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Interfaith gala celebrates heroes, community giving

Courier of Montgomery County

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The Woodlands, October 9, 2017 | comments
By Meagan Ellsworth
U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, left, 2017 Hometown Hero Melissa Young, center, and Bev Earl, a 2005 Hometown Hero, right, at the Celebration of Excellence Gala on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center.  Photo: Michael Minasi, Staff Photographer

The 2017 Hometown Heroes are pictured with U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, Interfaith CEO Missy Herndon and Dr. Debra Sukin, Chairman of the Interfaith Board of Directors, during the Celebration of ... more

Standing in a green dress before a crowd of 850 attendees, Interfaith of The Woodlands President and CEO Missy Herndon described the night as monumental with nearly $1.3 million raised for disaster and crisis relief in Montgomery County.

"It's more than double what we normally raise," said Herndon, who was applauded for her leadership at the The Woodlands Celebration of Excellence Saturday night at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center.

"It's just such a testimony to the generosity of this community. People know there are so many people in need and they want to give back to help, and that's a really amazing gift to give. It's a tremendous effort, it's a monumental year."

Community Service

Last year's proceeds provided more than 1 million services to assist neighbors in South Montgomery County with financial assistance for rent, mortgage, utilities and deposits, emergency transitional shelter, food, school supplies, holiday programs, senior services, job training, community education and more, according to information from Interfaith. This year, the church has continued that mission by being there for people like the Johnson family, who tragically lost three children in a house fire in the Tamina community and the many fighting to recover from Harvey.

Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast Aug. 25 and dumped about 25- 31 inches of rain in areas of the county that flooded a few thousand homes across Montgomery County. Interfaith's staff and volunteers jumped into action, including by leading a collaborative effort that set up a warehouse at Falcon American Steel in Conroe that served as a hub for food and supply donations and distributions that aided thousands in need with hundreds of volunteers.

"(According to a statistic) 278 percent more people were served this past month (than normal)," Herndon said. "It's just a lot of people came to our door who lost everything. It's our responsibility to help provide, and this community keeps giving back."

Hometown Heroes

Each year, Interfaith of The Woodlands hosts the gala to recognize outstanding leaders in the community, which brought elected officials, businesses and community leaders together at the event that included the theme of Midnight in the Garden. Interfaith celebrated four individuals, one business and, for the first time ever, a nonprofit organization as 2017 Hometown Heroes, who are residents and businesses or institutions that serve as outstanding role models for volunteerism and dedication to The Woodlands community.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, The Woodlands, who was honored as a Hometown Hero in 1999, presented congressional accommodations and commended each of this year's honorees: Amy Lecocq, president of The Woodlands Art Council; Bob Milner, co-owner of Mercedes-Benz of The Woodlands; Melissa Young, president of Corporate Incentives; Rob Johnson, assistant general counsel of Legal Services at Exxon Mobil Corporation; Kim and Jud Hess, founders of Cassidy Joined for Hope; and Julie Ambler, head of school at The Woodlands Christian Academy.

Each of the honorees expressed gratitude for the honor, emphasizing the importance of giving back.

"… There's always an opportunity to help someone, there's always someone out there who can use help so this community creates a platform for you to be able to do these things," said Milner, who grew up poor in Memphis but values lessons learned from his father, whom he believes helped shape him and his success. "God has blessed me in a great way, he's helped me be successful in my career, he surrounded me with great mentors who helped me understand the importance of sharing what you have, not just from a financial standpoint but from a time commitment, leadership and mentoring standpoint."

Cassidy Joined for Hope was recognized in the newly created category for a nonprofit. After the loss of their teenage daughter Cassidy to suicide in December 2015, the Hesses founded the nonprofit foundation focusing on teen suicide and prevention, which has made a significant impact in The Woodlands community.

Her video presentation earned a standing ovation.

"My heart was breaking for her and I thought of how strong and courageous she was to be able to move forward and use her story for good and not just hide away from what she had gone through," said Leslie Scrushy, whose husband Richard bid $10,000 for a private island vacation package. "She was able to use her story that was obviously so painful as a mother to help other parents and students in their situations."

Scrushy sat among five tables of people who attended to support The Woodlands Christian Academy. She was proud to see Ambler and the school that has helped her children grow be recognized.

"It has been such an amazing place for our children to receive their education," she said. "My daughter has really become who she is by being a part of The Woodlands Christian Academy. … It has provided an amazing opportunity for our children and we are so thankful."

Generous Gifts

Humbled by a $100,000 donation, Huntsman Corporation Honorary Chairs Brynn and Peter Huntsman requested the nomination of Kim and Robert Marling, of Woodforest Charitable Foundation and Woodforest National Bank, who were at a wedding and unable to attend, to the sound of loud applause.

While the Marlings' donation was one of the largest contributions of the night, by the end of the night, gold balloons blinking with lights decorated the ballroom with donations ranging from $250 to $5,000 from attendees as the auctioneer asked for more support for the community. Some entities also agreed to match donations up to certain amounts, including Market Street for up and the Huntsmans, who set a $250,000 match a month ago, and did an additional match up to $15,000 at the event.

Following the auction and fundraising efforts, attendees had a chance enjoy a live band. General Counsel for Diligent Delivery Systems Paul Spicker and his wife Tuly danced at their sponsor-reserved table to the tunes.

"It's emotional," said Spicker, referring the $1.3 million raised to serve the community. "Just knowing how lucky we are, and sometimes you forget how devastated people are in their life. It's just an emotion of being so thankful, so proud."

"Everybody talked about other people …," Tuly pointed out.

Continued Needs

While the night succeeded in raising funds, Herndon is already starting on a holiday program that is anticipated to be the next of more needs to come.

"We will have these families that are affected by this disaster will move into our crisis assistance," Herndon said. "Our families that are listed in crisis will need assistance every month for probably a good 12-18 months. They will be part of our holiday program, so buying toys around the holidays or adopting families and seniors will be huge."

For more information, visit woodlandsinterfaith.org/gala/hometown-heroes or woodlandsinterfaith.org; or call 281-367-1230.

CLICK HERE to read more and see photos in the Courier of Montgomery County.
 


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