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

Stylish Servant Leaders

Welcome to The Book The Woodlands’ first men’s fashion editorial! Autumn is upon us as The Book launches and that means it is time to add some depth to your wardrobe with layers. Look for variety in detailed textures, prints and pops of color to break up the usual monochrome closet.

For this edition, Interfaith has chosen four men who have served our community to model the top fall trends. Combined comfort with style has been a key trend in men’s pants and will continue rolling into 2020. Nothing makes a better statement than flattering, well fitted pants—slim is in! Rest assured that “not-too-baggy” and “not-too-tight” can be achieved comfortably with just the right amount of stretch in your trousers and jeans.

Stylish Servant Leaders

 

MIGUEL

Miguel Lopez serves as the Executive Director for the Lone Star College Small Business Development Center. He is a proud veteran, having served in The United States Marine Corp as a machine gunner (1986-1990). He has been involved in and served in leadership roles with numerous non-profit organizations throughout his years in the Woodlands, Texas where he has been a resident for 25 years. Miguel is a former Vice President of The Woodlands Lions Club, as well as an Ex-Officio of The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce and the Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce. He has also held leadership roles on the Montgomery County Hispanic Chamber, South County YMCA, March of Dimes and South County Community Clinic among others. He recalls his kindergarten teacher spending an extra 15-30 minutes here and there with him to learn English, that is when he first felt the power and results of someone giving back and assisting him. Miguel also finds it easy to get involved when there are so many in our community and county who also want to help and give back. Miguel’s advice for someone who is looking to get involved with a group or non-profit; “find something you believe in, something you are passionate about…then immerse yourself in it.”

 

WILL

Will Murphy spends his days listening, understanding and focusing on client’s needs as Private Wealth Financial Advisor and Managing Director of Investments at Wells Fargo’s Private Bank. His mission is to develop and implement strategies to help his clients grow, manage, preserve and transfer their wealth focusing on the four cornerstones of wealth: Investments; Liability Management; Non-Portfolio Risk Management; and Trust and Estate Planning Strategies.

The Murphy’s moved to The Woodlands following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Bringing a strong educational background, advanced training and a commitment to ongoing professional development, Will and Nicole made a home here raising their 2 children, Madelyn and Billy. The Murphys are mainstays in the philanthropic community, as they both actively sit on Boards, attend, chair events and support numerous organizations including Interfaith of The Woodlands, HOPE: The Will Herndon Research Fund, The Woodlands Christian Academy, Beyond Batten Disease Foundation, and Texas Children’s Hospital. When not in The Woodlands, the Murphy’s enjoy their little piece of Heaven in Watercolor, Florida where they summer and spend holidays.

IAN

Ian J. Ramirez is an internationally trained opera singer who has sung across the globe from Portland, Oregon to Stuttgart, Germany. He has sung with Opera Stuttgart, Portland Opera, the Marlboro Music Festival, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, and Musica Sacra of Cincinnati, among others. From opera to operations, Ian serves as the Venue Director of Madera Estates, a Spanish and European inspired luxury wedding and event venue located in Conroe, Texas.

In his spare time, Ian operates a private voice studio, sings as tenor soloist in The Woodlands United Methodist Church choir, and serves on the boards of Interfaith Young Professionals and the International Live Events Association Houston Chapter. A native of The Woodlands, Texas, Ian graduated summa cum laude from the University of Cincinnati, College‑Conservatory of Music, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degree in music. He has received awards from the National Opera Association and a Career Opportunity Grant from the Oregon Arts Commission. In 2018, Ian was named the Man of the Year through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man & Woman of the Year campaign, as well as PR Luxury Media’s Do-Gooder of the Year. Most recently, he was named in Houston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40.

BRET

Bret L. Strong is the founder and managing shareholder of The Strong Firm P.C. which was formed in 2004.  He has been a resident and an active community leader in The Woodlands, Texas for over 30 years. Bret spent 11 years with Shell Oil Company in the areas of contracting, finance, and information services prior to becoming licensed in the legal field and establishing his practice in The Woodlands in 1996.  Bret and his team at The Strong Firm P.C. are proud to collectively support many wonderful charities and organizations in The Woodlands community including Interfaith of The Woodlands, Leadership Montgomery County, Yes to Youth – Montgomery County Youth Services, Montgomery County Community Foundation, Education for Tomorrow Alliance, CASA of Montgomery County, Meals on Wheels Montgomery County, The Woodlands Chamber of Commerce, Montgomery County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce as well as involvement in numerous local schools fundraisers, sports and athletic events. Bret is proud to remain strong in The Woodlands community.

On Miguel

Cotton Cashmere Cable Crew Neck Sweater $128

Unbutton Down Shirt $88

Italian Brushed 5-Pocket Pant $148

On Ian

Satin Tuxedo Bowtie $78

Tuxedo Shirt $168

Capstone Italian Wool Tuxedo Jacket $550

Jetsetter Stretch Italian Wool Tuxedo Pant $300

On Will

The M-Flex Golf Polo $68 

The Tartan Golf Windbreaker $108

Highland Tour Golf Pants $128

The Clubhouse Stretch Belt $78

On Bret

Premium Shirt Made With Liberty Fabric $128

Jetsetter Stretch Italian Wool Blazer $400

Selvage Stretch Jeans $198

Colored Edge Belt $68

Many thanks to Will Murphy, Ian Ramirez, Bret Strong and Miguel Lopez for being an example of gracious giving and selfless service in our town. And much appreciation to our menswear retailer and ad partner, Bonobos at Market Street, for styling and creating the looks on our models. Bonobos is focused on delivering well fitted clothing while staying current with the fashion and accessories trends. Our local Guideshop offers personal styling to help fit and build the perfect wardrobe. If what you are looking for is not currently carried in the store, have it shipped for free directly to your door. From suiting to golf attire, Bonobos is sure to please the most style conscious man for all seasons.

Happy shopping!

Fashion Editor: Elvira Graham of fashionrowe.com
Photography by: Katy Cox

 

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

From The Woodlands to Broadway

Straight from suburban Houston to New York City, Mallory Bechtel began living her dream on the Broadway stage at the youthful age of 18. And she always believed she would be there, because she simply loved the art of musical theater. “For me, because I started out so young – I don’t remember not considering Broadway as an option,” Bechtel shares.

Raised in The Woodlands, Bechtel experienced a traditional childhood and education, but at a young age she began taking classes at a local theater company, Class Act Productions. She performed in shows in the heart of Houston at Theater Under the Stars in elementary school through their youth program, Humphrey’s School of Musical Theater. “I have always loved singing. All of my idols were on Broadway – that’s what we listened to in the car,” she recalls. As a professional actress and student, young Bechtel spent countless hours training with instructors, attending rehearsals and auditioning while still attending The John Cooper School, and would participate in her school productions when she was able. “They were always willing to work with me, to help me pursue my dreams,” she says.

Chairman of Performing Arts at The John Cooper School and Bechtel’s high school theater teacher, Mary Rotella, believes that Bechtel’s professionalism and humility made a huge impact on her success. Watching her grow as an actress, Rotella says, “Mallory is interesting in that she is pretty low-key and takes things in stride, but she is intense in her approach. She’s a smart actress that pays attention to detail and understands the importance of authenticity when acting.” Continuing to be involved as both a student and performer at school, Rotella recalls it was important for Bechtel’s overall well-being. “With her talent and credits, Mallory could easily have been intimidating to her peers, but she was always supportive and encouraging. She truly lifted her fellow actors up and helped them to reach their fullest potential on stage,” remarked Rotella.

Her first love was singing, and she always seemed to connect to singing as a character in musical theater productions. She recalls that acting and nailing auditions didn’t always come easy to her, however, Bechtel was willing to work hard to improve in those areas. As she continued fine-tuning her skills with the help of Houston area instructors and theater venues, her status as a triple threat with unique talents in singing, dancing and acting sent Bechtel on her way to making her dream a reality. “Houston has such a great theater scene. I feel lucky to have grown up so near it,” Bechtel says.

Bechtel had the vision of making this her career, but she never dreamed she would be quite so young when she entered the Broadway scene via Tony award-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen. At 17, she auditioned to be a vacation understudy for the lead role of Zoe and was offered the job. However, the opportunity never arose to perform on stage as the understudy. But in 2018, just after high school graduation, Bechtel was thrilled to accept the full-time role of Zoe at New York City’s Music Box Theater.

The two-show days can be tiring, but she is kept energized by her fellow actors who have so much passion for what they do. She claims it has been exciting working alongside such amazing talent. “It’s always fresh, always new. People are always changing it up. It’s just what I love to do so the best part of it is getting to do it every night,” states Mallory.

Dear Evan Hansen began with quite the buzz when it debuted in 2016 and was a Tony Award winner for Best New Musical in 2017. It has continued with a strong fan base and began conversations of meaningful themes presenting both an entertaining and emotionally complex musical. “It’s about a teenager dealing with anxiety and depression which is very relevant right now. I feel very lucky to be a part of a show that has helped a lot of people,” she says. Following much hype and success, the show began touring in the fall of last year, making the award-winning musical available to far greater audiences. After completing her performance in Dear Evan Hansen ending her contract this summer, Bechtel has chosen to pursue other outstanding opportunities after her success with the musical and her debut on Broadway.

Raw talent alone didn’t get her to where she is. She only realized her dream of making it to Broadway by devoting countless hours and effort, not to mention the support from her family including her parents and three siblings. “They never doubted me. And they did force me to do things that maybe I didn’t want to. They are very supportive. I’m grateful for that,” Bechtel says.

Her plans for the future? “For actors, it’s hard to say. I would love to stay in New York, but it depends on what comes along.” No matter what lies ahead, Bechtel has paved her way with plenty of hard work and grit, and it seems she’ll continue in that direction. There is no easy route, she claims, but her passion for music and theater made the ride more enjoyable. Bechtel’s motto for pursuing any dream is revealed in her own path, “Put the time in. Take advantage of every opportunity. Keep putting yourself out there.”

Article by: Mindy Jones

The Woodlands Arts Council

When conceiving The Woodlands as a master-planned community, its founders envisioned a place where art was highly valued. They succeeded in creating a vital and robust presence of artistic expression in the area. The vehicle that provides support for the arts and sustains the founders’ goal is The Woodlands Art Council, Inc. (TWAC), a not-for-profit corporation, whose primary objective is to provide cultural enrichment through several community events that promote the performing, visual and literary arts, primarily through The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival and in the schools with numerous projects and scholarships for those students interested in pursuing art studies.

TWAC strives to create a better community through the arts. Dr. Maria Holmes, recently appointed as President of TWAC Board of Directors, believes that by experiencing the creative arts in the community, the quality of life is enhanced for all residents. “It creates another way for people to build community, it’s another way for citizens to have purpose and meaning in their hometown, no matter the age, heritage, or where their original home is; it brings us all together,” Holmes stated.

The Council establishes and supports meaningful art and cultural programs throughout The Woodlands, including youth mentoring and support programs, student art scholarships, art programs in kids’ schools, interactive workshops for seniors and retirees, special needs programs and sponsorship of public arts. TWAC continues to grow and gain recognition by coordinating The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival and the Art Bench Project.

The Art Bench Project

The Council is responsible for twenty Art Benches that have been commissioned and installed throughout our community, in partnership with The Woodlands Township as well as with the funding and vision of art patrons who sponsor each bench. Designed by local, national, and international artists, the Art Benches are permanent outdoor collections around The Woodlands Mall, Town Green Park and Hughes Landing. Currently, Phase IV of this project will feature three new Art Benches that will be located along The Woodlands Waterway.

The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival

The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival is an annual and premier attraction. It is one of the top-ranked fine arts festivals in the country. The festival is made for the community by the community, and all the proceeds go back into the local arts, impacting the community while benefitting upcoming local artists.

“The festival is very competitive,” said Kelly Batterson, Event Director of the 2019 Festival. There are 800 to 1,000 artists that submit applications each year providing the community with the most beautifully creative art to select from. The review and final picks are made by a blind jury. The art pieces are judged solely on merit. Art teachers, art professionals, community members and volunteers constitute the jury and collectively choose over 200 artists for each festival. “It is a well-thought-out process, a fine-working machine,” added Batterson.

The members of The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival Committee worked hard to deliver a wide variety of artistic mediums including paintings, pottery, glass pieces, photography, jewelry, digital, furniture, clothing and much more. The attendees at the two-day outdoor festival were able to meet the artist, discuss and learn about their work, hear their stories and their artistic perspectives. That was possible because, as part of the festival’s requirements, the artists have to be present in their booth for their exhibition, making the experience for the visitors more dynamic and personal.

In 2019, TWAC added a new feature to the festival called, Spotlight on Mexico. This gave an element of freshness to this year’s 14th event. Holmes mentioned, “We want to have a more global presence in our arts festival. Each year, we are going to select a country and bring attention to their arts, their food, and music providing education of other cultures to our citizens.” An interactive living museum was set up inside the main gate of Town Green Park, capturing the richness and beauty of Mexico in every art form. Asociación Amiga was in charge of curating the exhibit; they are a nonprofit formed by female Latin American entrepreneurs with a broad sense of commitment for the community. Diana Ontañon, President of the organization said, “Art has no language, barriers or frontiers, the Spotlight on Mexico was a way of sharing our authentic Mexican culture and artifacts, and representing our country the best way possible.”

The festival is a family event; everyone enjoyed the artists’ displays, live music performances and exquisite food offerings. Younger attendees participated creatively in The Woodlands Children’s Museum special exhibits. “We have a little something for everybody, making or having art is the main focus. We are proud of it; we love our mission and want to cultivate it,” concluded Batterson. The next Arts Festival is scheduled for October 17th–18th, 2020.

Article by: Ana Beatriz Priego  |  Photography: Derrick Bryant

Staying Safe in the Texas Sun

Staying Safe in the Texas Sun

 

Sunscreen Tips to Stay “Sun Safe”

Sunlight is a part of our everyday summer, spring & fall life here in Texas, and I always recommend protective clothing and sunscreen on a daily basis. Here are some tips for this important skincare step that can help prevent brown spots, sun damage, deeper wrinkles and skin cancer.

 

What level of SPF should I use?

Make sure that your sunscreen is broad spectrum with transparent zinc oxide. This ensures that you protect against ultraviolet radiation from the sun (which includes ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B.) The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a minimum of SPF 30 for daily use. SPF 30 blocks 97% of ultraviolet rays (UVB) and SPF 50% blocks 98%, so SPF 30 is sufficient.

SPF stands for sun protection factor. It tells you how long the sun’s UV radiation would take to redden your skin when using the product exactly as directed versus the amount of time without any sunscreen. So ideally, with SPF 30 it would take you 30 minutes longer to burn than if you were not wearing sunscreen.

 

How much sunscreen should I use and how often to reapply? 

To get the full broad spectrum of protection of your sunscreen, it is recommended that you apply one ounce of sunscreen (about a shot glass full) all over your body. Reapplication every 2 hours is recommended, especially if you are outside all day.

 

Who needs to use sunscreen?

Everyone! Men, women and children over 6 months of age should use sunscreen every day. This includes people who tan easily and those who do not; your skin is damaged by sun exposure over your lifetime, whether you burn or not.

 

What is the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens?

Chemical sunscreens work like a sponge, absorbing the sun’s rays. They contain one or more of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, oxtisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.  Physical sunscreens work like a shield, sitting on the surface of your skin and deflecting the sun’s rays. They contain the active ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.  I generally recommend the physical sunscreens as they are safer for the environment, better for sensitive skin and provide a great barrier to the harmful UV rays.

When should I apply sunscreen?

Every day! The best practice is to apply 30 minutes before going outside to allow the sunscreen to adhere to your skin. Reapply after every 2 hours of sun exposure and immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.  Even when it is cloudy, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV radiation reaches earth. Thus, going unprotected on an overcast day can lead to skin damage.

 

How can I protect my baby from the sun? 

Ideally, parents should avoid exposing babies younger than 6 months to UV rays. The best way to protect infants is to keep them in the shade as much as possible, and by wearing sun protective clothing. However, if sunscreen needs to be used, physical sunscreens containing zinc oxide formulated for infants will cause less irritation.

 

What type of sunscreen should I use?

The one that you will use! But, to further answer that question, make sure it offers broad spectrum protection and is at least SPF 30. If you are swimming, opt for one that is water-resistant (but you still need to reapply after 2 hours).

Available sunscreen options include lotions, creams, gels, ointments, wax sticks, and sprays.  If you use a spray, make sure that the product is widely used and recommended to ensure they are safe and effective. Current FDA regulations on testing do not apply to spray sunscreens.

 

What is UPF?

Ultraviolet protection factor is UPF, a label for clothing, hats, and fabrics that offer protection against UV rays. A shirt labeled UPF 50 allows 1/50th of the UV radiation to reach your skin.  There are many new fabrics that offer high tech protection and breathability, too.  Also, wearing UV blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes and the skin around them help as well.

Vitamin D and Sun Protection

While a small amount of Vitamin D can be obtained from exposure to the sun’s UV radiation, the health risks of UV exposure, including skin cancer are great. The Skin Cancer Foundation advises for one to get their Vitamin D from items such as fish, fortified dairy products and cereals, and supplements.

 

Do not forget to live a “Sun Safe” life and use sunscreen, sun protective clothing and seek shade, but still enjoy this Texas summer!

 

Content provided by Dr. Anita Gill, The Gill Center for Plastic Surgery and Dermatology. Dr. Anita Gill is certified by the American Board of Dermatology and earned her medical degree from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, LA, which is linked to the world-famous Charity Hospital. She earned a prestigious dermatology residency at the Texas Medical Center at the University of Texas at Houston and the world-renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center. She served as a chief resident in her final year of training. Before her residency, Dr. Anita Gill authored numerous publications during her research year in Dermatology. Together, with her husband, Dr. Paul Gill, a board certified plastic surgeon, they own The Gill Center for Plastic Surgery and Dermatology where they focus on quality and comprehensive cosmetic plastic surgery and dermatology.

The John Cooper School Signatures Author Series Features Maria Semple

An enthusiastic crowd of over 720 people were in attendance for the 15th Annual John Cooper School at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott featuring Maria Semple, internationally recognized bestselling novelist (Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Today Will Be Different, This One Is Mine) as well as a producer and writer for television shows, 90210, Mad About You, Saturday Night Live, Ellen and Arrested Development.

The compelling event included an Antarctic 11-day cruise drawing prize and Warby Parker sunglasses signed by Maria Semple among other items. Another highlight of the event is the addition of visiting authors, 20 authors were in attendance this year, including numerous local authors. The funds raised from the Signatures Author Series will help fund the Montgomery County Memorial Library System to replace books lost due to Hurricane Imelda. Past events have featured authors such as Former First Lady Barbara Bush, Nicholas Sparks and Gillian Flynn.

“Lisa and I could not be more pleased with this 15th anniversary event,” said Malin Melin, who co-chaired the event with Lisa Hollingsworth. “Ms. Semple was both lighthearted and thought-provoking and was rounded out by Visiting Authors whose talents enhance our event every year. We are very grateful to the sponsors and many volunteers who create an experience to celebrate literature and authors in a festive atmosphere for a good cause.”

The John Cooper School is a college preparatory, independent school located in The Woodlands that has a current enrollment of 1,284 students in Pre-k through Grade 12. For more information please contact Deb Spiess at www.johncooper.org.

HOPE Under the Stars 2019

This past Winter, 600 guests filled the Grand Ballroom of The Woodlands Resort to raise funds and share the message of HOPE for The Will Herndon Research Fund at the 11th annual HOPE Under the Stars event. The guests experienced a genuine glimpse into the world of Will Herndon, a 16 year old Woodlands resident that has been battling a rare degenerative brain disease called juvenile Batten disease. The evening’s theme transformed the ballroom from black and white to a world full of color and HOPE. The transformation represented the hope and optimism personified by Will and his love for life. The event honored long-time supporters, Dr. Scott and Amy Young and corporate honoree, Waste Connections for their overwhelming support.  The event raised over $570,000 for research and funding for the anticipated clinical trial to begin in early 2020.
“The Woodlands community embraced Will as their own son and stood by our family, funding research and sharing prayers to help save our boy,” said Missy Herndon, Co-Founder of HOPE: The Will Herndon Fund. “After 11 years of support, awareness and fundraising, we are excited to share Will will be in a clinical trial in the coming month.”

For more information on juvenile Batten disease and the fight to Save Will visit www.willherndon.org or www.beyondbatten.org

Photography Courtesy Derrick Bryant & Jen McDonald

The Woodlands Fire Department

One interesting benefit of living in a community like The Woodlands, where land use and infrastructure are designed for optimal effectiveness and aesthetic appeal, is that generally things run so smoothly we are seldom aware of its working parts. Foundational services for public welfare, for example, are often taken for granted. Until we need them.   

The Woodlands Fire Department (TWFD) is one such entity. Born humbly in the early ‘70s with a handful of volunteer firefighters working from a trailer on Grogan’s Mill Road, the organization has continually risen to the many challenges of a changing industry and flourishing population. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. 

Today’s TWFD is a model emergency response task force, highly regaled and fully prepared for any need in the community. In fact, on the ISO (Insurance Services Office) scale of 1-10, which is the recognized measure of how well protected a community is by its fire department, TWFD has held the highest rating of ISO 1 since 2013. A feat less than one percent of all fire departments in the U.S. can claim. Less than one percent!  This level of achievement requires excellence in staffing, training, communications, community outreach, as well as strong, continued support from civic leaders.  

The Woodlands Township has long understood the importance of providing residents with the best possible emergency response services. “With an ISO 1 rating, The Woodlands Fire Department continues to be one of the elite departments in the United States,” says The Woodlands Township Chairman, Gordy Bunch. “Achieving this goal has not only kept pace with our growth, it helps hold our residential and commercial property insurance premiums at a manageable level. This is just one of many reasons The Woodlands is so special,” said Bunch. 

Line personnel at TWFD number well over one hundred these days, and they are no longer just firefighters.  They are career men and women of the highest caliber, cross-trained as EMTs, paramedics, and fully equipped with Advanced Life Saving technology and gear. They are on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Additional department teams specialize and train for response to hazardous materials calls, collapse, heavy, and high-angle rescue, swift water and trench rescue. Bolstered with a gleaming fleet of specialized engines, trucks, ambulances and rescue boats, TWFD is prepared for any fire, medical or rescue emergency. And with eight fire stations now in The Woodlands, typical response time is a reassuring 4.71 minutes.     

Station One on Grogan’s Mill Road is the communications hub for TWFD, as well as Montgomery County 911. Twelve round-the-clock dispatchers field emergency calls. During large community events like The Woodlands Marathon, or natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey, Station One’s large Fire Com room becomes command central. Numerous computers and large, elevated television screens with live feed from multiple locations allow emergency managers to work alongside one another, monitoring and directing conditions in real time. 

A 20,000 square foot, state-of-the-art Emergency Training Center near I-45 and Highway 242 facilitates the continually honed expertise of our firefighters. It is also the location for public education. Because safety begins with citizens, TWFD offers regular CPR, first aid, and fire prevention instruction to the community.   

Strong leadership by a succession of five fire chiefs has been key to the department’s success. After fourteen years of stellar management and direction, Chief Alan Benson retired earlier this year. A nationwide search for his replacement is underway, however Deputy Chief Doug Adams currently serves as Interim Fire Chief. 

Just as life these days is not as simple as it used to be, neither are our emergencies. TWFD Battalion Chief Jason Washington says, “We don’t get cats out of trees anymore, but if your house is on fire, if you think you’re having a heart attack or whenever there is a life at risk, The Woodlands Fire Department is fully prepared to respond.”

Photography Courtesy Derrick Bryant

Non-Traditional Holiday Celebrations

Courtesy of The Woodlands Hotel Management Co.

Whether you have family in town visiting or are just looking to start a new tradition this holiday season, here are some fun non-traditional ways to celebrate in The Woodlands during the holiday season. Consider escaping your home and getting away to a local hotel for your next family gathering where you can enjoy time with loved ones and make memories without all of the stress and distractions of hosting.

Holiday Traditions and Elf Tuck-ins at 
The Woodlands Resort
Celebrate the holidays at The Woodlands® Resort beginning with our annual Grand Illumination Tree Lighting Ceremony on Friday, November 29th. Enjoy an evening of family-friendly holiday cheer with live music and kids’ activities including a visit from Santa. Take your family photo in one of our holiday photo booths, and marvel at the lighting of the Resort’s exquisitely decorated 20-foot tree. Other community events include Breakfast with Santa and holiday brunches in The Woodlands Dining Room and Robard’s Steakhouse. Make it a holiday staycation, and weekend guests will be delighted with holiday movies, ornament decorating, letter-writing to Santa, and roasting s’mores. Treat the little ones to a special Elf visit to tuck them in at bedtime complete with storytelling, and milk and cookies. Visit WoodlandsResort.com to discover more.


Spectacular Rooftop Event Space on The Waterway
The new rooftop terrace on the pool deck of Como Social Club is one of the most chic and unique venues in The Woodlands. Overlooking the stunning Waterway, the stylish setting captures the ambiance and allure of Lake Como, Italy, and is the perfect backdrop for your next special event. Choose from an array of handcrafted cocktails, a selection of wines from our award-winning sommelier, and exceptional cuisine created by our acclaimed chef. From dream weddings and intimate family gatherings to holiday parties and corporate receptions, the skilled team at Como Social Club can help coordinate an event to remember. Call 281.419.4300 to book your site visit today. ComoSocialClub.com

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