“They might be the best-kept secret at Houston Airports,” according to Ella Ghica, Customer Service Manager at IAH. “They” are the Houston Airport Interfaith Chapels (the Chapels), available at both George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) for the traveling public and the Airport community.
“Our airports offer so much,” Ghica said. “We have friendly staff, award-winning food choices, free Wi-Fi, clean terminals, and so much more. But one area of service available to all that is sometimes overlooked is our chapels and our volunteer chaplains who are so dedicated to assisting people in need of a listening ear or a helping hand.”
Ghica is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Chapels, and said she is truly honored to serve within the organization. The organization is led by Walt Gray, President, and Executive Chaplain Brett Jones, an ordained chaplain himself. Jesus Saenz, Houston Airports Chief Operating Officer, is also an active, contributing member of the group. The Board consists of a diverse spectrum of Airport and Airport-related personnel, including Senior Staff, parking, concessions, Airlines, and Contractors. Eight chaplains serve, and the chaplains are available one day at week at both IAH and HOU. The Chapels aren’t simply structures where people can gather – they are very active organizations that stress community involvement through healthy interaction and fundraising.
One of the recent fundraising highlights was the establishment of the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund to provide employees who have suffered damage during Hurricane Harvey with monetary aid. Gray noted that the Chapels made donations to 185 badged airport employees totaling $125,350.
The HAIC also holds an annual Blackie Lochridge Scholarship Luncheon. Lochridge was instrumental in the growth of the interfaith chapels at IAH and created the Board of Directors, in which he served from 1985 to 2006. The luncheon is hosted by airport community partners and awards scholarships of $1,500 each to students pursuing higher education who are either Houston Airport community employees or their family members. Donations raised at the luncheon also go to benefit individuals in the Houston Airport community by assisting in times of catastrophe and need. Additionally, the scholarships are available to employees and their immediate family members who are pursuing higher education.
Houston Airports participated in the Combined Municipal Campaign during October and proceeds from this year’s fundraisers were committed to the Chapels, CMC Agency Code 2283. The annual IAH golf tournament in late November also raised funds to support the efforts of the Chapels.
Chapels have been around airports since the 1950s and have “evolved” over the ensuing decades. Ghica was emphatic in noting that all are welcome, regardless of religion affiliation or denomination. “The chaplains who serve Houston Airports so faithfully are kind and compassionate,” she said. “They really only want to help, and that goes for Houston Airports employees as well as the traveling public. Please, if you feel the need, come.”
Ghica relayed a recent story from one of the chaplains who noticed an elderly couple, and the husband was wheelchair-bound and appeared despondent. The chaplain gently approached them and asked if she might pray for them to which he eventually and affirmingly told her to please do so. During their conversation, the chaplain found out that he was undergoing cancer treatments and the outlook was not optimistic. But she prayed, and those moments made a difference to the couple.
“This is a form of customer service,” Ghica said, “and that’s why I’m happy to serve and be a part of this. You cannot place a value on this.”
There are two Interfaith Chapels located at IAH – one located in Terminal C near Gates 29-33 and one in Terminal D, near Gate 8. At HOU, there is a chapel “Pre-Security” - located in baggage claim past bag belt #1, next to the stairs leading to the ticketing level. There is also a chapel “Post-Security” - take the elevator between Subway and Pappas Burger to the first level, and the chapel is located next to the USO and across from gate 42.
Houston Airports has been amply recognized in recent years with both airports given 4-star ratings by Skytrax, a leading global air transport rating organization. Houston remains the only city in the Western Hemisphere with two 4-star rated airports. Customer service is a great driver of those ratings, and among the best elements of Houston Airports customer service is perhaps its best-kept secret.
For more information or if you want to consider donating, please visit the Chapel website, houstonairportchapel.com/