Interfaith of The Woodlands was such an integral part of founder George Mitchell’s initial vision for The Woodlands community that the organization was founded a full year before the community opened in 1974.

Celebrating 50 years as of October, Interfaith of The Woodlands has expanded its roles over the years, but it has remained true to its mission to serve the community from a place of faith, said President and CEO Missy Herndon, who has been with the organization since 2013 and in her current role since 2016.

“The beauty of Interfaith is that it brings people together, asking people to put aside their differences in the name of service,” she said. “I loved the mission—everything from the food pantry, helping people stay in their homes, helping seniors. The heart of what Interfaith is aligned with my values and the things that I wanted to spend my days doing.”

The inspiration

Don Gebert, who died in 2021 at age 91, took on the task of founding the organization, which served as the starting point for faith-based institutions and social services in The Woodlands. Its early accomplishments included the formation of its Child Development Center in 1976 and Family Services facility in 1979. From there, it began offering seniors services, and the Hand Me Up Shop opened in 1989 as a resale shop that benefits Interfaith programs.

Herndon said the nonprofit also played a role in the creation of a local newspaper as well as local chapters of the YMCA and Boy Scouts of America.

“All these things that make up a community, Interfaith helped start,” she said.

Today, core services provided by Interfaith include providing help for necessities, such as rent, gas, utilities, prescription drugs, emergency shelter, food, clothing, senior programs and child care.

She said the organization's services have been based on what members of the community say they need.

“It’s not Interfaith going out and saying there’s a need; it’s the community saying these are the needs individuals have,” Herndon said.

The background

In recent years, those needs at times have been heightened by disasters such as hurricanes, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic. Inflation has also contributed to greater need in the community, Herndon said.

“Because of inflation and supply issues, people are still trying to get back on their feet,” she said. “There is still great need.

For example, a gas card will not go as far as it used to, and rents have increased, increasing the need among program participants, she said.

To support the nonprofit's programs, annual events such as The Walk The Woodlands help to raise funds, and the organization looks to volunteers and donations to provide support for many of its programs.

Over the years the nonprofit has also added programs, including Veggie Village, a community donation garden, and Interfaith Community Clinic, which provides medical and dental services for the uninsured population. These join programs for child care, seniors, the food pantry and rent assistance.

What they’re saying

“What started out as a way to cultivate religious organizations and serve our residents’ needs across denominations and affiliations now serves the community in just so many other ways,” said Jim Carman, president of Howard Hughes’ Houston region and a member of the Interfaith board since 2020. “I think the job ... was to get those organizations here and serve the residents, and now it’s to utilize those relationships ... to continue that legacy of faith-based nonprofit.”

“I believe everyone should have access to food, to shelter, to education, ... and we were able to make [Interfaith Community Clinic] one of the strongest and well-respected community clinics in the Greater Houston area,” said Ann Snyder, former president and CEO of Interfaith, and chair of The Woodlands Township board of directors.

What’s next

One area in which Interfaith may expand its programs in the future is senior services as the population ages, Herndon said.

“As we look ahead to the next 50 years and beyond, our hope is to help support our younger seniors ... and engaging them through activities,” she said.

Expanding the food pantry will also be a priority, and increases in the price of food have highlighted that need, she said.

“It is still one of our largest needs,” Herndon said.