giving back

Helping After Harvey, Locally

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Hurricane Harvey wreaked his devastation across the great (and very large) state of Texas and Louisiana this past weekend and week. It has been a gut-wrenching and heart breaking few days. These are difficult times, to be certain. But, in the aftermath of the storm, there is much to be done. And so many people have reached out to me asking how they can help. Not only that, people are asking me how they can help through local organizations, where the money is certain to go straight to the people impacted by this disaster. Many of us are more comfortable donating directly to smaller organizations with less overhead, red-tape and bureaucracy or even directly to families in times like these.

Sweet friends of mine across the country have been texting, emailing and messaging me asking for thoughts and ideas on where they can donate, so I thought it might be helpful to create a blog post with a few options. All of these organizations are ones with which I have a personal connection and can vouch for their honest intentions in helping and for the fact that they have very low to no overhead taken out of the money donated, as the funding for their organizations come from other development efforts. They are grassroots efforts that help people here in Houston every day. Of course, Harvey affected so many towns across Texas and Louisiana and I’m in no way suggesting that Houston is the only community in need. It’s just the place where I was raised, where I started my business and where my studio is located, so its near and dear to my heart and it’s also where I have the personal connections. I’m a firm believer that you should give where your heart leads you, so I would encourage you to jump in and help out where you feel comfortable.

I have so many friends and neighbors who need help during this difficult time that it is almost overwhelming. Where do you even start with helping? Most shelters I’ve been to are no longer accepting clothing and each one has a specific list of needs that is changing hour by hour as people bring more things. It can be hard to keep up with and know where to help. (For an interesting and informative look at what donations can actually be harmful, see this video from CBS.) Since sometimes cash donations are overlooked by people wanting to do something more personal, I thought maybe a list of small, local organizations that I have personal connections with might be helpful. Please note that this is not meant to be an exhaustive list of wonderful places to give. I tried to select organizations that do not have a national fundraising arm and therefore, often get overlooked in times like this, when it is hard for people (especially far away) to research local organizations who need help continuing to serve the people of Houston they have been serving for many years. I’m a big fan of supporting local businesses and charities and just wanted to provide some options for friends who are far away, but want to help. I’ve included links to the various websites, so that you can learn more about them if you’d like.

 

The Forge for Families is a community center in Houston’s Third Ward, where we live. Their mission is to holistically equip families to fulfill their God-given potential and their vision is to transform families in one generation. In the middle of the worst part of the storm and in the middle of a neighborhood in need, The Forge for Families opened their doors as a shelter. They are currently housing roughly 300 people that have been displaced throughout the greater Houston area. Currently, the shelter is being helped out by the Red Cross, but once they’ve departed, they will continue to invest in the families in need, just as they always have. Donations to the Forge for Families will allow them to continue to assist the evacuees while their lives are being restored. They will also allow them to refill essential supplies as needed. They have created a Hurricane Harvey Fund designated for supplies, operational expenses, facility management and all the extra cost that were not accounted for in our 2017 budget and you can donate to it here.

 

Agape Development was started by a longtime friend of mine, Kirk Craig. Agape also serves people in Houston’s Third Ward. Their mission is in transforming this neighborhood by preparing Christ-following, independent, community leaders. Agape Development staff was delivering food and water to families during the storm and aftermath when many households ran out of food and were cut off from grocery stores, many of which were closed. Now that the immediate crisis is ending and we begin recovery, Agape stands ready to help with that as well. For many, the beginning of the month looms around the corner as a financial deadline: rents, mortgages, car loans, cell phone bills, and any debt repayments are due and for low-income and working poor families, hourly employment during a natural disaster means forgoing income. If you would like to financially support the remaining recovery efforts they are conducting or support their fall programs to empower our neighborhood, please click relief.agapedevelopment.org. To volunteer with your time, please check out their volunteer opportunities or email volunteer@agapedevelopment.org.

 

Houston Pregnancy Help Center is run by a powerhouse of a woman named Sylvia Johnson-Matthews. If you’ve met her personally, you’ve been amazed by the combination of her strength and her humility. Houston Pregnancy Help Centers provide practical and compassionate support to women in unplanned pregnancy situations. We present life-affirming alternatives to the tragedy of abortion, while respecting a woman’s decision without ridicule or rejection. Currently, they are women affected by Harvey, including pregnant women as well as those with babies who need supplies, such as diapers, wipes, formula, clothing, etc. Donate to HPHC Flood Assistance here or by texting the keyword HPHC to 77977.

 

Yellowstone Academy is the premier school in Houston’s historic 3rd Ward. At Yellowstone, students receive an education that cultivates their intellect, nourishes their spirit, and empowers them to capitalize on their potential to create a fulfilling future for our entire community. They’ve been serving in Houston for 15 years and words cannot adequately describe the impact they are making on the youth of our city and their families. The stories will bring tears to your eyes. I’ve been attending their fundraising Love Brunch for several years and they stories I’ve heard are so encouraging. For 15 years, Yellowstone Academy has been standing with some of Houston’s most vulnerable students and families. Many of the families—from their students to their staff—have lost homes, possessions, wages, and more as a result of catastrophic flood levels. Even their newly renovated campus was impacted. As they sent this update, members of their team are on the grounds fully assessing the damages and making the necessary repairs to once again serve their students as soon as possible. A key component of their educational model is that all of their families pay tuition according to what they can afford, and the remainder is funded through scholarships provided by generous partners across the city. In these difficult times, families may not be in a position to fund their portion of tuition for the fall semester. As a response, they are waiving tuition for the semester for any family who needs it, with faith that our community can rally together to fund the difference. Stand with them today by making a donation towards that here.

 

Undies for Everyone enhances the self-esteem, dignity, hygiene, and success of Houston’s disadvantaged students by providing them clean underwear. Keeping kids in class and bullies at bay. During the Hurricane Harvey disaster, they are serving more than just students, as so many people in shelters don’t have clean underwear or access to laundry facilities. Brene Brown stands at George R Brown Convention Center, which is currently acting as a large shelter, making a plea for donations after what she has seen firsthand. View her video here. Please consider helping them by donating here.

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Harvey

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As I sit here typing this, I am listening to the rain fall. I used to love snuggling up during a good ol’ Texas thunderstorm and I loved sleeping in one even more. It was actually something I missed during the time we lived in San Francisco. Strangely, it doesn’t really storm there. I only saw lightning and heard thunder two times in the five years that we lived there and it always struck me as rather odd. I actually missed it during our time there, as crazy as that feels to type now, in the midst of Harvey. It has been raining for four days now and has been raining without stopping for even a second for at least 24 hours straight. I’d love to tell you exactly how many hours, but I can’t, because I’m not even sure what day it is. Somehow, they are all meshing together in my head and I have lost all sense of time. It’s a strange feeling and I’m beginning to realize that cabin fever is a very real phenomenon. When you’re stranded on a makeshift island surrounded by water and unable to escape except by boat or helicopter for days on end, it really does alter your mind a bit. And we are among the more fortunate in this storm, of that I am very well aware.

The photo above was the view from our front porch yesterday. The floodwaters have filled the park across the street, with its hills and valleys that create a bit of a bowl that is 15-20 feet or so down. The street, which is probably 4-5 feet below our house is also flooded and impassable. You can see by the street sign shown how high it is. It is flooded in both directions as far as the eye can see. The nearest cross street is also underwater. And the water is in our yard and slowly moving up the driveway (which has a pretty steep hill to it) and closer to our home. My son’s baby swing in the front yard is halfway under water, so I’m guessing there’s about 2-3 feet of water in our yard. A family of ducks just swam by me the now lake that covers our front yard.

For four days now, I’ve been absorbing and processing. Absorbing information, photos, videos and the very personal stories of people close to me who are in dire distress. It’s an awful lot to take in. I’ve had so many thoughts I wanted to share, but neither the energy or the time to do so. It has taken all I have to keep life within these walls of our house as normal as humanly possible for my children. At the beginning of this ordeal, when Harvey was forming in the Gulf, I was checking the weather nonstop. It may have been a throwback to my energy trading days, when tracking hurricanes and their effects on production in the Gulf was a part of my job. Or it may have had something to do with the fact that though I have weathered Hurricane Alisha, Tropical Storm Allison, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ike, I have never weathered a hurricane as a mother. Now, with three boys who are dependent on us for survival, the game has changed dramatically. Regardless, I was glued to the weather. I quickly fell in love with Space City Weather, which offers information without the sensationalism. In the beginning, I didn’t realize how crucial that would be to maintaining my sanity. I left the news channels on for a while, as they had tornado alerts and other important information, but I couldn’t leave them on for long because of my children. When some desperate woman who had been rescued by boat started screaming about all the little children who were going to die in their homes and our three year old repeated those words and asked me why with a terrified expression, I turned the television off. Images and words on TV are powerful and my boys are so young that they cannot separate fact from drama. Please don’t get me wrong, I think the news people in Houston have done and are doing an excellent job and I am grateful for their selfless coverage of this unprecedented disaster, but my own heart aches deeply at watching the images and hearing the stories, so I cannot imagine what the little minds in my house are thinking as they try and process it all.

By now, however, I rarely even look at the weather. I’m simply exhausted by it all. Severe weather alerts have gone off on my phone around every 5-15 minutes 24 hours a day for the past 4 days. Flash flood warning, tornado warning, tropical storm warning, tropical cyclone warning. I get it. We’re all in great danger here. I just can’t even process them anymore. When the tornado sirens went off, we hunkered down in an interior hallway or in our basement. It’s a confusing thing when the authorities tell you to get upstairs because of flash flooding, but also to get to the lowest level because of a tornado. And when your kids are finally sleeping peacefully, do you wake them up to move from one to the other when the sirens go off? It’s a tough call, especially when you’re tired. When we were taking cover, my children were crying in fear. And I read one of my very favorite books to them, The Jesus Storybook Bible. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s a refreshing read of the stories we know and love that brings fresh tears to my eyes almost every time I read it to my children. It’s a powerful translation, even for adults. We read the story of Jesus calming the storm and talked about how we do not need to fear, because even in difficult times like these, God is still in control. Once it was over, my kids were “playing tornado” and hiding under the dining room table. I remember reading an article on child psychology about how this is how they process trauma in a healthy way, by acting it out again and again, so I let them do it and even joined in some. It was a bit of humbling experience.

We are just fine. We are safe and dry and our house has not taken in water other than some roof and ceiling leaks. We have food and plenty of water. We have electricity and we are all together. Though we are stranded here, we are absolutely fine and beyond grateful. God is merciful and through all of this horror, the loss of life is so much smaller in number than one might expect. For that, we are grateful.

More to come as I continue to process and reflect. There is much to share and there is much to be done in relief and recovery efforts. But for now, I will focus on our family. Keeping us fed and the house and dishes relatively clean, coordinating efforts of help for friends via the internet and Facebook and connecting people as we are so thankful that we have electricity. Until we are able to leave our home, we will do what we can to help, we will support and minister to one another in this time of crisis and we will pray. We will pray for the rain to stop, the storm to dissipate, the winds to die down and for peace for the people of our great city. And when we are able, we will act. We will join others in relief efforts, band together as a community and get our community put back together. We will be stronger and our perspective will be very different. May all of this experience change us for the better, starting with me.

50 Designers. 50% Off. One Location.

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It’s that time of year again! This year marks the third annual The Sale Houston event, which proudly features the finest area boutiques offering end of season merchandise at dramatically reduced pricing in one location. And, trust me, this is one shopping event you do NOT want to miss!

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I’ll be there with jewelry items at 50% off again this year. If you know my brand well, you know that I don’t often have sales. The real reason for that is that I’m a small business and I produce limited quantities of my designs by hand, so I’m honestly not left with huge amounts of inventory to get rid of. The Sale, however, is one of those sales, so if you’ve been wanting some of my pieces, but were waiting for a good deal – this is it!

Not only do I love selling at this show (because everyone is so nice and scoring good deals puts everyone in a great mood!) but I love buying for myself at this show! The event takes place at the Bayou City Event Center, which is a really wonderful spot. It’s very nice, super clean, has free parking and is big enough to hold 50 boutiques, but not so huge that its overwhelming. In past years, I’ve scored $200 Elaine Turner clutches for $10, gorgeous scarves from A Bientot for $8, shoes and clothes from Monkees and Tootsies for 50% or more off, a gorgeous tote from A Bientot for 50% off, a fur stole from Cheeky Vintage at a steal, a Louis Vuitton speedy purse from Cheeky Vintage for under $200 and so much more! (For a full list of this year’s participating boutiques, click here.

The early bird shopping is from 10am to noon on Saturday and a ticket to that is $150, but you do get the best selection, along with champagne while you shop and light bites. After that, the tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door and the money raised by this event goes to pediatric cancer research at Texas Children’s Cancer Center, so you can feel good about the ticket money going to a very worthy cause.

The first year that I participated as a vendor at The Sale was the very first year they had it and I sold out of 2/3 of my merchandise within the first two hours. These ladies come ready to shop! And there are amazing deals to be had ALL weekend long. So, make plans to grab a friend and cure those post-holiday blues with some fun shopping with amazing deals that benefit a wonderful cause.

See you this weekend!

Shop. Save Money. Save Lives.

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Enjoy 20% Off This Week!

Join us in supporting the American Cancer Society by shopping with the Holiday Shopping Card!
Receive 20% off your purchase of Andrea Montgomery Designs through November 1, 2015 with the Holiday Shopping card at our Houston studio!*

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*Offer valid for 20% off your entire purchase in our Houston studio with the Holiday Shopping Card through Sunday, November 1st. Holiday Shopping Cards may be purchased at our studio for a minimum donation of $75 paid directly to the American Cancer Society. This offer cannot be combined with any other promotion or used on sale items.  Offer cannot be applied toward previous purchases, gift card purchases or online purchases. Other restrictions may apply. Please inquire for details.

My New Favorite Shoes

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I’m the first to admit it. I have a slight problem with shoes. The problem being that I rather love them, possibly a little too much. Let’s face it, the right pair of shoes can make an outfit. And they always fit, which is nice (and which cannot be said for my favorite pair of jeans!) I recently discovered a new shoe company and had to share the deets with you.

M. Gemi is a new company that makes limited-edition shoes that are handcrafted in small batches by artisan cobblers in Italy. Because they are small production and sell directly, they are able to keep the cost of handmade shoes affordable. Each pair of shoes I have ordered has been expertly crafted and are high quality and their designs are fantastic and wear well. Each Monday, they put out a few new shoes and when they’re sold out, they’re gone. Occasionally, they will bring back the high-demand shoes and you can join a waitlist for notification about that, but it is wise to jump on a pair if you really love them. They send a weekly email introducing the new shoes or, if you’re an iPhone shopper like me, there’s a very well-designed app that will notify you as well.

There are several things that I love about this brand that has made me fall in love with them…

They offer free shipping and free returns. That makes trying out their shoes easy and free! You have two weeks to try on their shoes and return any you don’t like for a full refund. Their product descriptions are great, their product photos are detailed, their “fit assistant” is very helpful and they show you a few outfits that the shoes would look exceptionally good with, which I find really helpful and fun when shopping. They offer great customer service. If you have questions, their staff is both available and knowledgable. If you have a problem, they are quick to respond and make it right. The small batch production means you won’t see your shoes on every single person you walk past, which I really like. They are committed to a “less, but better” philosophy and they even include a bag with free shipping where you can donate an old pair of shoes to make room in your closet for your new ones.

Below are a few photos from my first order unboxing! (Please forgive my use of an antiqued mirror for a few of them!) I love the personalized attention to detail in the note with my name on it and the gorgeous box it comes in. I rarely keep shoeboxes, but these are so strong and lovely, that I kept them for storage purposes. I love the strong, clean lines on their shoes. They’re both elegant and comfortable, which is a rare combination! I highly recommend you check out M.Gemi ASAP. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!


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Beautiful packaging, sweet personalization and a great box!

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I love this program – just wonderful!

 

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Great customer service, right from the start

 

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The lovely packaging with copper metallic lettering

 

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Leather shoes with pony hair uppers – I’m in LOVE!

 

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Cure + Comfy

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I love the lines on these shoes. You can certainly tell they are handcrafted.

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Love these fun fringe ones!

 

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Stunning lines make a gorgeous heel!


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Suede meets patent leather for a mixed media look that is beautiful!

 

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Loving these with jeans as well!