Newsflash

New Kinder Institute Report

Building a better and more resilient Houston must start at the neighborhood level, and that can be accomplished by providing communities with leadership training, better information and financial support, according to a report from Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research.
 
The new report, Community Resilience Initiatives: Building Stronger Neighborhoods in Houston examines work taking place in neighborhoods that are part of the city’s Complete Communities Program and how it connects to the newly released Resilient Houston plan. The report offers best practices for how communities can deal with challenges they face and connect them to broader city efforts.z
 
Chris Servidio, Kyle Shelton and Dian Nostikasari, Kinder Insitutue researchers, conducted dozens of interviews and group discussions with Complete Community stakeholders. They also analyzed the program’s action plans, which outline problems — ranging from a lack of professional job training to availability of fresh and healthy food.
 
“The efforts taking place at the community level in Houston are essential building blocks to building stronger neighborhoods,” said Shelton, deputy director of the Kinder Institute. “When community efforts are tied into larger city programs, the lessons learned can be shared across the city and help neighborhoods throughout Houston. The efforts highlighted are helping residents address everyday issues, such as housing, food access and health, and are also better preparing communities to deal with future shocks and disasters by reducing vulnerabilities.”
 
After conducting their interviews, the researchers concluded communities should be provided with resources to train future leaders, as well as the technical information residents need to make decisions. They also emphasized encouraging organizations that can act as “community quarterbacks” to coordinate efforts, convene stakeholders and organize resources.
 
“When residents are involved in efforts that give them the information and expertise they need to participate in technical decisions about their community they are able to bring their real-world experiences in line with official decisions,” Shelton said. “This merging often means better outcomes for communities and more effective use of public efforts.”
 
Interviewees expressed the importance of providing financial support to community organizations with effective ideas.
 
“These groups are struggling to expand without monetary resources,” the authors wrote.
 
Finally, the report stressed the need for community plans and public engagement as a way to acknowledge and incorporate past efforts while responding to different situations and implementing necessary actions to achieve goals.
 
Ultimately, the researchers believe these resilience-building efforts will improve the quality of life for all residents.
 
The report was funded by Chevron.
 
“Our Complete Communities have a legacy of perseverance and resilience that have made them cultural assets to our city, despite not having comparable investments as other neighborhoods,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Our efforts are laser-focused on reversing that disparity and creating  more equity in under-resourced neighborhoods. These community resilience initiatives are good examples for why growing resilience-building efforts at the neighborhood scale, as called for in Resilient Houston, is so important. We appreciate the Kinder Institute and Chevron for doing the kind of deep research that shows how the community engagement and planning approaches we are using can improve quality of life and resilience in our neighborhoods.” 
 
“As a native Texan, I know how important resilience and vitality are to our region,” said Steve Green, president of Chevron North American Exploration and Production and Kinder Institute advisory board member. “We’re proud to support and learn from the data and guidance provided by the Kinder Institute, which continues to inform our understanding of the biggest challenges and opportunities impacting our community.”
 

Junior League's Food & Beverage Manager talks about work, vols and those awesome orange rolls

If you’ve been to a special event at The Junior League of Houston (and, who hasn’t) you already know the food is consistently delicious and the service is friendly and super-efficient. 
What you might not know, however, is the name and face of the person who makes sure your experience there is always exceptionally good! 
 
Let me introduce you to “the man of the Junior League,” Malcolm Rowland.
 
Malcolm was born in London in 1946, shortly after World War II. When he was five years old, he and his family immigrated to the United States. They came by boat, landed New York City and made their way to Shreveport, La, to join an aunt and uncle who sponsored them.
 
A few years later, the Rowlands moved to Houston, and Malcolm was enrolled in           Pershing Middle School. He went on to attend and graduate from Westbury High School and, afterwards, the University of Houston, where he majored in business. 
 
HWM: When did you start working at The Junior League of Houston?
 
ROWLAND: My first day was November 4, 1985. And, my job title was the same as it is now — Food and Beverage Manager. 
 
HWM: What were you doing before you came to work at The League? 
 
ROWLAND: Though I didn’t major in the culinary arts in college, I developed an interest in the field over a period of time and, eventually, became the Food and Beverage Manager at the old Whitehall Hotel. I was working there when I was offered my current position with The Junior League. 
 
HWM: You joined the team at The League shortly before it moved into the beautiful building it occupies now. Was that just a coincidence?
 
ROWLAND: Actually, no; I was hired to get everything ready for the move (on April 1, 1986) and transition into the new, and much larger, spaces. The tasks included hiring more staff,           developing new menus, establishing a price structure for the menu items and all the details associated with running the department and hosting special events here. 
 
HWM: Speaking of special events, about how many are held in The Junior League        facility each year? 
 
ROWLAND: Between 600-700 events are held here every year. We host breakfasts, lunches and dinners, as well as afternoon teas and cocktail receptions. Really, we can do whatever the client needs us to do. 
 
Weddings, rehearsal dinners, galas and fundraisers are held in the ballroom, which can accommodate large groups of 300-plus. And, many other smaller events are booked in the Tea Room by Junior League members and patrons for their friends and families, companies, nonprofits and other community groups.
 
HWM: Just how large is The Junior League facility?
 
ROWLAND: The building has two levels and is 40,000 square feet overall. Most are familiar with the layout of the ground floor (at least the public rooms), but many don’t realize there is a second level, where the administrative offices are located. 
 
HWM: Many local clubs and organizations hold their regular monthly meetings in the ballroom and have been for many years. Could you name a few of those for us?
 
ROWLAND: Yes, I am happy to say we have developed long-term relationships with many local organizations and their members. These include the American Ad Federation, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Houston Estate and Financial Forum, as well as many real estate groups
 
HWM: The lot of nonprofits keep coming back too. Have they told you why they are so dedicated to having their events there?
 
ROWLAND: Yes, they have. They comment on the quality (and consistency) of the food and service, the free parking in our garage and how easy we are to work with. And, the   affordability of having an event at The Junior League. Of course, all of us here love getting this kind of feedback. 
 
HWM: The Tea Room is open for lunch several days a week, but it is not a public restaurant. Would you tell our readers more about that?
 
ROWLAND: The Tearoom is used for special events Sundays through Tuesdays. On the other days of the week, members and patrons of The Junior League can dine there for lunch. Though it’s not open to the public, all are invited to consider  a membership. A patron membership is just $75 per year. And, important to note, the membership fee is a donation; it goes directly into The Junior League of Houston Foundation fund. 
 
HWM: How many people can be served in the Tea Room?
 
ROWLAND: The room seats 100. However, the side rooms are often used for other offerings of a special event. For example, they might be set up to provide a pre-event reception or to accommodate vendor booths. 
 
HWM: Those of us who have eaten in the Tea Room or attended special events at The Junior League always enjoy the signature orange rolls. Please tell us about them. 
 
ROWLAND: The orange rolls were on the menu when I got here. Though the recipe has been passed down through the years, we don’t really know where it originated. But, you’re right; everybody loves the orange rolls, and they are a staple of our bread service at all our events. They are also available for purchase in the Junior League Pantry.  
 
HWM: Please tell our readers about The Pantry? What is sold there? 
 
ROWLAND:  The Pantry offers wonderful bakery items and frozen casseroles prepared in its Tea Room Kitchen. In addition, care packages, special orders and cookbooks are also available for purchase. 
 
The Pantry is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. 
We tell people they can “stop by or call 713-622-5965 to check inventory or place an order. It’s like getting a taste of the Junior League Tearoom on the go.”
 
HWM: Is there a "most popular” item in The Pantry?
 
ROWLAND: Yes! We get more requests for the King Ranch Casserole than anything else. We offer it in two sizes, and it seems to be the perfect entree for many in-home gatherings.
 
HWM: The Pantry offers gift certificates. Right?
 
ROWLAND: Yes, The Junior League offers gift certificates that can be used to purchase items from The Pantry, including frozen meals, catering packages and cookbooks. Tea Room patron members and League members may also use them to purchase special event tickets or dine in the Tea Room. 
 
HWM: Would you tell us about the challenges and easiest parts of your job?
 
ROWLAND: One of the biggest challenges is creating new menu ideas for a gala, wedding reception, special corporate event or any special occasion. The easiest part of my job is meeting with clients to help olan their events.  
 
HWM: You’ve been at The League a long time now, so you must love your job. Can you talk to us about that?
 
ROWLAND: I enjoy working with the League members who are here — not because they have to, but because they want to. They freely volunteer their time to make our community a better place. It is the mission of The Junior League that is very rewarding to me. 
 
Beverly Denver is the editor and publisher of Houston Woman Magazine.
 

Montgomery County nonprofit revitalizing itself with same mission, new vision

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? One of the oldest and most enduring organizations of its type in Montgomery County is about to do just that, revitalizing itself with a few new tricks of its own.  

The mission of the Humane Society of Montgomery County, Inc. (HSMC) has long been simply “to promote the humane treatment of animals through community education and supporting responsible pet/animal ownership.”  

In 2019, a renewed group of area residents will serve on the HSMC Board of Directors, with ideas to take that mission to a whole new level.

“Same Mission, New Vision,” president Nelda Luce Blair enthusiastically calls the distinctive plan. Blair and HSMC Secretary Denise Matthews recently welcomed new board members Lisa Robinson, Kristi Marimon Lindahl and Kevin Sumrall. Both Robinson and Lindahl are returning board members, each of whom served a previous stint in past years. Sumrall, a Lone Star College Montgomery professor, formed the Maverick Pets Alive student club and is new to HSMC.  

An ambitious, yet unique future is being envisioned by the board, one that would allow HSMC to act as a support organization throughout the county.

“We really wanted to ‘think outside the box’ in applying HSMC’s tried and true mission,” explained Blair, who served on the HSMC Board in the 1980s and received a lifetime membership for her years of support since then.

“At one time, the Humane Society was the only game in town. Now, countless creditable animal welfare groups exist in our county. We think the Humane Society has the longstanding reputation and future durability to serve as an agent for unity among our area humane organizations. We want to be a catalyst not only to help other groups with their   extraordinary needs, but also to encourage them to work with each other toward the overriding goal of providing a better life for animals in our communities. We hope to tap the heart and soul that all of these groups have in common, with the goal of accomplishing greater results in animal welfare.”

Formed in 1972, HSMC was originally the undertaking of seven local citizens who joined together to help prevent cruelty to animals. Since that time, HSMC has consistently operated under the same nonprofit organization, although its work has varied over the years.

One of the most frequent misconceptions Blair encounters in the community is that HSMC and the Conroe or Montgomery County Animal Shelters are one in the same. The City of Conroe operates an animal shelter on Sgt. Ed Holcomb Blvd., and Montgomery County operates an animal shelter on Highway 242, both of which are funded by tax dollars, as well as private and volunteer donations and efforts. HSMC, on the other hand, is purely a non-profit organization that works in many different ways to pursue its mission of animal welfare.

“Decades ago, HSMC did operate the only shelter in the county, by contract with the city of Conroe,” Blair recalled. “Yet, over the years, its roles have changed as different needs arose. The Humane Society once offered spay and neuter services, it has worked with animal rescue and foster groups, managed animal adoptions for the county shelter and, until 2016, operated ‘Ruff House,’ providing temporary pet care for families in crisis. All of these services were accomplished as a nonprofit,  operating primarily on the generosity of its donors.”

According to Blair, the renewed HSMC mission and vision will focus on helping other animal welfare groups within Montgomery County with needs above their base operating and maintenance expenses. Blair explained that those needs might include arranging in-kind donations of unique “wish list” items or emergency materials, assisting with volunteer recruitment during a crisis,] and even monetary expenditures for priority items outside normal budgets. The HSMC rebranding will include a new logo and updated social media, introduced at a planned group meeting for all interested animal welfare organizations, on December 2 at Lone Star College.

 “We have many exceptional animal organizations in this county that perform a whole range of services — like spay and neuter, pet education, fostering and adoption, shelter volunteering, wildlife rehabilitation, sanctuaries and rescues for practically every animal species,” Blair noted. “The Humane Society wants to help those groups perform their roles even better by supporting the fine work already being done.'
For more information on HSMC, visit www.hsmctx.org/. Blair is available at 281-363-3632 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./.

Houston Symphony's newest concertmaster communicates with skill and intuition

In South Korea, Yoonshin Song’s mother was very fond of classical music –– so much so she enrolled her young daughter and son in music lessons. Her brother was directed to the piano, and Song was five when she was given her first violin.

She said she was envious of her brother's instrument, but instructors told her mother she didn’t have the aptitude for piano. Fortunately, she discovered her true talent was in strings, not keys, and focused on mastering the violin.

By the time she was 11, she made her solo debut with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, launching her into a career she now loves.

In May 2019, she joined the Houston Symphony as its newest concertmaster –– a role second only to the conductor in its importance to an orchestra  and always held by the “first chair” violinist.
“It’s a job that requires both skill and intuition,” Song said.

“Both are equally very important. As a concertmaster, you actually do some bowing for the section –– showing how to use the right arm in the same way,” she said. “There are many people in the group playing the same line so you want to have the same type of bowing.”

She added, “I lead the first violin section with my body gestures and verbally also. I try to translate how the conductor wants the direction of the music making. We discuss, and I try to transmit information to them in the correct way. This facilitates a better ensemble and better communication between the principals of each section of the orchestra.

“I try to unite all the group together so we can follow the conductor’s musical idea in the same way,” she said. “Music is not like something mathematical, so you need a lot of intuition also.”

Song came to the United States in 2004 and studied at the Manhattan School of Music in New York and the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. As a soloist, she has been featured with the Utah          Symphony, the New Mexico Philharmonic Orchestra, the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra in Germany, the Paul Constantinescu Philharmonic Orchestra in Romania, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and KBS        Philharmonic Orchestra in South Korea, as well as the Detroit Symphony, where she was its concertmaster before coming to Houston.

She was chosen from a field of 39 candidates, 17 of whom performed as guest concertmasters after Frank Huang left the position in 2016.

“The appointment of the  right concertmaster is crucial to the advancement of the artistic goals of any orchestra,” said Houston Symphony Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada. “Yoonshin’s exceptional musicality, artistry, experience and personality made her our unanimous choice.”

Song said, “There was no time to think; there was a phone call and, then, a couple hours later I was on a plane to Houston. The transition was made easier by the fact that the Houston Symphony musicians were so warm and welcoming. The rest was just the pleasure of making music.

“It was just the right timing and the right people. There are lots of great violinists and concertmasters, but sometime, you just need the right chemistry –– like a marriage. That kind of luck is very precious.”


Song has earned international recognition throughout her        career, winning top awards in the Lipizer International Violin Competition  in Italy, the Lipinski & Wieniawski International Violin Competition in Poland, the Henry Marteau International Violin Competition in Germany and first prize at the Stradivarius International Competition in the United States.

This fall, she spent three weeks traveling throughout Europe, performing as concertmaster of the Budapest Festival Orchestra on tour in Vienna, London, Baden-Baden and Hamburg. Some of her favorite pieces to play as a soloist are baroque violin concerto, and she also likes Brahms.

Because of her own early start, Song is an advocate of giving children a chance to explore their musical skills. Science has confirmed that the way the brain reacts to the arts promotes a more complex way of thinking, she said.

“The best way to learn something and understand it from the heart is to not try too hard to make an effort. Just feeling it is an easy way,” Song said.

“When you expose children to arts –– music, painting, every kind of art –– and just let them play, it’s going to grow within them. Culture naturally grows in them. I think it’s important that children experience it with joy and not so much discipline.”

Song said she has enjoyed meeting new people since being in Houston and would like more patrons of the arts to come and enjoy the Houston Symphony.

On January 9, 11 and 12, the Houston Symphony will present Paganini and Pines of Rome, and from February 13-16, it will feature the Schumann Festival.

“We are preparing so many   great repertory programs,” Song said. “Please come and enjoy.”

Deborah Quinn Hensel is a freelance journalist and staff reporter for Houston Woman Magazine.

Local production company preparing for world premiere

Having cultivated a thriving artistic hub, Houston is the perfect market for developing and launching new works of theatre. Thus, the world premiere of the new musical, Lady of Agreda, A Mystical Journey will open at  Queensbury Theatre in CityCentre in the Spring of 2020. 

At the helm of the production is Donna Fujimoto Cole, the president and CEO of Cole Chemical & Distributing, Inc. and the executive producer of Pantheon Producers LLC and Lady in Blue Productions LLC.

Cole has found a way to pursue her passion for both industry and art by being a champion for captivating stories about influential women.

The play was produced by Pantheon Producers LLC, in association with Lady in Blue Productions LLC. Lady of Agreda, A Mystical Journey is a musical with a book by Marley Singletary, music and lyrics by Cynthia Jordan and direction by Bruce Lumpkin. It tells the mesmerizing true story of the 17th century mystic, Maria of Jesus of Agreda, Spain — known in Europe and the New World as the mystical Lady in Blue.

Maria is a nun and spiritual writer revered, and criticized, for her miraculous bilocation between her cloistered mona- stery in rural Spain and the Jumano Indians of West Texas where she believes she has traveled over 500 times since the age of 18. Maria humbly rises to the rank of Abbess at her convent where she writes over 14 spiritual books, and her revelations and reports of bilocation quickly captivate the mind and heart of King Philip IV.

Through a correspondence of over 600 letters, Maria becomes a lifelong spiritual and political advisor. Although she is an instant international sensation, a friend of the king and an inspiration to the Franciscan missionaries in the New World, Maria’s controversial writings, relationship with the King and her claims of bilocation are called into question by some of her fellow nuns and, eventually, the Spanish Inquisition who tries her for heresy twice over the course of her life.

As one of the most spiritually and politically controversial and influential women of the 17th century, Maria was a woman well ahead of her time who embodied strength, integrity and courage and realized the power of her words.

When Cole learned of Maria of Agreda, she was instantly drawn to the compelling story, and she knew it was a project she wanted to develop.

Believing this is a musical that will resonate with people from diverse backgrounds and belief systems, Cole said, “Maria is the most unlikely woman of the 17th century to be so powerful and influential while being tormented by authorities. Many aspects of her story are relevant today, and people will find great spiritual inspiration in this mystical journey.”

Lady of Agreda runs from March 12 thru April 5, 2020 at Queensbury Theatre. For tickets and more information, please visit,www.ladyofagreda.com/.

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