In This Section

Awards Dinner

Community Improvement Awards

Citizen of the Year

Corporate Citizen

Marcella Perry Award

New Generation Award

President's Award

Staff and Contributors


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Newsletter of the Houston Heights Association
Volume Thirty-Five, Number Four, April 2009
Special Volunteer Appreciation and Awards Dinner Section
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HHA Volunteer Appreciation And Community Improvement Awards Dinner Brings Out All Of The Heights Stars

by our own local gossip columnist Kelly Simmons

The stars were bright on Sunday evening of February 22, when the Houston Heights Association held its 35th Annual Volunteer Appreciation and Community Improvement Awards Dinner.

Michelle Pfeiffer, aka Anne Culotta, and George Clooney, aka John Blass, were the Masters of Ceremony as the stars took to the Fire Station stairs for our very own awards ceremony- themed “Welcome Neighbors.”

The Fire Station was beautifully transformed by Heights talents Angela DeWree-Design and Inspiration and Props2Go, Taylor Moore-Newton Nursery, Margarete Sanchez-Ripps-The Artful Corner, and Kristal Kirksey-Jubilee. The operations team of Paul and Mary Carr handled those behind the scenes jobs that are so important to the success of the event. Heights mascot Ellen Newcaster, who always makes the work fun, pitched in to help make it all happen, along with John and Viki Hennessy, Byron Pettit, and Kevin Tate. Angela DeWree-Design and Inspiration also produced the wonderful keepsake programs for all of the guests.

For the second year in a row, each guest received a lovely gift from Jubilee-that beautiful, quirky little boutique on 19th Street-graciously donated by owner/designer, Kristal Kirksey.

Comfort food was the theme, as Candy Massoud and her staff served up another great dinner, which was all expertly coordinated by Danae Stephenson. Julie Pettit shook things up with a wonderful Apple-tini bar, tended by her offspring and offspring-in-law, newlyweds Kendall McCarley and Nick Zamora, and wine and refreshment bars were tended by men-about-town Keith Crane, John Hennessy, Martin Pike, and Kevin Tate.

Event Chair and 2007 Citizen of the Year Taylor Moore produced a beautiful and fun event, and all of the Heights movers and shakers attended. Spotted by our reporter in the crowd of 150 were Bill Baldwin and Joe Gonzalez, Tim Beeson, Donna Bennett, Katy Bomar and John Childs, Donna Buchanan and Dan Hogan, Janet and Tom Buchheit, Deborah and Terry Burge, Melvalene Cohen, Mary and John Cone, Noni and Emma Culotta, Karen and Bob Derr, Neva and Joe Dupuis, Mary and Ralph Ellis, Marty Hajovsky, John Helmer, Robert Killian, Libby Lee, Debbie Markey, Kent and Susan Marsh, Sue and Mitch McFarland, Nick Milnarich, John Palmer and Ryan Lindsey, Anne Sloan, Mary Sparks, Jan Spin, Katrina Stilwell, Kristi and Chris Synek, Laura and Charlie Thorp, Bart Truxillo, Sheila and Art Tybor, Greg vonBaden, and many more stars.

Chris Silkwood, our 2009 HHA President, welcomed the honored guests and presented a parting gift to outgoing 2008 HHA President Mark Williamson, who presented the President’s Award to the leaders of the Houston Heights Historic District drives — Sharie and David Beale, Janice Evans-Davis, Jonathan Smulian, and Michael Jungnickel — for their hard work and dedication for the neighborhood’s historic preservation.

Chris Silkwood then awarded the second annual Community Service Award to the 2009 8th Grade Class of Immanuel Lutheran School, for their continuing hard work on Heights Boulevard; the award was accepted by ILS Principal Cheryl Burmeister. The class works one day out of each school month-alongside Boulevard Czar Jim Bennett-pulling and bagging weeds and spreading mulch. Our thanks go to them, Jim, and all of the other wonderful volunteers who make Heights Boulevard a treasured focal point and destination.

As is tradition, Heights luminary Paul Carr presented the 2008 Marcella Perry Award to this year’s winner, Irene Nava, who, among many of her accomplishments, was instrumental in raising over $1,000,000-turning Milroy Park (the historic site of the former Houston Heights Junior High) into the shining example it is today. Irene is on the HHA Education Committee and is a tireless and dedicated volunteer for area schools, including Harvard, Hamilton, and Reagan. Many thanks to Irene for making the Heights a better place to live and our area schools better places to send our children.

Chris Silkwood awarded the Corporate Citizen Award to Eclectic Home, owned by Dale Johnson and Colby Weems. For many years, Eclectic Home has supported HHA fundraising events by donating auction items, promoting events, and selling tickets. For the last four years, these generous business owners have donated beautifully-wrapped, unique gifts to approximately 500 Candlelight Dinner guests-helping make this very important fundraiser the successful and much sought-after event it has become.

Kelly Simmons awarded the inaugural New Generation Award to the amazing Christine Spin. Christine was Chair-Elect of the HHA Home & Garden Tour in 2007, Home Tour Chair in 2008, and is once again Home Tour Chair for the event this Spring-an oversized undertaking and commitment. Over the last three years, Christine has recruited a virtual army of first-time volunteers to fill senior positions in the Home Tour Committee and for that, the HHA will richly benefit for many years to come.

The 2008 Citizen of the Year Award was presented to Trudy Nelson by outgoing 2007 Citizen of the Year, Taylor Moore. Trudy moved to the Houston Heights from her beloved city of New Orleans because of fond similarities between the two neighborhoods. She jumped right into the volunteer scene here-immediately landing the position of Chair-Elect to the Holiday Home Tour in 2007, which was then under the outstanding leadership of Marianne Sulser. During her tenure as Home Tour Chair for the 2008 Holiday Home Tour, Trudy’s passion, experience, and dedication to the tour led it to revenues that approximately tripled those of years’ past. Before the 2008 Tour was even wrapped up, Trudy and her team were already scouring the neighborhood for 2009 Holiday Home Tour homes. New Orleans’ loss is our gain, and we are proud to welcome our newest Citizen of the Year.

Months of work go into the Community Improvement Awards selection process and ceremony — where awards are given each year to residences and businesses, in historic renovation and new construction categories — and Chair Diane Easley pulled off another wonderful program, with the help of this year’s judges, John Blass, Mike McIntyre, Lanna vonBaden, and Brett Zamore, PowerPoint master, Keith Crane, and Emcee, John Blass. Find out more about the Community Improvement Award nominees and winners in a separate article below.

To top the evening off, a silent and live auction raised an extra $3,000 benefiting the HHA Education Committee, which uses most of its budget to give much-needed grants to local school classrooms. Thanks go out to generous auction donors: The Artful Corner, Keith Crane, Karen Derr, Diane and Mike Easley, John Palmer Art, Julie and Byron Pettit, Props2Go, and Silkwood Mosaics.

The Houston Heights Association wants to thank ALL of its volunteers in 2008 and throughout the years for making this neighborhood a wonderful and fun place to live, work, and play. You know who you are-we’ll see you again next year-now get back to work!

2008 Community Improvement Awards

The Houston Heights Association 2008 Community Improvement Awards were presented Sunday, February 22, 2009 for residential and commercial projects contributing to the improvement of the Heights. Thanks to this year’s judges John Blass, Mike McIntyre, Lanna vonBaden, and Brett Zamore.

In the Residential New Construction category the four nominees include: the home for sale at 542 West 26th Street built by HDT Builders, the Kuo Home at 1222 Allston built by Allegro Builders, the Worthington Home at 1135 Heights Boulevard built by Pyramid Builders, and the development at 502-520 West 23rd Street developed and built by Sullivan Builders. The winning improvement is the new two-story Victorian design home located at 1135 Heights Boulevard. This project was designed by Taylor Burch and copied from an old Blacksburg, Virginia structure. The building was executed by Pyramid Builders. It was featured on the Houston Heights Holiday Tour and had a record number of attendees through the house this tour.

For the Commercial New Construction category, the two nominees include: Allegro Builders/Bedford by Robert Gadsby at 1001 Studewood and Koelsch Gallery at 703 Yale Street. The winning improvement in the Commercial New Construction category is Bedford by Robert Gadsby located at 1001 Studewood. This building was built on the space that formerly held a vacant, run-down apartment building. Designed by Greg Swedberg and built by Allegro Builders, the building is a two-story structure housing Bedford restaurant on the first floor and a meeting and banquet space on the second floor with a capacity of 120. Bedford by Robert Gadsby is a newcomer to the Heights restaurant scene featuring cross-cultural American cuisine created by Chef Gadsby.

In the Residential Restoration category, the six nominees include: Beeson home at 609 Heights Boulevard, Stilwell home at 1026 Allston by Broman Design and Construction, Victorian cottage at 205 East 5th Street by Bungalow Revival, Palmer-Lindsay home and studio at 1218 Heights, Iananella-Bachtel home at 1543 Arlington, and 322 West 24th Street renovated by the Pettits. The Palmer-Lindsay home will be featured on the Houston Heights Association Spring Home and Garden Tour this month. The winning improvement is the Beeson home located at 609 Heights Boulevard. This is a two-story home designed by William A. Wilson, founder of Woodland Heights. This home is the winner of the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance’s Good Brick Award and was featured in a recent issue of Houston House and Home magazine.

In the Commercial Restoration category the four nominees include: Venture Properties at 1102 Yale Street, Master Auto at 2305 Yale, Prestigious Nails at 522 West 20th Street, and Reagan High School located at 413 East 13th Street. The winning improvement is Venture Properties’ 1102 Yale Street Project. The old Eckerd’s building had layers removed to uncover the striking Art Deco building that formerly housed a Ford dealership back in the ‘40’s. This space will house a workout facility plus two tenants-to-be. This property is also a recent recipient of the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance’s Good Brick Award.

Two special awards were created by the judges to recognize some special improvements.

One ‘innovative’ award in Commercial Innovative New Construction was presented. The Commercial New Construction Innovation award went to Fannie Koelsch for the Koelsch Gallery located at 703 Yale. This vacant lot was improved with a new metal structure compatible with both adjacent existing metal structures. It houses folk and fine art created by local artists, self-taught artists, and outsider and visionary artists. Funky, unique, creative work, and the art is curated by the owner herself.

A specially created 2008 ‘civic’ award was presented to Reagan High School. The Civic Commercial Restoration Award was given for this multi-million dollar improvement of our Heights high school. The original character of Reagan was preserved while adding athletic and academic facility space and incorporating a parking garage hidden from the street. Reagan High School will be featured on the Houston Heights Home and Garden Spring Tour this month.

Congratulations to all nominees and thank you for improving the Heights!

Citizen Of The Year: Trudy Nelson

presentation speech delivered by Taylor Moore, last year’s Citizen of the Year

As most of you know, the Citizen Of The Year Award is the top volunteer award, decided upon by the prestigious group of past winners of the award. Once you receive this award, you will always be a Houston Heights Association Citizen of the Year and you will have the honor of taking part in the selection of all future Citizens of the Year. The first winner-35 years ago-was the great Marcella Perry.

This year’s recipient of the Citizen Of The Year Award is someone whose accomplishments could not go unnoticed. She hasn’t been on the Heights scene all that long, but her impact has been significant. She is an idea person - one who can go from zero to ninety in 2.7 seconds.

She is a native “New Orleans Girl” who chose Houston Heights for its similarities to the Crescent City that she loves. She’s a Tulane graduate and a Senior Vice President at Bank of Texas.

She infused those tried and true New Orleans concepts into a little event here in the Houston Heights that we call the Holiday Home Tour.

She took an event that traditionally netted our coffers in the range of 10 to 15 thousand dollars, and handed us over $40,000. She selected the perfect mix of homes; she organized early and recruited a first class committee; she accomplished one of the biggest media blitzes ever for this event; and she initiated a partnership with the business community to tie into their already successful Holiday events.

A special mention goes to her mentor, the 2007 Home Tour Chair, Marianne Sulser, and we are very proud to present the 2008 Citizen Of The Year Award to Trudy Nelson.

Corporate Citizen Of The Year: Eclectic Home

presentation speech by Chris Silkwood, HHA President

The Corporate Citizen award is granted each year to a business that consistently serves the community above and beyond through either a financial commitment, in-kind donations, or time and energy.

This year’s winners, Dale Johnson and Colby Weems, partners in Eclectic Home on 19th Street, have truly done it all. Dale’s background is in oil and gas, and he is a certified CPA. Colby’s background is also financial, but he did interior design on the side.

They had a dream, and the dream became Eclectic Home. They gutted what was formerly Antiques on 19th and completely remodeled it into the fabulous store it is today. Dale and Colby have generously donated to HHA events for many years and for the last two years and this year have provided memorable gifts for every single attendee of the Candlelight Dinner. That’s 500 gifts each year. Dale is referred to by his employees as a man with an extremely generous heart.

I am proud to present this year’s Corporate Citizen Award to Dale Johnson and Colby Weems.

Marcella Perry Award: Irene Nava

presentation speech given by Paul Carr

This Marcella Perry Award Nominee moved to the Heights in the 1980’s. This person has lived in two homes here in the Heights, with the first home just around the corner from where their current home is. One of the earlier community projects for this person was Milroy Park. They were involved in cleaning it up, painting the original building before the City ever got involved.

Charter Milroy Park Advisory Council Member and fundraiser who designed and sold t-shirts and cooked turkey legs to raise the fence and lighting money. You can see these fencing and lighting improvements today at Milroy Park. Painted Milroy park building; planted trees.

About the time the City said they were closing the community building at Milroy Park this person organized a program for children and taught summer classes for them to demonstrate to the City that the park is being used. Has organized National Night Out at Milroy many years. Petitioned the Rockets for grant money for a basketball court.

Most recently championed the Milroy Park clean-up after Hurricane Ike; organized Reagan high school students to clean up.

This person’s efforts along with others raised over $1,000,000 to convert the site of the Houston Heights’ former junior high school in 1920 and former habitat for the homeless and drug users in 1988 to a current-day heavily used city park facility where users enjoy playground equipment, tennis & volleyball courts, and a completely renovated community center.

Education committee member and dedicated volunteer for the schools including Harvard, Hamilton, and Reagan.

Tireless volunteer for Harvard Elementary, including constructing the Nature Center and establishing the Nature program; PTA President, Auction Chair.

Founding member of the Hamilton PTA and helped instigate that school’s Sec. 50l(c)(3) designation.

At Hamilton Middle School, has been a driving force behind getting some of the landscaping items to make the school grounds more ‘park-like.’ Hamilton Spring Fling and even working on the girl’s restrooms with caulking and cleaning graffiti from the doors.

At Reagan, worked with the school to get the track completed so that her son would have an option to participate in track at Reagan HS.

Has volunteered for Heights Association Fun Run and Home Tours; has served on the Spring Home Tour Auction Committee.

Educated at Princeton, is a graphics designer by profession and has donated time and countless uncompensated hours to create spring and holiday home tour collateral, fun run applications and t-shirts.

Currently this individual serves as the Community Outreach coordinator for the Reagan feeder schools. There are twelve feeder schools.

At the latest 2008 Holiday Tour at 1135 Heights: coordinated all of these Heights Schools to have entertainment provided by the students for tour goers. It was another opportunity for the bright and talented kids on our neighborhood public schools that she has worked diligent on improving for decades to showcase their talents

Her pinnacle achievement, thus far, just may be that her daughter and son are products of the public school system right here in the Houston Heights at Harvard and Hamilton.

Please join me in congratulating this year’s Marcella Perry Award winner, Irene Nava.

New Generation Award: Christine Spin

presentation speech given by Kelly Simmons

The recipient of this award actually inspired its creation, and henceforth we shall call it the New Generation Award.

When you chair an event in this neighborhood, there is always a rich pool of individuals to call upon to take on the lofty leadership roles - many of those individuals are in the room tonight. In many ways, it is just easier to continue to tap the seasoned volunteers.

There is opportunity lost, and the organization may eventually suffer, however, when we do not continue to build upon our volunteer base and engage newcomers with their fresh ideas and ways. The New Generation Award recipient has recruited a virtual army of faster, stronger, yes - younger - individuals, and us old broads can now sit back and relax a little … hence all of the limos - full of over-40-somethings - touring around the neighborhood during last year’s Candlelight Dinner.

She hails from Maine. She has a closet that rivals that of Carrie Bradshaw, along with a penchant for Cosmopolitans. She can whip up a party for 100 with an hour’s notice, and just when you really want to hate her for all of that, you find out that she has committed her life’s work to adult literacy, volunteerism, and philanthropy. She is organized and professional and it doesn’t take you long in her presence to realize that she has a calm, steady hand on the wheel.

Last year, she infused new ideas with tried and true achievements, resulting in “Fresh Perspectives,” and this year, she continues to “Soar to new Heights.”

I am honored to present the inaugural New Generation Award to the lovely Christine Spin.

President’s Award: Historic District Volunteers

presentation speech by Mark Williamson, 2008 President

There are two groups that I would like to recognize specially among all of the people I mentioned in my Presidential Thanks address.

The runners-up for the President’s Award are all of the neighbors, known and unknown, who helped Houston Heights and the Houston Heights Association recover from the effects of Hurricane Ike. Whether planting or staking trees, running extension cords to neighbors’ houses, clearing brush off streets or trees off houses, taking in those harder hit, or just sitting on porches being neighborly, thank you all.

The winners of the 2008 President’s Award are all of the volunteers who worked long and hard to establish the first three City of Houston Historic Districts in the HHA Coverage area under the Houston Historic Preservation Ordinance. This is an important step in the preservation of our historic housing stock and the historic flavor and texture of Houston Heights.

Although the Ordinance itself is one of the weakest in the country, even its minimal protection has stirred up controversy. I wish to extend my personal gratitude to all of those who persevered and made these three districts possible.

The budget doesn’t allow me to give individual awards to all of the volunteers involved, so I have had tokens made for the applicants named on the official forms filed with the City of Houston applying for the districts. They are, in order of application, David and Sharie Beale for Houston Heights Historic District West, Janice Evans-Davis and Jonathan Smulian for Houston Heights Historic District East, and Michael Jungnickel for Freeland Historic District.

Congratulations and thanks to them and all of the other volunteers involved in this effort.

Click here to return to April issue.

The Heights is published monthly by the Houston Heights Association. Its purpose is to acknowledge achievements and to inform HHA members of events.

Copyright 2009, the Houston Heights Association and/or the authors unless otherwise noted.

Newsletter inquiries, suggestions, or submissions should be directed to:

Editor, The Heights, P.O. Box 70735, Houston, TX 77270-0735;

email; or leave a message on 713-861-4002.

Staff and Contributors

Editor: Mark R. Williamson

Ass't Editor: Kathleen S. Williamson

April contributors:

Paul Carr, Mick Chang, Diane Easley, Janice Evans-Davis, Lauriel Hindman, Genie Mims, Taylor Moore, Irene Nava, Chris Silkwood, Kelly Simmons, Christine Spin, Dean Swanson, Lanna vonBaden.