20 Years of Heroes

Article by: Missy Herndon 

In 1999, in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of The Woodlands, an initiative was started to honor our local Hometown Heroes: individuals and businesses who exemplify the values of our great community. A Hometown Hero is a positive role model, usually with an extensive history of volunteerism who has sacrificed personal gain to achieve noble goals. Some may have received special awards or recognitions; others may have brought positive recognition to our hometown. All are leaders, who have shown courage and strength, who have been nominated by their fellow neighbors and peers.

Mr. George P. Mitchell inducted the first class of Hometown Heroes over 20 years ago at the very first Celebration of Excellence Gala. Since that time, 133 individuals, businesses, institutions and non-profit organizations have received this honor. All of this has been made possible through the generosity of The Woodlands Development Company and The Woodlands Villager. This year, we are excited to add seven more Hometown Heroes to our distinguished list of honorees! Once again, we celebrate these individuals and organizations, along with all of our Hometown Heroes at The Woodlands’ Celebration of Excellence Gala, which will be held on Saturday, October 5, 2019, at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott.

Nominations for Hometown Heroes open every year, mid-May, and are selected by a committee of Hometown Heroes from previous years.

Please join me in congratulating our 2019 Hometown Heroes.

JERISSA BELSHA, MD

Dr. Jerissa Belsha is a native Texan, born in Lockhart, Texas to a loving family where her parents worked as a school teacher and principal for the local elementary school. After graduating high school as valedictorian, she went on to attend Texas A&M University, graduating first in her class with a Biomedical Science degree. She completed her medical degree and pediatric residency at the University of Texas at Houston, where she was awarded Intern of the Year and served as Chief Resident. During her medical training, she was able to volunteer with World Medical Missions in Papua New Guinea, serve at HIV clinics in Botswana and Romania and gain valuable experience through a medical internship in Beijing, China.

After residency, Dr. Belsha joined a pediatric hospitalist group caring for newborns and sick children in north Houston hospitals. In 2015, she joined the local practice called Agape Physicians and has been caring for the children of The Woodlands community ever since.

Dr. Belsha has been described by her friends as a “quiet leader.” Her reach among charitable causes is considerable throughout the greater Houston area. Each year, she coordinates a group of 20 women to put together over 200 stockings for Houston’s Little Footprints program. To benefit Love Fosters Hope, Jerissa helps organize a family field day to benefit foster children within the organization and along with her husband, mentored two teenagers, helping to fulfill a need in their lives for parental figures. She is an active volunteer for many area charities including Interfaith, The Will Herndon Research Fund, Love Fosters Hope, Giving Goes Glam, Free the Captives, Montgomery County Food Bank and A Dress for Barbara.

Outside of The Woodlands, Jerissa has a passion to help others and served as a physician on numerous medical mission trips to Honduras and Costa Rica through The Woodlands United Methodist Church. In her most recent mission trip this past spring, she encouraged several friends to join her where they were able to serve over 700 patients in the course of three days. Her love of others is evident in all she does within her medical practice, throughout the community and most importantly with her family; husband, Thomas and their two children, Emma and Logan. Residents of The Woodlands since 2010, The Belsha Family embodies the spirit of giving.

MARY-LOU E. FITCH

Mary-Lou Fitch arrived in The Woodlands in 1989 and hasn’t stopped working in support of the community ever since. Mary-Lou was instrumental in forming many organizations in The Woodlands area including Class Act Productions, Grogan’s Point Residents’ Association and The Woodlands Orchestra. Mary Lou has been an active volunteer with a number of local groups, including Meals on Wheels, The Woodlands Pavilion Partners Wine Dinner, Cypress Woodlands Junior Forum, National Charity League – The Woodlands Chapter, and CASA. She has served on The Planning Committee for The Celebration of Excellence Gala since inception and regularly volunteers for Interfaith of The Woodlands driving senior neighbors to their medical appointments. She has also served as a former Board Member at MCYS and in various other roles with the organization.

Most recently, Mary-Lou joined the American Heart Association’s Circle of Red, volunteering for their Go Red Luncheon. She is also a member of The Montgomery County Republican Women and has served on their board as Vice President of fundraising. She loves her community and is always willing to help out, hosting many fundraisers and events in her home. Mary-Lou has called The Woodlands her home since 1987 and doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon, adding to her 30 years of volunteering and service. In her spare time, Mary Lou enjoys traveling to visit her four grown daughters and six grandchildren.

STEPHEN C. HEAD, Ph.D.

Stephen C. Head, Ph.D. became the fourth chancellor of Lone Star College (LSC) in 2014 after thirty years of service to LSC. Located in the north Houston metropolitan area, LSC is one of the largest community colleges in the nation. His priorities are student access, equality, success and completion; academic quality; workforce programs in alignment with community needs; and collaborative agreements with educational, business, civic and charitable organizations. He views the college as a critical contributor to the social, cultural and economic well-being of the community. His values include operating the college on a sound, fiscally conservative model based on data, efficiencies, accountability, and common sense. He emphasizes transparency, ethical behavior and a culture of high expectations and achievement. Dr. Head is active in a number of local, state and national organizations that support the community college mission.

Dr. Head and his wife, Linda, both work at Lone Star College and reside in The Woodlands. They have four successful children and three grandchildren.

ALEX SUTTON

Alex Sutton serves as Co-President of The Woodlands Development Company, a division of The Howard Hughes Corporation. He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Civil Engineering from Rice University and a Master’s in Business Administration from The University of Houston.

Alex is a Licensed Professional Engineer, a Certified Public Accountant and has authored a number of technical papers and articles, holding two patents for computer-aided management approaches to managing public works systems. His responsibilities at The Woodlands primarily focus on project and land development and commercial activities. He and his family moved to The Woodlands upon joining The Company in 1994.

His civic and industry involvement includes service as the current Chairman of The Interfaith Board of Directors, Chairman of the North Houston Association, Director, The Montgomery County Foundation, Director, The Woodlands Economic Development Partnership, Director and Past Chairman, Montgomery County Youth Services, Director, The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, Director and Secretary, The Woodlands Township, and he is a Member of the Urban Land Institute. An Eagle Scout, he was named The Tall Timbers District’s 2012 “Good Scout” honoree.

Alex and his wife Sharon live in The Woodlands Town Center and are members of The Woodlands United Methodist Church. They have four adult children and six grandchildren, four of whom reside in The Woodlands.

JOSH URBAN

Josh Urban moved to The Woodlands in 1994 with his family. An avid runner, there was not a week that went by that most people would not see Josh and his brother, Gabe, running throughout The Woodlands on their daily long runs. This commitment led Josh to finish 2nd in the Houston Marathon, with his brother not far behind.

Urban began his tenure with Memorial Hermann in 2000 as an administrative fellow reporting to Dan Wolterman, former President and CEO of Memorial Hermann Health System. From there, he went on to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, working his way up from Director of Hospital Operations to Chief Ambulatory Services Officer. In 2008, Urban joined Memorial Hermann The Woodlands as Chief Operating Officer under now-retired CEO Steve Sanders. Just five years later, he assumed the position of CEO. In that time, he has managed expansion and renovation projects in excess of $250 million and led the hospital’s pursuit of Level II Trauma designation. In addition, Urban has been instrumental in creating a culture of excellence, which has been recognized nationally in the areas of quality, patient safety, and patient satisfaction. Under his direction, Memorial Hermann is the third largest employer in Montgomery County, with over 2,500 employees in the community.

An IRONMAN himself, Josh was a major influencer in bringing the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas event to The Woodlands which has generated revenue close to $14 million for The Woodlands community during each of the last nine years.

A 2011 graduate of Leadership Montgomery County, Urban currently serves on the boards of multiple business and civic organizations, including The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership and Interfaith of the Woodlands. He resides in The Woodlands with his wife and son. In his spare time, he enjoys running, fishing, hunting, and travel.

MARKET STREET THE WOODLANDS

Market Street The Woodlands, established in 2004, has been providing The Woodlands a center for an exquisite shopping experience, a variety of fine dining establishments, a movie theater and green space where visitors can relax and enjoy the company of others. In these 15 years, they have become the go-to destination for retail therapy, as well as community events.

Market Street has committed themselves to The Woodlands community in many ways. They lend their support to dozens of area non-profit organizations; not only with sponsorships dollars but also by encouraging their employees to serve on their boards and various committees. Additionally, Market Street is known to connect their tenants with charitable organizations, helping to raise awareness of local causes and increase philanthropic support. Their Change for Charity program selects one non-profit organization for each quarter of the year as the beneficiary of the coins collected through the street parking meters. Since the program began, customer donations have exceeded $200,000.

Their Central Park area features a green space, performance stage and splash pad, giving families and visitors a beautiful place to gather. This area is also home to many events Market Street produces including their Spring and Fall Concert Series, Spring Fine Arts Show, Holiday Tree Lighting and Grand Chanukah Celebration. They have also generously hosted local events such as The Woodlands 4th of July Parade, The Woodlands’ Car Club Cars & Coffee For a Cause, the annual HEB Wine Walk, Cultural & Heritage Festival, Ten 4 Texas Road Race, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk, which bring hundreds of people together for fellowship and comradery.

LEADERSHIP MONTGOMERY COUNTY

Leadership Montgomery County (LMC) is dedicated to developing and enhancing the current and future leaders of Montgomery County by preparing emerging and existing leaders to understand local issues, grow their leadership skills, and connect with others to better serve Montgomery County.

LMC’s core program is a class of business and community leaders that spans nine months between September and May. Throughout this time, participants learn through sessions on Infrastructure, Education, Government, Public Safety, Economic Development, Healthcare, Serving Our Community and Leadership Development. The LMC program promotes knowledge, awareness, and insight into our community, providing an educational forum and leadership development opportunities for participants.

Leadership Montgomery County originally began as Leadership Conroe, launched in 1987 through the Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce. In 1995, through a collaboration with The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, the program evolved into Leadership Montgomery County. Since that time the Greater East Montgomery County Chamber, the Greater Magnolia Parkway Chamber, the Montgomery County Hispanic Chamber, and the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce have also become partner chambers, as LMC transitioned into a nonprofit of its own. True to its original mission, LMC has been shaping strong leaders throughout the community, producing more than 850 graduates during the past 32 years.

LMC graduates continue to grow as leaders through alumni lifetime learning offerings including educational programs, social activities, and opportunities to give back. LMC alumni can be found throughout the community serving as nonprofit board members, political leaders, CEOs, and much more.

 

 

Inspiring Mom – Amy Young

What has been your most challenging part of motherhood?
I would say up until this point, the most challenging aspect of motherhood has been the constant worry of whether or not I’m doing everything right. Parenting is hard, and no one knows the right answer to every challenge faced as a mother. Fear of making the wrong decision, whether it be what I am feeding my kids or the decision to discipline them in certain situations, is a constant presence. As we are entering the preteen years in our house, it is becoming increasingly clear that raising kids in a technological world (that we never had) is now becoming the most challenging aspect of motherhood. Having to monitor screen time, website content, YouTube videos…these are things our parents never dealt with. Knowing that what they click, text, post or “like” as a teenager can follow them for the rest of their lives is nerve-racking. Trying to keep a watchful eye on it can be overwhelming but extremely necessary.

What inspires you as a mom?

Watching my kids grow into these individual little people who think on their own and have their own opinions inspires me. To think that I am playing a part in who they are becoming and equipping them with the tools to make tough decisions inspires me to be a better mom.

How do you find time for yourself/spouse/children?
That’s always a tough one because we are not the best planners. My husband and I do sneak away for date nights grabbing dinner or a movie when we can. We recently started having “family meetings” with the kids. It’s a time we carve out (usually Sunday evenings) to sit with the kids (no tv, phones, computers) and talk…just talk. Sounds awkward but they are great! We discuss our upcoming week, specific needs, anything big on the horizon, etc. We also pick a word of the week (e.g., love, humility, gratitude) and discuss how to implement that word into our day-to-day. It’s been fun listening to our kids open up and seeing them attempt to put these words into practice.

What are your favorite things to do/places to spend time with your children in our community?
With all of the amenities that our community has to offer, we love venturing out and trying new activities or the latest restaurants when we can. But with kids involved in sports and extra-curricular activities, it seems most of our free time is spent at sports and recreational complexes in and around The Woodlands. Sometimes this means spending our entire weekends watching our kids in games and tournaments, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

What advice would you give new moms?
Never say, “My kid would never!” because it will come back to bite you. Trust me. Kids are kids, and no matter how perfect WE think they are, they are going to fail. They need to fail. It can be so tempting to want to swoop in and fix everything for them (guilty!), but let them figure it out. It is better to experience failures and disappointments now so they are better equipped to handle the larger challenges they will face as they become adults.

Amy and her husband, Scott, have been married for 19 years. After practicing
law for 9 years, Amy became a stay-at-home mom to her two children, Owen
(11) and Annie (10). She now dedicates her time to raising her family,
volunteering for various organizations including her children’s school (The
Woodlands Christian Academy), HOPE – The Will Herndon Research Fund and
Interfaith of The Woodlands, as well as helping with her husband’s dental
practice.

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

Getting Fit for Glam Wrap-Up

To close out our series on Getting Fit for GGG, we thought our models deserved a little hydration and recovery session for all of their hard work! Thank you to THRIVE Drip Spa in Market Street for pampering our models and helping restore their energy and glow for GGG. Both models, Amy Torres and Perisha Burnham had recently been traveling, over multiple time zones – so the timing of the visit couldn’t have been better.

The THRIVE Intravenous (IV) Drips deliver vitamins, minerals, and amino acids directly to the body for maximum absorption. All of the drips are administered by registered nurses and you receive the same hydration from one 30 minute drip as drinking 2 gallons of water.

Here is what Interfaith Community Model Amy Torres shared about her experience:

We were greeted and immediately taken back to their beautifully decorated IV area. The RN explained our IV drip options which ranged from benefiting the immune system, weight loss, beauty, muscle recovery and more. I decided to go with the Myers Drip which helps boost the immune system. The entire process took about 30min and almost immediately I felt significantly less fatigued and energized. This feeling lasted all day…no jet lag for me!

In addition to IV vitamin therapy, Perisha also received a cryo treatment. The Cryo Chamber is cooled to temperatures between -160℉ to -220℉. Sessions range from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Cryotherapy gives your metabolism and immune system an immediate boost, burning 500-800 calories per session.

 

Here is a little about Junior League Community Model Perisha Burnham’s results from her trip to THRIVE:

First things first: Yes, it was cold. Lol! However, it was not at all unbearable.
The chamber begins with warm air and slowly the temperature declines giving your body time to adjust to the cooler air.

I suffer migraine and tension headaches. The evening before our trip to Thrive, I had a terrible migraine and woke with some symptoms still lingering. My cryo session helped to relax my tense neck and shoulder muscles and by the end of the day, I was back to normal.

This is probably the quickest recovery I have ever made from a migraine–mine usually last a few days.  I believe the Myers IV and Cyrotherapy session had everything to do with me feeling better so quickly.

If you want to look, feel and perform better, you definitely need to visit our friends at THRIVE! Also, don’t forget to get your ticket for Giving Goes Glam to see these fabulous ladies walk the runway for fashion and philanthropy on April 5, 2019, at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel!

To learn more about THRIVE Drip Spa please visit: www.thrivedripspa.com or call 281.343.DRIP

The 2019 Inspire Film Festival

The third annual Inspire Film Festival was held in The Woodlands this past week. The theme was “Game Changers,”and the films featured incredible people making positive impacts in the lives of others, as well as an iconic Houston building, the Astrodome. The festival once again challenged attendees to do more, be more and make the community and the world a better place.

New to the festival this year were the Wells Fargo 300 and 200 seat theaters, the Inspire Holiday Tent and the Tent Talks.

The festival partnered with community partners Angel Reach (read more about Angel Reach here:www.thebookthewoodlands.com/philanthropy/angel-reach/) and Big Brothers Big Sisters and encouraged festival goers to get involved and become game changers by serving as a mentor to a young person in one of these worthy organizations.

Regardless of whether you attend the free outdoor shorts program on opening night, or take in every film, it is impossible not to be inspired and uplifted by the Inspire Film Festival. Make sure to add the Inspire Film Festival to your schedule for next year, because as the festival promises you will leave different.

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

Sustainable Fitness, Attainable Goals

Now that the new year has arrived many of us are falling in line with the goal and intention setting that litters our social media feeds.  From diet to fitness, it’s easy to get caught up in picture-perfect ideals – aiming to mold our bodies, and maybe even our lifestyles, to look like the highlights of an influencer’s Instagram story.

There’s nothing wrong with having aspirations and goals.  They’re necessary for personal development and growth, but following a plan that isn’t a fit for your needs can lead to burnout, discouragement, and the abandonment of your pursuits.  The last thing you want to do when embarking on a fitness journey is set yourself up to feel further behind than you did when you first began.

The Woodlands is saturated with gyms large and small, boutique fitness studios, groups and clubs that all have their own way of helping you achieve your goals.  When it comes to deciding where you’re going to spend your time and energy here are some things to consider:

Community

This one gets overlooked, but it’s a critical half of the equation for success:  whether it’s a motivating and encouraging instructor or trainer, a friendly and knowledgeable front desk person, a fellow client, or a combination of all three, whom you surround yourself with has a big impact on your ability to see a goal through to the finish line.  If the instructor’s style of motivating doesn’t suit you, or you don’t feel confident coming forward with a question about your membership, or the participants in your class or fellow gym attendees create an environment that makes you feel belittled rather than inspired, it might be time to reconsider where you’re putting your effort.

Find a community that encourages, motivates, inspires, and challenges you to pursue your physical goals.  That type of positive energy will work its way into other aspects of your life and ultimately make getting to the gym or studio not just something you want to do, but something you feel like you need to as well.

Method + Results

There might be a few hundred ways to get your heart rate up, tone your muscles, and increase your flexibility.  Discover something that works for you in all three categories and you’ll be in your best shape in no time.  When trying out different fitness methods in the pursuit of building a sustainable fitness routine ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can I see myself doing this 3-5 times a week without getting bored or overly fatigued?

  2. Do others who work out here just do this, or do they incorporate other methods into their lifestyle?

  3. If I dedicate myself to this method for the long-term, am I going to achieve the results that I’m after?

If the answers to these questions work well into your overall picture of what you’re trying to achieve for your lifestyle, it’s likely that the fitness method you are choosing is one that you will be able to stick to.  The results you garner will be more than enough to keep you motivated, and you’ll feel a good return for the time, energy, and resources you invest.

My hope for you in 2019 is that you discover a supportive environment that inspires you to achieve your goals, and sets you up for a level of success that will follow you for the rest of your life.

Gelena Scally- Gelena “G” Scally has lived in The Woodlands for five years where she owns and operates boutique fitness studio DEFINE: The Woodlands. She is passionate about connecting with her community by helping them achieve their health and fitness goals.

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.

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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