investing, break your goals down to how much money you will need and when you will need it. This will allow for more strategic investing options. Goal-based investing also allows you to more closely monitor progress and adjust your approach as time goes on.

Short-term goals (1-2 years): Safety is important. You want to know your money is accessible when you need it. Such as an emergency fund or a medium-sized purchase.

Mid-term goals (2-10 years): Safety is important, but to reach these goals, you need your money to work a little harder and grow for you. Think: new furniture for the house, a new car, or a new home.

Long-term goals (10+ years): Growth is critical since these goals are often the most expensive and the most important. Starting now and leveraging the power of time to compound your money can help maximize growth. Most commonly funding college tuition or starting a business.

Retirement: Maximizing your savings is critical to ensure you can fund a retirement that may last more than 30 years. No matter how you envision your retirement, with a clear vision of your goals, you’ll be more likely to achieve them. From a saving perspective, your greatest tool is time. You’ve likely heard the phrase “save early and often”. What you probably haven’t heard is “diversify where you are saving”. A 401(k) and IRA, in our opinion, are staples in any retirement plan, but relying exclusively on them can leave you short if you look to retire prior to age 59 ½ or with too much taxable income in retirement. When saving for retirement, consider working to balance into Taxable, Tax-Deferred, Tax-Deductible, and Tax-Free accounts.

It’s time for a gut check: are you on track to achieve your goals? Even if you’ve been diligent about saving, it can be hard to measure your progress against specific goals, especially if you save mostly in one giant investment “bucket”, such as your 401(k) or a general savings account.

A good financial plan will map out all your goals and should show you not only how you are tracking to meet your goals, but also the options available to you if you are short on meeting them.

A solid financial plan should focus on protecting what you’ve built so far while also planning for the future. Lack of protection can put your entire plan at risk and you’ve worked too hard to get you and your family where they are today. Think about the goals you have. They likely require money, and most are funded by your income; the biggest asset you have in your working years. Here’s how you can help protect it:

Protect your Growing Paycheck: Having disability insurance coverage through your employer is a great start, but group plans may offer only a fraction of the benefit you need to protect your lifestyle. Evaluate your current coverage and consider closing any gaps with individual disability income insurance.

Revisit your Life Insurance: Review your coverage to make sure it is right for what you want it to protect. Work with a financial professional to help you understand what amount is appropriate for you and what type of life insurance best fits your needs.

Update your Estate Plan: Take time to review your beneficiaries, wills, trusts, and powers of attorney to make sure they’re still appropriate.  Especially if you have:

Married, had kids or accumulated significant assets

Divorced or become widowed

Become part of a blended family

Received an inheritance

Started a business

If stepping up your financial wellness is your New Year’s resolution, you have already won most of the battle. Financial planning is not just about sacrificing fun and money today so that you will have more later, but rather a holistic approach to balancing your need for future goals and your desire to “Spend Your Life Living”. Focus, surround yourself with a good team and be patient because the financial goals you set today will build and maintain your future financial wellness.

*Sponsored Content
Devin Greer and Andrew Snyder are Financial Advisors in The Woodlands. Both native Texans, they serve their clients and help them dream their best life, define it precisely, and deliver them into reality through a premier financial planning and wealth management experience.
This publication is not intended as legal or tax advice.  Financial Representatives do not give legal or tax advice. Taxpayers should seek advice based on their particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor. All investments carry some level of risk including the potential loss of principal invested. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss.
Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI (NM) and its subsidiaries. Devin Lacy Greer and Andrew Michael Snyder are Insurance Agents of NM and Registered Representatives of Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC (NMIS) (securities), a subsidiary of NM, broker-dealer, registered investment adviser and member FINRA (www.finra.org) and SIPC (www.sipc.org).

Devin Greer
AR License: #11123192
Andrew Snyder
AR License: #8666816

 

 

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/

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.

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