Sherry Houston: Spirit of Gainesville nominee

Published: Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 4:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 4:41 p.m.

She was speaking with another family, but her sparkling eyes caught ours and she gave us that unmistakable Sherry Houston smile to acknowledge us and let us know she’d be right over. When she came to greet us we felt like we were the only family in the room that mattered, even though you knew the family before us felt the same way. It was open house at St. Francis Catholic High School and Sherry was in high performance mode, but then again, I’ve never seen her in any other mode. Her electric energy was contagious. At the very same time her calm voice and manner put nerves in the room at ease. This was my first meeting with Sherry, although she and my wife knew each other through my wife’s work, but Sherry made it feel like we’d known each other for years. She invited us to the open house because our son was graduating from middle school and considering St. Francis for high school. Sherry spoke directly to our son, insisting he would love it and that they already loved him. There she goes again, making someone feel special and wanted. That was over four years ago and since then our lives have intersected often, Sherry always making sure we pursued efforts to help others.


Sherry Houston


Category: Community Service

About Sherry Houston

Occupation: Sr. VP Advancement, Meridian Behavioral Healthcare

Years in Gainesville: 25+

Spouse Joel Houston, PhD.

Children Christopher and Meredith

Helping others is what she does best. When the opportunity came to help others with challenges no one wants to discuss, Sherry took it on, full steam ahead. At Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, she energetically pursues funding to help others navigate through the murky waters of mental healthcare and begin to gain their lives back again. It is not a glamorous pursuit and one I doubt she thought she’d be taking on when we first met as she helped young people find a place to belong during those tough high school years. She’ll be the first to tell you she doesn’t pursue this alone. There are several courageous folks that she works with day in and day out that share her passion for helping others. She doesn’t want to take the credit for the difference she makes, but people who know her know she plays a large part in making our community better. Her dedication to it all could be described as relentless. I’ve personally witnessed incredibly long hours and multiple late nights working on raising funds for her organization and others, but only those that promise to help people. Children and vulnerable members of society hold her highest priority.

It was two years ago that a professional organization to which I belong was seeking a recipient of our annual charity fundraising effort, which had previously focused on children and raised what we felt was a modest amount of around $8,000.00. When another Board Member mentioned that Sherry’s organization might be interested some of us weren’t sure how such a large organization would notice an amount that size being added to their efforts. Sherry definitely disagreed. She offered to present at our board meeting and, well, she not only got our commitment to choose her organization, she got us to care about what they do. She also had a vision for expanding the event and increasing the donation. Our last donation totaled $25,000.00 – over three times where we began. It is because of her the event was “dazzling” (one of Sherry’s favorite adjectives).

Not only is Sherry dedicated to her occupation, she is involved in several other organizations at the leadership level. Sherry is a member of and has served as president of the Junior League of Gainesville. She is a board member for Dance Alive! National Ballet. She has served as board member and president for the Association of Fundraising Professionals of North Central Florida. Sherry is a Rotarian, and is a member of the Women’s Giving Circle. She has also served as membership chair and vice president of the Gainesville Women’s Forum. All of this and she is a loving and dedicated wife to Joel, and incredible mother to Christopher and Meredith.

It is an honor to be able to nominate someone so giving and special and it is my great hope that I have been able to show you why Sherry Houston embodies the Spirit of Gainesville.

Nominated by Jason Neville

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