This article focuses on the good people do in big and small ways, which is what makes being a community journalist so uplifting. I love reporting on the people and places in and around Houston and the many acts of kindness they bring to the universe.
Acts of Kindness
Article by Melanie Saxton
Photography by Bex Wood and Presley Daniel
Originally published in The Woodlands City Lifestyle
Despite the challenges of 2022, our friends, neighbors, and total strangers have proven that goodness is alive and well in The Woodlands. Acts of kindness in many varieties have touched innumerable lives, and we are happy to share some of the most heartwarming stories of the season. A third-grade student, a Conroe ISD Superintendent, a beloved business owner, a well-known philanthropist, and a lieutenant with the Mounted Patrol all weigh in, each with a different perspective of what it means to give and receive. Some are the recipients of kindness and generosity, and others are the benefactors. How awesome to celebrate the power of paying it forward and reaping blessings through the actions of bighearted people in our community.
Missy Herndon, President and CEO of Interfaith of The Woodlands
Missy Herndon has been a volunteer, wife, and mother for decades. Yet giving back and championing causes hardly prepared her for the news that her firstborn son, only six years old at the time, had Juvenile Batten disease. There was no treatment, no cure, and the prognosis was fatal.
“My husband Wayne and I and other parents set out to find a treatment within our children’s lifetimes. Yet, it was difficult to ask for help,” says Missy. “Our hearts were in giving mode, and it was surreal to be on the other end of the equation.” People like her friend and neighbor, Jo Anne Johnson of the Jo Anne Johnson Real Estate Group, were quick to step forward with innovative ways to fundraise for Will. A percentage of sales from Jo Anne’s initiative, HOPE Homes, supports the Will Herndon Research Fund, a.k.a. HOPE (willherndon.org), which was founded in 2009. It’s an extra stream of revenue for research, and the HOPE yard signs raise awareness.
Missy has witnessed other acts of kindness in her role at Interfaith of The Woodlands and Interfaith Community Clinic. She began serving in 2012 as Director of Programs and Services and became President and CEO in 2016. People respond when the food pantry runs low, kids set up lemonade stands to raise funds, people donate to the Hand Me Up Shop and participate in school supply drives, and volunteers work at Veggie Village and community donation gardens. All efforts support Interfaith services.
JoAnne Johnson of JoAnne Johnson Real Estate Group
Few companies are as philanthropy-minded as the JoAnne Johnson Real Estate Group. JoAnne believes in the faith-based principle “Give where you live.” She views her business as a ministry, and every member of her team supports a charity. “We owe it to others to give back,” she says, “and we measure our charity dollars as the company grows.”
Expanding on Missy Herndon’s story, JoAnne recalls when Will Herndon received his devastating diagnosis of a rare degenerative brain disease. Will was the same age as her daughter, just six years old, and JoAnne wanted to help. Will’s parents founded The Will Herndon Research Fund, also known as HOPE, and JoAnne initiated HOPE Homes to support research for a cure. Her team finds homes in need of renovations, revitalizes them, and is excited when they spring back to life.
“A percentage of sales from these homes goes to Will’s foundation, which improves our community one house at a time and supports our dear friends,” says JoAnne. Fast forward to today, and the Herndons have been world changers through their grassroots efforts to highlight a little-known disease. Will is now eighteen years old, and HOPE Homes is blessed to support him and others with Juvenile Battens.
JoAnne and her tight-knit group are involved in numerous other charities, with the motto: “A team that volunteers together stays together.” Taking care of others and helping people move forward is foundational to their mission.
Lieutenant Mike Heimer of Alpha & Omega Mounted Patrol
We see them on horseback wearing red shirts and providing security and assistance within The Woodlands Township. The Mounted Patrol is a visible deterrent to crime but also forges a special bond with the community year-round. Lieutenant Mike Heimer has been riding for 20 years and notes the number of people who have never seen a horse close up. He enjoys introducing curious onlookers to his mare Nosey and gelding Outlaw. “By now, the horses have received pats on the neck and posed for hundreds of photos with those who live nearby or are visiting from all over the world,” he says.
The Township contracts with Alpha & Omega, and most troopers own and personally care for their horses. It’s an ”all hands on deck” effort by the Heimer family. The Lieutenant’s daughter, Jennifer, works at the Sheriff’s Department and part-time for the Mounted Patrol. His 7th-grade granddaughter, Mikki Gassett, helps care for the horses. It takes a special kind of equine for this line of work, and all are tested for suitability. Obstacles, maneuvers, sensory tolerance, and formations for crowd control are part of the training. Ultimately, the horses help move ambulances and firetrucks through crowds, reunite lost shoppers with family members, help locate cars in parking lots (a common occurrence), and perform other good deeds.
If you ever spot the Mounted Patrol at The Woodlands Mall, the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, the Waterway, or beyond, don’t hesitate to stop and say hello to these goodwill ambassadors!
Dr. Curtis Null, CISD Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Curtis Null has the best job in the world as CISD Superintendent, with a front-row seat to many acts of kindness. Some stories go viral, such as a giant student-driven school supply and backpack initiative with hundreds of volunteers. A special needs Buckalew Elementary student was cheered on by classmates as he landed basketball at recess, featured on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt: Kids Edition.
But other stories are simply quiet examples of students being great human beings. “Every once in a while, you’ll hear someone say, ‘Kids today,’ and sigh or shake their heads. But I’ll tell you that kids today are philanthropic and loving. I wish the world could see what I see.”
One of the greatest honors for a school is to be invited to perform by the Texas Music Educators Association. It’s a big moment in a big room, and Dr. Null noticed that one Mitchell Intermediate 5th grader had become overwhelmed. Just as she was nearing the point of no return, a girl next to her reached out and held her hand. It was such a kind gesture, and the struggling girl relaxed and finished the performance.
“These little examples happen daily and might not be big news in the world but mean the world to the people involved,” says Dr. Null. He sees staff members anonymously buy books at book fairs and help families who can’t buy a new pair of shoes. “They work to change their lives.”
Seth Parsons, Third-Grader at Anderson Elementary
Eight-year-old Seth Parsons was on the walking trails at Carl Barton Park with his parents, siblings, and grandmother when he saw a commotion at one of the ponds. Another boy had caught a small turtle with a fishing pole and needed help to free it. Seth leaped into action and managed to dislodge the hook, much to the relief of the turtle and a small crowd of onlookers. Thanks to Seth’s act of kindness, the turtle swam safely away.
Seth’s proud dad, Garrett Parsons, a Harris County Precinct 4 Deputy Constable, caught the action with his camera. He notes that it isn’t the first time his kindhearted son has stepped up to help. Seth once came to the aid of a girl who was injured on the playground and escorted her to the nurse’s office. He’s also a big brother to his three-year-old sister Emily and newborn brother Lincoln and cares for the family pet, a chocolate Labrador named Rufus.
Seth’s favorite toys are robots, space toys, and police toys. “I want to be a Fire Marshall when I grow up,” he says. When asked why, he explains, “I really like saving people, and I want to be a hero like my dad.” While he waits to grow into his role as a first responder, Seth enjoys studying science and history and playing baseball and flag football. He looks forward to soccer next year and will remain on the lookout for ways to help others.
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