Local church offers support for neighborhood community

By: American Red Cross
| Published 05/07/2024


THE WOODLANDS, TX – Within a few years of arriving at Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic Church in The Woodlands, Father Pat Garrett, discovered that the neighborhood south of the church was prone to flooding. Even though the flood waters affected the church parking lot but none of their buildings, Father Pat Garrett sprang into action to help fix the problem. When the church built a new events center, he made sure that it would be equipped with showers and later a generator donated by Montgomery County, so it could serve as a shelter for the nearby Timber Lakes/Timber Ridge neighborhood- or anyone who needed it.

In 2017, one year after the facilities were constructed the newly built event center served its first challenge when hurricane Harvey hit Houston. It was at that time that the American Red Cross called and asked if they could use the facility as a much-needed shelter to help all the residents that had been impacted by the hurricane. With no hesitation Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic Church agreed, and a shelter was open.

Transforming the shelter into a partner shelter with the Red Cross in Montgomery County also meant that approximately 135 parishioners received Red Cross training to be able to help them serve their community. One of those trainees included Father Pat, who described the training as “rewarding.”

After 7 years, once again, the shelter is serving its community after heavy storms rolled into Houston the last week of April bringing in lots of flooding to several counties.

Mike Pavlich, who serves with Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic Church and is also a Red Cross shelter manager, arrives every morning at the shelter to start the day for the residents. During his shift, Mike receives new residents that show up who need a warm place to stay after having to have abandoned their homes due to the flooding. Last Friday we had two buses arrive with 22 people who had to evacuate their homes in Montgomery County after the waters continue to rise inside their homes, Mike explained.

“There’s always something new every time we open a shelter, you can see a different nuance of something that you maybe haven’t seen before and it happened again,” said Mike. “Every time it’s a new experience and we learn but in the end; we’re here to help all those people that are affected.”

Mike maintains a positive, helpful attitude throughout the day.

“We’re happy when people actually show up because we know that we’re doing something right,” said Mike. “We’re always here as that first level of protection.”

One of Mike’s co-shelter managers, Tom Kelly provides much experience and insight into the Red Cross operations at the shelter as well.

“Each time that we open a shelter we’ve had different kinds of disasters, hurricanes, floods, therefore, depending on which areas are impacted, we get different clients from different regions and different areas,” said Kelly.

Bill McNamera, a shelter manager in training at the Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic Church and Red Cross shelter describes the experience as “eye-opening.” He tells a story about a man who ‘s house and his neighbor’s house flooded. He chose to bring not only his own pets, but to rescue his next-door neighbor’s pets as well and bring them all to the shelter, a dozen dogs in all. “God bless them for helping out their neighbor, that was as it should be.” Bill McNamera joined the Red Cross shelter team and is a member of the parish ministry of Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic Church.

Jim Burkett serves as shelter coordinator for Sts. Simon and Jude shelter also coordinates the church shelters operations with many local organizations. You can often find him on his phone, coordinating activities among multiple organizations. Other times, he can be found moving around the shelter helping the staff with his hands, or with his jovial, uplifting attitude, always encouraging the team with his lighthearted attitude. Burkett says he works with Montgomery County Emergency Management, Interfaith of The Woodlands, and the Red Cross to service South Montgomery County.

He says, “When we become a shelter, we are not a church, we are a non-denominational shelter and operate that way.” He has been a parishioner at Sts. Simon and Jude for 32 years. He remembers the Mayday floods, when the Red Cross first asked to use the facility as a shelter. The Red Cross, Father Pat and the local County Commissioners office toured the site, where it was approved as a Red Cross partner shelter.

“I have worked hard to make it a non-denominational shelter,” said Burkett. “We have support from all over the community, Lord of Life Lutheran Church, St. Anthony of Padua, the Methodist Church, Interfaith all work with us. We don’t have all parishioners running this shelter, we have personnel from all areas of The Woodlands working with us.”

He talks about Father Pat’s decision to build the shelter, “He wanted this to support the community and what better way to support the community than be available for emergency management. He has been very, very supportive of allowing this facility access to the Red Cross.”

Burkett continues, “We used the event center as a warming center during the freeze a couple of years ago, we used it as a cooling center last July when we had power outages and we opened it up to let people come in here and take showers, charge their cell phones, get out of the heat, or get out of the cold, so he [Father Pat], has been very community minded.”

Father Pat talks of evacuees as “neighbors”. “We are all people right here, around here there are all sorts of economic backgrounds; from very expensive homes to less expensive homes but some just needed a place to stay overnight as their homes are impacted by the flooding.”

As the Red Cross continues to help those affected by the devastating floods, more families are still in need.

You can help people affected by disasters like the flooding in Texas by making a donation to support Red Cross Disaster Relief.

Visit, call 1-800-REDCROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

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