GALVESTON — Willie T’s may sound like it should be a trendy watering hole on The Strand, but it turns out to be a faith-based support system for students that has quite a history on the island under its formal name, the William Temple Episcopal Center. It is now at 22nd and Winnie streets as part of Galveston’s Trinity Episcopal Church.
The original William Temple was the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1940s. A smartphone search will still show the center, named after him at 427 Market St., but that property was a victim of Hurricane Ike. All the center’s ministries are now conducted from Trinity’s parish hall complex on 22nd Street.
“As rector of Trinity Church, I am thrilled to see it thriving,” said the Rev. Susan Kennard. “My husband and I live right across the street, and we love to see students in the center at all hours of the day and night.”
Kennard said every Wednesday night, the parish hall is filled with students as the weekly fellowship dinner is served.
Jacqueline Posada is one of the many University of Texas Medical Branch medical students who appreciate the break that the center provides. From the small fridge stocked with soft drinks, fruit and Greek yogurt to the well-stocked coffee bar to the free Wi-Fi and widescreen Direct TV, the atmosphere is more conducive to relaxed concentration than the busy and perhaps somewhat sterile medical school spaces.
“I spend most of my time studying,” Posada said. “I spent the first year and a half of medical school practically living in the library, but I found that there is such a thing as spending too much time in that rigid environment so when Tammy Fountain (the William Temple Center’s director) offered myself and my friends keys, we all jumped at the chance to have another place to study and spend time together.”
Somewhere between the 1960s and the present, the Willie T’s name gained currency and now signs proclaim its presence.
The original William Temple probably wouldn’t have minded this informal re-christening.
“The church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members,” he once said.
Willie T’s embodies his philosophy by welcoming all for several generations of students.
Fellow student Nicki Piemonte has also bonded here. She said she sees Willie T’s as an amazing, extended parent of sorts.
“It sounds ridiculous, but it’s like having a surrogate mother,” she said. “We have a comfortable space to hang out, get our homework done and have an after-school snack; it’s all very maternal — in a good way. It’s just so nice, since we’re all far away from our parents. I am so grateful for Tammy and everyone else who makes Willie T’s what it is.”
Despite long hours in class, rotations and study, the students are also involved in countless community outreach efforts according to Kennard.
“These students work hard as volunteers at St. Vincent’s House serving the underserved of our community,” she said. “This place has such a long and fabulous history on Galveston Island and it is not over — not by a long shot.”
Faith meets Fido as a local priest and other faithful participate at Galveston’s Bark in the Park event
At a glance
Desired donations for the William Temple Episcopal Center in Galveston:
- Large stainless steel refrigerator
- Black office chairs
- iPod dock
- Portable speaker
- Office copier/ printer
- Two new desktop computers for workstations
- Wii/Wii Fit
- Lamps appropriate for studying
- Scented candles
- Gift cards to Sam’s Club or Wal-Mart
- Volunteers for Wednesday night dinner
- Side dishes and desserts delivered on Wednesday afternoons to Trinity’s church office
Willie T’s recipe for King Ranch Chicken (serves 30)
50-ounce can of cream of mushroom soup
50-ounce can of cream of chicken soup
2 cans of Ro-tel tomatoes
2 onions, diced
5 pounds of shredded cheddar cheese
27 ounces of chicken broth
20 corn tortillas, cut into one-inch squares
1 1/2 chicken breasts, using 50-ounce canned chicken
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine in layers.
Bake until bubbly hot.
SOURCE: Mike Ellis, volunteer chef, The William Temple Episcopal Center