Each year FamilyTime asks for nominations to recognize women in the community who have made a difference. Women of Achievement awards are given in the following categories: the Arts, Business, Community Activist, Education, Entrepreneur, Homemaker, Human Services, Medical, Women’s Advocate, Visionary, Volunteer, and Special Recognition. The FamilyTime Women of Achievement honorees are role models to the many women FamilyTime serves. This year’s honorees will be recognized on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 at FamilyTime’s signature event, The Hearts of Gold Gala. Do you have someone you think deserves to be honored?
If you would like to sponsor the event, please click here for our 2013 sponsorship form or contact FamilyTime.
Introducing the 2013 FamilyTime Women of Achievement
Alexandra Holloway-The Arts
Alexandra (Sasha) Holloway was born in Odessa, Ukraine (former Soviet Union). Sasha and her family emigrated from the Soviet Union to Israel where she became a member of the New Israeli Opera performing title roles in operas like “Boris Godunov,” “Merry Widow,” “The Love to three Oranges” and many others. While in Israel, Sasha performed with the Israeli Philharmonic, Yiddish musical theatre in Germany and Austria and other national performing arts companies. In 1996 Sasha and her husband Chris moved to Kingwood. Since living in the U.S., Sasha performed with numerous opera and musical theatres such as the Houston Grand Opera, Florida Grand Opera- Miami, Palm Beach Opera, Opera in the Heights and Theatre under the Stars- Houston. In 2005, Sasha and Chris founded Opera Leggera (light opera) in Kingwood. Since Opera Leggera’s beginnings, Sasha has created, directed, and produced more than 16 original musical/theatrical productions and has a distinct vision for Opera Leggera to bring the beauty of music and theatre to the community. Sasha is a proud mother of two children Rosti and Hannah who are both in college.
Kristi currently serves as the Community Liaison and Executive Administrator for Randall Reed Planet Ford in Humble. Throughout her eleven years in this role, Kristi has motivated the Planet Ford team to share her spirit of giving. Her passion and energy has touched many worthwhile organizations in our area. Kristi is currently serving as a Trustee for the Humble ISD Education Foundation and has been an integral part of the leadership that has helped them consistently raise more than $1 million over the last three years. In her role as auction chair for various organizations in the community, she has raised an average of $130,000. Kristi also donates her time and talent to the Northeast Hospital Foundation, supporting their Hospice Unit and Project Mammogram. She is a huge advocate for the Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure. Whether it is to organize an event for a charitable organization or just roll up her sleeves to volunteer and help out local law enforcement and first responders in our area, Kristi is there to make sure it is successful. Kristi and her husband, Thomas, have raised two children in this community.
Dr. Katherine Persson-Education
Dr. Katherine Persson entered the education field with the passion to teach and help others reach their learning potential. She earned her masters of science degree in biology at the University of Texas where she helped develop the first Associate of Applied Science in Biotechnology in the state. At Lone Star College-Kingwood, she served as the Biology Department coordinator; associate dean of Science, Health Care, and Applied Technology; and vice president of Educational Programs and Student Development. She earned a Ph.D. in Educational Administration, and in 2008 became president of the campus. Katherine’s involvement in the community is as impressive as her educational merits. In 2002, she served as the chair for the Community Chamber of Commerce of EMC and for 16 years served in the Splendora ISD as a board trustee, eight as chair. She is currently serving as a director on the East Montgomery County Improvement District and as chair elect of the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce. Among other awards, Katherine has received the Hometown Hero Award from The Community Chamber of Commerce of EMC, the Community Service Award by Splendora R. B. Tullis and Administrator of the Year by the Texas Educational Support Staff Association. Over the years, there has been a lot to learn from Katherine, both in the classroom and out in the community. Katherine and husband Andrew have 3 children, Earin, Brian, and Torin.
Jennifer Carney’s passion in life has always centered on teaching and making a difference. As an eighth grade teacher at Riverwood Middle School, she was successful in bringing out the best in students, building their confidence and self-esteem. Jennifer wanted to have a bigger impact on a student’s education so with very little capital and no previous business experience, she took a leap of faith and opened Carney’s Tutoring in Kingwood. Jennifer tapped into her network of former colleagues and was able to put together a team of certified teachers to help offer a unique learning opportunity for students. The tutoring is based on the Humble ISD curriculum, is offered by group or individual, and sessions can be scheduled weekly or on an “as needed” basis. In addition to encountering the challenges of launching a new business, Jennifer suffered an immeasurable personal loss that could have caused the demise of her new business. Despite her immense grief, she did not lose sight of her passion and the positive impact she can have on her students. Through the support of her family, friends and her students, she has grown her business to the point that she is now exploring opportunities for expansion. Jennifer lives in Kingwood with her husband, Colin, son Blake and daughter Addison.
Twila Ilgen-Community Activist
Twila Ilgen’s greatest influence in life was her grandfather who served in the United States Navy during World War II. His love for his country and appreciation for the sacrifices of that generation have spurred her activism in projects that honor veterans. Twila has held several elected positions in the Humble chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR), as well as several appointed positions on the state and national level. She has been instrumental in many events to offer assistance and honor veterans including fundraisers for wreaths to be placed on the graves of soldiers buried at Arlington Cemetery, homes for wounded soldiers, and computers for soldiers returning from war. She also assisted in raising funds for the first Fisher House at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston. In 2007, Twila acquired the funds to safely transport pre-1850’s quilts from the NSDAR Museum to Houston for the International Quilt Show and initiated “Stitches for Scholarships,” a program that creates quilts to raise funds for DAR scholarships. This past Veterans Day, Twila spearheaded the screening of a special documentary, “Honor Flight-One Last Mission” at Minute Maid Park. In addition to her volunteer work for veterans, Twila is involved with many service organizations in the community. She takes great pride in her sons Justin and Travis.
Amber Bender-Human Services
Six years ago Amber Bender faced every mother’s nightmare. Her one-year-old daughter, Addison Faith, was diagnosed with a pediatric brain tumor. Between surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and lots of prayers, Amber and her husband Tony created Addi’s Faith Foundation to raise money for pediatric cancer and to help families fighting a similar battle. In December 2007, Addi lost her battle and through her grief, Amber found strength to honor Addi’s memory by continuing her work with the foundation. Each year, Addi’s Faith foundation holds a Walk by Faith 5K race and the AddiShack golf Tournament. The foundation has given $236,000 to pediatric brain tumor research at MD Anderson and has pledged an additional $225,000 over the next three years. Amber also visits with families dealing with a child struggling with cancer. She shows up on the doorstep with a warm hug, a tender smile and a check from Addi’s Faith Foundation. To date, the foundation has given $85,000 to help families meet the overwhelming expenses of caring for a child with cancer. Addi’s Faith Foundation, under Amber’s leadership, also provides meals for the Ronald McDonald House and has an annual scholarship for brain cancer survivors. In 2009, Amber and Tony became foster parents for a newborn girl, who they have since adopted. With Addison Faith always in their hearts, Olivia Hope joins brothers Riley and Trent in making the Bender family complete.
Melinda Stephenson began her career as a nurse because of a strong desire at a young age to care for others. As CEO of Kingwood Medical Center, she has led with a servant’s heart. Melinda has been instrumental in major expansions of the campus, acquisitions of state-of-the-art equipment, recruitment of top-notch physicians and a comprehensive focus on quality improvement among staff at every level. Under her leadership for the past four years, the hospital has added 56 beds, 350 employees and 150 physicians, opened Health One Express facilities, developed a neuroscience program to include neurosurgery and neuro-interventional radiology and created a state of the art cardio unit. She is currently overseeing the construction of the Women and Children’s Center. Melinda has surrounded herself with a leadership team that shares her passion for providing the best patient care. The team makes administrator rounds with patients to check on the wellbeing and care that is being provided. Melinda also serves on several boards in the community and mentors her staff to be community leaders as well. Collectively, Melinda and her staff are serving in leadership roles throughout the community that enhance the quality of life, reach those in need, develop youth, and build infrastructures to support growth of local commerce. Melinda enjoys her free time with fiancé Bill and son Chad.
Cecily Holm’s vision is for everyone to live healthy, fulfilling lives. Her business, Humble Area Adventure Boot Camp for Women encourages women to get out there and sweat. She is not only committed to her campers’ physical and workout goals but she takes an interest in them personally and gets to know their hearts. Her campers say she can touch your life with just a five-minute conversation. Reaching out further, Cecily hand writes and mails letters to 25 different young people every week to offer inspiration and encouragement. Following her 30th birthday, Cecily was diagnosed with breast cancer and later learned that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. Cecily looked at this battle as an opportunity to encourage other women through her circumstances. She says she feels honored to have been chosen to undergo this obstacle so she can affect other women’s lives. Her blog, Running Holm, inspires women to live a healthy lifestyle by sharing eating tips, recipes, workouts and words of inspiration and support. Cecily often takes her message to various Women’s events inspiring large audiences of women. She hopes that through her words, failures, victories and experiences they will learn together how to manage the chaos of life through faith, patience and love. Cecily lives in Kingwood with her husband, Corey and two children.
As a mother and wife, Caroline Smith has been playing the role of caregiver for her daughter, a heart survivor, and husband, a cancer survivor. And, as a heart survivor herself, Caroline knows firsthand what a difference it makes to have support following major heart surgery. In 2009, she helped establish the Mended Heart chapter at Kingwood Medical Center. The program allows trained volunteers to spend one-on-one time with inpatients as they empathize with concerns, answer questions and encourage working towards recovery. Currently, Caroline trains the volunteers and also assists patients with concerns both in the hospital and online. This year, she received the national award for “Mended Hearts Internet Visitor of the Year.” Caroline also volunteers in the cardiac rehab department at Kingwood Medical Center and is a Circle of Red member of the American Heart Association’s “Go Red For Women” campaign. She has also received the American Heart Association’s Barbara Newman Award. Caroline’s heart reaches out beyond the hospital to many organizations in the area including St. Martha’s Catholic Church’s Caring Cooks and Rosary Guild. Previous to her retirement, Caroline has been the recipient of the American Business Women’s Association awards for “Business Associate of the Year” and “Woman of the Year” Caroline has been married for 45 years to her high school sweetheart David and has two children, Stacy and Shawn.
Chris Parker’s passion for helping others, matched with her creativity and talents, has been a “win win” for many organizations in the area. Events for Mothers Against Cancer (MAC), AiM For A Cure, FamilyTime, Mission Northeast, HAAM and Kingwood Area Republican Women (KARW) have all been touched by Chris’ endless energy to solicit donations and sponsors, gather volunteers and create amazing decorations. Chris’ “can do” attitude and infectious smile is well known in the community. Over the years, she has served on many boards and committees and currently serves on the KARW and Deerwood Elementary PTA boards. Most recently, she was accepted into the Leadership Lake Houston class and has joined the Humble Kingwood Go Texan committee. Chris tackles each volunteer hour whole-heartedly and with attention to every detail. It’s no wonder that Chris has become the “volunteer extraordinaire” in her adult life considering while in college at Stephen F. Austin University she served as President of her junior and senior class, Vice President of the College Republicans, Vice President of the Young Conservatives of Texas and she helped fund their NRA chapter. Despite Chris’ endless hours of volunteering, she always makes her husband, Jason and young daughters Payton and Sheridan know they are number one in her heart.
Karen Garrison-Women’s Advocate
As owner of the Conservatory Day Spa in Kingwood, it’s Karen Garrison’s business to make women look beautiful…but it’s Karen’s passion that brings out the beauty on the inside. To her employees, Karen is their biggest cheerleader, shoulder to cry on and their inspiration to be the best they can be. Karen applies the training she received as a FamilyTime volunteer more than 30 years ago every day with customers and staff who walk through the doors at The Conservatory. Through her mentoring and support, she empowers the women to be successful, loving and gracious by teaching them the value of being independent and coming from a place of strength. Karen has helped women meet the challenges of divorces, abusive situations, financial strife and illness. Karen’s generosity of heart reaches out to the community as well. In addition to responding to organizations in any way she can to help them reach their fundraising goals, Karen has given $50 gift certificates to every teacher in the Humble and New Caney school districts. Karen and The Conservatory have received national recognition three times by the World Hairdressing Congress as “Humanitarian of the Year.” For Karen, the greatest reward is sharing in the joy of the new lives she has help create. Karen also has plenty of love for her husband Earl and daughters Candice and Camille.
Susan White-Special Recognition
For more than 30 years in the Kingwood area, Susan White has dedicated her life to volunteering and improving the lives of others in the community. Through her church, Susan has revived a youth acolyte program and rapidly built it into a highly successful part of Sunday worship. Susan has raised thousands of dollars for the American Heart Association at the annual “Go Red for Women” luncheon and its Circle of Red organization. She received the AHA’s Barbara Newman Award in recognition of her tireless service. Susan’s genuine interest in others is what drives her to reach out and help. At any moment, Susan can be found looking for a job for an acquaintance, preparing a meal for a family just home from the hospital or simply giving a gasoline card to someone out of work needing gas to get to a job interview. She has energized an entire community to take on city hall to fight a proposed, potentially dangerous, road expansion and created a program to identify children who were troubled by background noise in school. Her involvement with Kid’s Hope USA, a mentoring program for at risk children, allows her to make a difference in one child’s life each week. For Susan, it’s all about doing as much as she can, for as many as she can. Susan and her husband Ron have two children.
Deborah Tillet-Spirit of FamilyTime
Deborah Tillet, affectionately known as the “egg lady,” has a heart for all creatures big and small. She lives on a farm with dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and rabbits. Each week she donates dozens of fresh eggs to the FamilyTime shelter and provides other food items from her garden. Deborah also donates eggs, chickens and rabbits to neighbors and friends who are in need. Deborah’s compassion has always been to reach out to those with unimaginable needs. She was the only one out of 23 teachers who survived a year of teaching science to students in the poorest inner city school in Dallas. Her compassion and tenacity to help improve the lives of others spills into her professional life as well. As the Vocational Transition Facilitator for Humble ISD, Deborah cultivates relationships with area businesses in order to provide employment opportunities for the district’s special education students. Deborah’s passion for improving the lives of her neighbors and strangers is the true spirit of FamilyTime. Deborah is married to her partner on the farm, Mr. Jim and has two sons, Matt and Jon.
Since 1990, FamilyTime has had the honor of recognizing nearly 300 extraordinary women for their generous contributions of time and energy while making a difference in the community. Join us in honoring these women who give their hearts and countless hours to make our community a better place to live, raise our children, work and play while also serving as role models to the many women and children that FamilyTime serves.
We like to keep in touch with our former Women of Achievement so that they can be included in upcoming events and projects but it’s not always easy to keep track of so many busy ladies! If you are a former Woman of Achievement, we would appreciate it if you would send us an e-mail to let us know your current mailing address so that we can be sure to include you in any important mailings.