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

 

Lasting Legacy of David Vetter

David’s life has not been forgotten as his legacy lives on in his hometown of Shenandoah and neighboring community The Woodlands. Not only has he been an inspiration in science and medical progress, but David Vetter touched hearts of people all over the world with his courageous spirit amidst unimaginable challenges. His impact far outreaches our community affecting lives throughout the United States and beyond.

Delivered into a “bubble,” or isolator, at birth in 1971 to protect him from illness, David was born with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease (SCID) which left him without an immune system to fight off even the smallest of sicknesses. Only the 6th “germ-free delivery” in the world at the time, a common cold or virus could have taken his life. Loving parents, David and Carol Ann, knew their child needed to have normal life experiences and so the isolated area, or bubble, grew with him. He lived, learned, ate meals alongside family and played – all within his bubble. He became very close to his medical team who spent a great deal of time with David, including the late Dr. William T. Shearer, who led his care team and blazed trails for pediatric immunology. David’s life was spent inside the germ-free zone, however, human interaction was so important to him. “He showed such affection and love for his family and others. He had a huge capacity for loving and caring,” his mother, Carol Ann Demaret says.

David Vetter endured a life filled with obstacles, but he always looked on the bright side and found joy in his close bond with his family, including his older sister, Katherine. David cherished connections with others and made even the smallest interactions special. “One year at Halloween, he wanted to give out candy instead of dressing up, so he’d reach in his gloves which extended outside his space to give candy to other children,” says Carol Ann. His world was expanded when NASA designed a customized suit resembling a space suit protecting him so he could venture outside of his enclosed unit. Previously displayed in The Smithsonian, his famed suit and David’s brave story continue to be remembered by so many.

David chose to live life to the fullest and grasped every opportunity presented to him. A student in Conroe ISD, teachers would visit his home or Texas Children’s Hospital weekly for his education. Occasionally, a teacher would bring a small group of students to visit David and teach a lesson as though he was in a classroom setting. “I felt that everybody had something unique to offer David. He was very inquisitive and enjoyed visitors,” Carol Ann says.

Not long after David’s death in 1984 at age 12, Texas Children’s Hospital approached David’s parents about an idea to create The David Center, honoring their son, with the hope that children born with compromised immune systems would have a place to be treated. They agreed and in addition, approved the preservation of his cells for research. “I didn’t realize the importance at the time, but I trusted that it would be for generations to follow. They are still testing David’s cells,” she says.

Javier Chinen, M.D., Ph.D., Chief of The David Clinic at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands, became involved with the clinic even before it expanded to Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands in 2016. “It is not a secret that part of David’s legacy has been its essential role in the public awareness of SCID. This awareness has promoted the research leading to the inclusion of SCID in the U.S. newborn screening panel for inherited diseases,” he says. The David Center and The David Clinic are within the Allergy and Immunology division at Texas Children’s Hospital where Carol Ann is a regular volunteer.

Carol Ann began advocating for SCID newborn screening in Texas after joining the Board of Trustees for the Immune Deficiency Foundation following David’s death. “My prayer when David passed away is that the bubble had burst for all time,” she says. And that prayer has been answered over the years. Texas followed many other states adding SCID to the panel in 2012 with early diagnosis of key importance. Now, every state has added the SCID to their newborn screening panel. Today, children with SCID do not live in isolation, and families often turn to stem cell transplantation for treatment with gene therapy in current development. “At Texas Children’s Hospital, we are part of these worldwide efforts and actively receive infants with SCID for diagnosis and treatment,” Dr. Chinen says.

During David’s life, the media protected his last name and he was referred to as “David.” So, in 1990, when David Elementary opened honoring his name, the community rallied around the family and took it a step further in commemoration. David’s Dream Run and David Day have been meaningful traditions at the school for 26 years. A community-wide 5k event, organized by the David Elementary PTO, David’s Dream Run raises crucial funds for The David Center and The David Clinic.

Tamara Herod, Committee Chair for David’s Dream Run and David Elementary School parent, says, “This event is mostly about teaching our students the importance of helping others and honoring David’s life. I believe they will carry the compassion and awareness they learn from this event with them throughout their lives.” David’s Dream Run rallied 1,000 participants for this year’s race and raised a record $43,000 going to The David Center and The David Clinic. Walls adorned with the students’ artwork line the clinic halls and demonstrate the David Elementary School commitment to teach their students kindness, compassion and service. “This event has raised funds that advanced our research in SCID. We are very thankful for the community support of the research focused on improving the care of SCID patients,” Dr. Chinen states.

Each year on the day prior to the run, Carol Ann visits the students at David Elementary. The day has lovingly been named David Day, when Carol Ann speaks about David’s life as well as how the fundraising event helps others. “They ask so many questions from his favorite color to many other things. I always want to end on a positive note. I don’t want the children to be sad about David. I think the children will carry the spirit of David throughout their lives,” Carol Ann says.

Residents in The Woodlands continue to be touched by David’s memory in various ways – whether they are driving down David Memorial Drive in his hometown of Shenandoah, having a child attend David Elementary School, participating in David’s Dream Run or visiting Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands where The David Clinic resides. “I’m overwhelmed by the community’s continued embrace and support of David’s memory,” Carol Ann says, “He would be pleased to know his sacrifices were not forgotten. His gallant life and death have meant something to the world.”

Article by: Mindy Jones

Farm Fresh Foods

The farm-to-table restaurant culture is bursting onto The Woodlands culinary scene with wholesome food and the freshest local products in high demand. 

Food lovers are savoring the inventive fusion of local and seasonal goodness from the abundance of quaint bistros and cafes that are popping up all over The Woodlands area. Whether you’re in the center of town or keen to explore the wider countryside that surrounds us, a healthy, farm fresh bowl of goodness awaits.  

From boutique cafes to the more established culinary names in the area, all of these restaurants embody the belief that healthy food can be delicious and flavorsome. They pride themselves on using only locally sourced ingredients and the freshest seasonal products.

And what’s more, these eateries continue to build on a cause close to our hearts too – community involvement. As well as sourcing as many products from the nearby area as they can, many of these homegrown diners know what it means to give back to the community by using small, local businesses to handcraft much of their décor. These restaurants also aim to be as environmentally conscious as possible by composting and recycling.

Each of the cleverly crafted menus will help you on your way to becoming a seasoned health foodie, while respecting the community and environment that allows us to enjoy the healthiest fare to our hearts desire.  

Here is our list of the top farm-to-table and ranch-to-fork fare in The Woodlands area that will satisfy any palate and keep you coming back for more.

TRIS 

TRIS sits in the heart of The Woodlands and is the definition of fine dining incorporating the ranch-to-fork philosophy. Executive Chef Austin Simmons and his talented team at TRIS treat loyal customers and new guests with the perfect experience through upscale food and drink, artful service and finely tuned hospitality. 

Whether you’re looking for a casual business lunch or a high-end dinner, you can rest assured that you are in good hands at TRIS with an artfully crafted menu featuring some of the finest cuisine in Texas.

TRIS honors its passion for true ranch-to-fork fare by partnering up with Unique Meats, a family-owned business and premier provider of exotic meat from the best ranches across South Texas. The team at Unique Meats pride themselves on the quality of their meat, which starts with free-range ranches where the deer are raised on grass and free of steroids and medications. Unique Meats ensure their meat is delivered humanely from the field direct to the table.

TRIS now has a new exclusive steak program with HeartBrand Ranch,  a beef company specializing in bringing 10-year-old beef to consumers. Heartbrand Ranch, recently featured in Texas Monthly and The Wall Street Journal, is carving out a market for cuts from more mature animals. The ranch, headquartered in Harwood, Texas, is an Akaushi cattle ranch dedicated to breeding superior beef. TRIS was one of only a handful of restaurants nationwide to receive a portion of the first 10-year-old cow and is now proud to be bringing Woodlands consumers an exclusive steak experience.

Try: Chef’s Burger. Two smashed Akaushi Wagyu patties, bacon jam, American cheese, iceberg lettuce, English muffin

The Wheel Kitchen

Serving up farm fresh food since October 2016, this charming eatery is set on a lush area of farmland on the outskirts of The Woodlands and has become a top favorite on the farm-to-table scene.

Serving and catering for both breakfast and lunch, the menu items feature only homemade, organic or farm-raised ingredients. It’s easy to feel right at the heart of the real food movement here with plates that change with the seasons and beautifully crafted dishes bursting with the freshest local products. 

Try: The Wheel Buddha Bowl. Seasonal roasted vegetables, a spinach blend, organic brown rice, quinoa, roasted chicken breast and an herbed chia yogurt sauce.

True Food Kitchen

With a philosophy that food should make you feel better, not worse, True Food Kitchen ‘celebrates a passion for better living’.

Featuring a passionate team of chefs, restaurateurs and a doctor of integrative medicine, the True Food philosophy envisions healthy, fresh food that packs a whole lot of punch without ever sacrificing an ounce of flavor and taste.

The central Woodlands location offers an extensive menu that caters for all lifestyles including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free.

Try: The Ancient Greens Bowl. Miso sesame glazed sweet potato, turmeric, charred onion, snow pea, grilled Portobello, avocado, hemp seed. With your choice of any protein. 

 

Flower Child

A vision of ‘healthy food for a healthy world’, Flower Child burst onto the fresh food dining scene, opening their Lake Woodlands location in April this year.

Flower Child offers dine in and takeout options, with a promise to nourish mind, body, and soul.

Beautifully crafted plates and organic drinks made from scratch help bring the concept of a happy plate to life. Using only farm fresh ingredients from close to home, the restaurant aims to cater to all tastes from paleo and vegan to kids and just plain hungry!

Try: The Glow Bowl. Spicy sweet potato noodle, bok choy, zucchini, onion, jalapeno, shiitake mushroom, coconut milk and sunflower butter.

Herb & Beet

Head on over to Herb & Beet’s new Sawdust location for a true taste of Texas. Its handcrafted menu changes seasonally to offer the best of the area’s produce all year round.

This fast-casual restaurant has partnered with dozens of local farms to bring the freshest farm food to The Woodlands area. With a three-tiered focus on food roots, sustainability and staff appreciation, Herb & Beet honors its environmentally friendly approach from the ground up, from its expansive patio garden to its efficient kitchen equipment. 

Try: Hickory Smoked Cobb Salad. Crisp romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, avocado, house smoked bacon, tomato, blue cheese crumbles, deviled egg, and smoked poblano dressing

The Kitchen

Another popular choice in The Woodlands culinary scene is The Kitchen. Formerly known as Hubbell & Hudson Kitchen, the restaurant first began serving meals to Woodlands diners back in November 2010.

Kick back in a relaxed, casual setting as The Kitchen brings its executive chef Austin Simmons’ culinary vision to life. Offering hot and cold sandwiches, live oak wood grilled meats, burgers and farm fresh vegetables, The Kitchen also offers a 65 item salad bar and eight homemade soups daily. 

Try: Oak Grilled Mahi Mahi. Ginger soy glazed, butter whipped potatoes, grilled asparagus, arugula and cilantro.

Fielding’s Local Kitchen + Bar

A firm fixture in The Woodlands Village of Creekside Park, Fielding’s Local Kitchen + Bar, is a popular restaurant known for its quality of local-sourced ingredients. Working with 44 Farms in the Houston area, as well as small wineries and craft brewers, the restaurant is the epitome of farm-to-table creativity. 

The impressive, ever-changing menu features steaks that are hand cut and beef that is dry-aged on the property. The kitchen makes its own pasta and bakes all of its breads and pastries daily. 

The restaurant also pays homage to the environment from which it receives its array of succulent ingredients, having been built using as many repurposed and energy efficient materials as possible. Part of its bar is made of reclaimed whitewashed wood and all booths and bar stools are recycled leather. They even have a filtering water system for cooking and drinking water.

Try: 12oz 44 Farms, Texas
Prime Ribeye. Dry-aged 40 days. 

Bellagreen

Hailing itself as ‘the greenest restaurant in Texas’, Bellagreen is an American bistro for the new age. Every item is made from scratch in their kitchen, located on Research Forest. Bellagreen aims to deliver the most flavorsome tastes as possible by using the freshest and finest local ingredients. The kitchen is more than happy to modify items on an individual basis to align with any dietary choice whether it’s gluten or dairy free, to vegetarian, keto and paleo.  

Bellagreen also reinforces its Green Philosophy by focusing on reducing its ecological footprint through water-saving devices and alternate power sources. By practicing exactly what they preach, Bellagreen’s green practices keep them in harmony with the environment. 

Try: Honey-Fried Goat Cheese & Arugula Salad. Baby arugula, fresh jicama, almonds, raisins, shaved carrots & mango, tossed with mango ranch dressing & topped with parmesan cheese & a honey-fried goat cheese medallion.

Veggie Village Part 3 – Bob Dailey

Master Gardener Spotlight- Bob Dailey

Bob Dailey grew up on a rice and cattle farm in Louisiana. When he was ten years old, Bob told his father that he would never go in the garden when he became an adult. Not surprisingly, Bob grew up to love gardening and shared his affinity for gardening with his six children. Bob became a master gardener in 2005 and subsequently retired and moved to The Woodlands in 2006 with his wife. Mr. Dailey was awarded the 2014 Outstanding Master Gardener in Texas. He has been instrumental in the development and operations of Veggie Village and also serves on the board of the Special Angels.

What does becoming a master gardener entail?

The master gardener course consists of 90 hours of instruction by professors from Texas A&M and other universities as well as other experts in their field, followed by a one-year internship and a minimum of 30 hrs. of community service each subsequent year. I usually do about 200 hours of community service per year including talks and writing about gardening.

What have you enjoyed most about being a master gardener?

I have enjoyed working with others and teaching individuals how to grow safe, healthy food, as well as to take care of the earth and be good stewards of the environment.

What have you enjoyed most about your involvement with the Veggie Village Gardens?

Working in the Veggie Village adds a profound layer to the equation. It is actionable by the community involved in the gardens – adding another layer of caring, giving to provide for people in the community. The people who work in Veggie Village are inspirational and unparalleled.

How do you see Veggie Village evolving?

I hope that as the population grows, that Veggie Village will also expand its footprint to keep up with the demand to serve the community.

Bob shares his passion for lawn and garden information online here.  You can view his interview of Interfaith of The Woodlands Volunteer Manager, Sarah Mundy here recently on all that the Veggie Village does locally. For more about Bob and his account of the many deatils of lawn and

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.

Women Empowering Women Featuring Rachel Hollis

Rachel Hollis, author of the New York Times bestseller “Girl Wash Your Face”, brought her inspirational message of empowerment to the sold-out crowd at the Interfaith of The Woodlands’ Women Empowering Women luncheon on February 1st at The Woodlands Resort. Donning a “love for you” t-shirt, Ms. Hollis, had the audience cheering and dancing to her message of self-acceptance and celebrating one’s God-given gifts.  

The Women Empowering Women luncheon, presented by CHI St. Luke’s Health, was the 6th Annual event hosted by the Interfaith Community Clinic, that serves as a medical home for many Montgomery County families. “The enthusiasm for this year’s speaker was remarkable, and very quickly we realized we would have the opportunity to share about the clinic to a whole new audience in addition to our current supporters,” Missy Herndon, President, and CEO of Interfaith Community Clinic. 

Ms. Hollis championed the Interfaith Community Clinic, rallying the 730 guests to contribute to support the clinic’s efforts, and led by example donating back her entire speaking fee to the cause. As a result, the event raised $325,000, shattering the previous luncheon record.  

Rachel Hollis, photo courtesy Derrick Bryant

Junior League of The Woodlands – Rene Romano, Louise Blanchard, Jenny Shirley, and Shonna Spear

WEW Committee: Darin Mittlestaedt, Georgianna Syal, Emma Simms, Missy Herndon, Anita Phillips, Michelle Kink, Dr. Sakina Davis, Jessica Kemp-Park Not Pictured: Kelly Hull, Lee Fackler

Ella and Jo Anne Johnson

Michelle Kink, Jordan Coronado, and Leslie Hogan

Presenting Sponsor CHI St. Luke’s Health with Clinic Director, Anita Phillips

Guest Singer, Cannon Brand entertains audience during coffee and desserts.

Ladies of Southwestern Energy wear T-Shirts honoring Hollis

 

The Interfaith Community Clinic, established in 1996, is a nonprofit Health Care Center providing medical and dental care as well as counseling and patient service assistance to the uninsured and underinsured in Montgomery County. The Interfaith Community Clinic staff, comprised of experienced professional medical and dental volunteers, see over 10,000 patients annually for preventative care and minor illness treatment.

George’s Coffee Club

It was just a couple of years ago, over coffee, that a unique local organization began. Roger Galatas, Tom Cox, and Jeff Harris—who all worked closely with founder of The Woodlands, George Mitchell—agreed that the history of The Woodlands and the vision of George Mitchell’s master plan for it should be respected and continued. So that day in 2016, enjoying conversation and a cup of joe, George’s Coffee Club was formed with the intention of sustaining the core values of the town through education.

“We shared the view that there was not a source of information [for Mitchell’s vision that] anyone could easily access and rely on. And there needed to be,” says Galatas, President of George’s Coffee Club. The 501(c)(6) nonprofit entity seeks to share factual information about George Mitchell’s significant leadership and contribution in developing The Woodlands.

They would know—each of the founders of the organization, as well as many of their members, personally worked alongside Mitchell, and they understand exactly how he was motivated and what his specific vision was for the new town. With a desire to keep the community informed and to encourage the next generation to uphold the values of The Woodlands, George’s Coffee Club has grown from the three founding members to fifty-five active members. “We recognize as time goes by, we need young people to carry this on,” Galatas says.

An original member of George’s Coffee Club and current Steering Committee member, Karen West also enjoyed the privilege of working for Mitchell, beginning in 1984 in the legal department of his company. “This community has been my primary focus as a professional and as a resident for over 30 years, so it is important to me for us to continue to honor the man who founded this outstanding community and to communicate his vision accurately,” she says. “We thought it was important to keep his legacy alive and to educate newcomers to the area about him and his contributions to this community.”

Galatas met Mitchell early in 1979 and went to work for him later that year as the Senior Vice President of The Woodlands Development Corporation, becoming the President in 1986. “In my judgment, the single most important factor in the success of The Woodlands is its founding developer, George Mitchell. His vision, tenacity, compassion, charitable nature and willingness to take financial risk all combined in this successful community,” Galatas says. He explains that Mitchell wanted to address “regional sprawl” and build a community with quality-based initiatives where residents could live, work, play and learn.

Not only was Mitchell a well-respected oil-and-gas businessman and real estate developer, but he was also a generous man. “His charitable nature was one of the things that made him stand out from other businesses,” says Galatas. He remained active, sometimes fussing at businessmen for chopping down trees, even after he sold The Woodlands in 1997 because it was a project he embraced wholeheartedly. One of the most significant gifts Mitchell imparted was the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, in honor of his wife and her passion for the arts.

Monthly meetings of George’s Coffee Club focus on foundational values from The Woodlands’ origin, including education, health, transportation, and the arts. Speakers discuss Mitchell’s initial involvement, contribution and vision, and they associate the specific amenity with how The Woodlands has evolved through the years as well as how it relates to future plans for the community. Speakers have included Congressman Kevin Brady, Conroe ISD Superintendent Don Stockton, Debra Sukin, Josh Urban, the general manager of the San Jacinto River Authority, CEOs of Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital and Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center as well as other leaders in the community. “One speaker we enjoyed this year was Mr. Mitchell’s son, Todd Mitchell, who spoke about how important The Woodlands was to his father and what he envisioned for this community,” West says.

The Woodlands opened in 1974 as a new hometown community and brought a solution for regional growth outside a large metropolitan city. Many who live and work here may not realize that the amenities, beauty, and organization they enjoy today were strategically planned for them in its inception. Nurturing the past and sustaining the community’s values for our future embraces George Mitchell’s distinct outlook: creating a quality suburban town with a unique concentration on human appeal, not just development.

George’s Coffee Club is honoring the man and the origin of this town by teaching the community about our history and aligning its future through education, thereby inspiring continuity in realizing the dreams George Mitchell had for The Woodlands.

For more information, please visit the George’s Coffee Club website at georgescoffeeclub.org

Farmers Markets

Farmers markets are culinary adventures that offer shoppers a chance to see, touch, taste, and learn about the variety of local, farm-fresh foods and goods produced around their region. Not limited to produce, the markets around The Woodlands and its surrounding areas also offer specialty foods and handmade crafts—perfect for gift buying season. Stop by one of the weekly markets in our area for the opportunity to mingle with the farmers who love to give tips on how to prepare their products. They all have a simple mantra: “Food tastes better when you see who grows it.” With samples galore, you can eat, drink and shop your way through the markets alongside families and other local community members.

The farmers market on Tamina Road was founded in 2016 and boasts 25–40 high-quality vendors consisting of local farmers and artisans. Located in the Magnolia area, in front of a 15-acre tree farm, all items sold at the market are handmade, handcrafted or homegrown within local boundaries. Owner and operator Jennifer Lobel founded the market to help drive business to the adjacent Culinary Courtyard, which is home to several brick-and-mortar, food-centric businesses. The market has far exceeded her expectations and has quickly grown to become a foodie destination, often acting as a catalyst for small businesses to expand right next door into the adjacent Culinary Courtyard.

The Courtyard is home to businesses like Victory Pie Co., a sweet and savory pie café that supports veterans—as well as the widows and orphans of veterans—with a portion of all profits from their fresh, handmade artisan pies. You can order online as well as pre-order holiday pies. While you are there, stop by The Toffee Cellar for some hostess gifts like cupcakes or beautifully wrapped toffee. Next door you will find a large variety of English specialty culinary in The British Depot. You can also check out the Chipper, a dine-in picnic table whose fish and chips are not to be missed. Top off your avocado toast with a bag of microgreens from Texas Eco Farms’ USDA-certified, naturally grown produce. If you’re craving more sweets, swing by Bamagirls and enjoy some lemon sugar cookies made with ingredients from other market shops including Red Chicken Ranch eggs, which also sells at Victory Pie Company during the week. Finally, not far away is the newest crowd-pleasing addition, Brick & Brews pizza, serves craft beer and wood-oven pizza using local ingredients.

You can find out who will be at the market each week by connecting on social media. To top it off, each week the market offers a signature, complimentary adult beverage, themed gift basket drawings and live music.

One of the most well-known farmers markets in The Woodlands is located in Grogan’s Mill shopping center and run by the Grogan’s Mill Village Association. This friendly market is open every Saturday from 8 to noon, and it was established in 2008 as a way to connect and give profits back to the community through college scholarships, the CISD school system, Good Citizen Awards and more. This market has more than 50 vendors ranging from artisan items to local produce. It also offers community involvement opportunities including learning CPR or hosting food drives for the Interfaith Food Pantry. Shopping for unique gifts is easy at The Woodlands Farmers market because you can find items like handmade children’s dresses at Petunia’s Bubbles or homemade pet treats at K9 Café. Mudworks Studio has you covered with hand-thrown pottery and A.S. Is Designs has handmade and portable wooden cornhole sets.

Enjoy a refreshing, all-natural iced KicPOP while learning about Houston Winery, a micro-winery downtown primarily featuring Texas grapes in its wine. Stop by and sample some cold-pressed Just Made juice while picking up seasonal local produce for your holiday meal from Atkinson Farms or Houston Organic Farms. If tasting your way through the market samples isn’t enough, there are rotating food trucks and live entertainment. Luckily, this market has a weekly newsletter sent out Fridays so you can map out your visit ahead of time.

The Woodlands is an excellent place to discover new experiences and foods without straying too far from home. Make an effort to stop in at one or both of these farmers markets, and you’ll be richly rewarded with sights, sounds, smells and tastes from near and far. Spice up your life—literally.

 

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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