News Categories: Featured

23 May
By: Communications 0

Precinct 4’s Senior Adult Program Gets New Name

Goodbye, Senior Adult Program. Hello, Encore! Harris County Precinct 4’s Senior Adult Program has a fresh, new name to reflect modern attitudes about aging.

The Encore! program will continue to provide activities, volunteer opportunities, and day trips to adults over 50, just as Precinct 4’s Senior Adult Program has done for the past 27 years. But Jan Sexton, director of the Precinct 4 Encore! program, said the new name will help eliminate the negative stereotypes of aging.

“We don’t want to call our participants anything other than adults.” said Sexton. “We wish to focus on new ways to serve this growing population who challenge conventional thinking about aging and seek to discover and rediscover purposeful ways to make a difference throughout their lives.”

The name change comes after Precinct 4’s former Senior Adult Program conducted a demographic study on aging. The study found that not only were participants healthier and more youthful, but they craved new programs to fit their lifestyle.

“We began tailoring our programs several years ago to respond to this stage of life that included more active day trips and volunteer opportunities,” said Sexton. “We recognized that these adults are active, healthy, skilled, knowledgeable, and wise. So we combined educational and recreational opportunities with service to create social impact – which, in turn, creates purposeful lives!

To reflect this image, the senior adult program will be replaced with the new departmental name, Precinct 4 Encore!, starting June 1. Stay tuned for updates!

For more information on Precinct 4’s Encore Program, click here.

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23 May
By: Communications 0

Harris County Animal Shelter Reaches Milestone

Here’s something to celebrate: the Harris County Animal Shelter has achieved a 90% live-release rate in 2019, up from 15.5 percent in 2012.

The shelter’s steady push to increase awareness of adoptable pets, expand foster programs, and partner with out-of-state rescue organizations has led to one of the biggest turnarounds for an open-admission shelter in the state. The shelter originally set a goal of achieving a live-release rate of 90% by 2020.

“Internally at the shelter, we have focused on our lifesaving programming, which includes adoption, fostering, and animal transports to out-of-state placement partners,” said Kerry McKeel with the Harris County Animal Shelter. “Externally, we have benefited from the support of volunteer animal networkers bringing visibility to individual animals through social media, local rescue groups taking our shelter animals into their programs, as well as partnerships with businesses and organizations that have provided us with, or connected us to, resources to advance our mission to serve the pets of Harris County.”

Those achievements are no easy task in a county as large as Harris County. On average, the shelter receives 40 to 60 animals per day, or as many as 20,000 a year.

Unlike many shelters that have achieved similar live-release rates, the Harris County Animal Shelter must accept every animal that comes through its doors, regardless of breed, temperament, health conditions, circumstances. Despite the hardship, the shelter achieved a live-release rate of 89.5% last year, just under the milestone.

Still, nothing is certain. Spring and summer are the busiest months of the year for any pet shelter, when the highest number of puppies and kittens are born. Fortunately, anyone interested in fostering or adopting an animal can help.

For more information, visit



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23 May
By: Communications 0

Precinct 4 Joins HMNS Cockrell Butterfly Center To Unleash ‘Mosquito Assassins’

One of nature’s deadliest creatures may have just met its match. Harris County’s native “mosquito assassin” has helped control the mosquito population in small pockets of the southeastern United States for ages. But now, researchers with Harris County Precinct 4 are studying ways to use the insect on a larger scale.

Anita Schiller, director of Precinct 4’s Biological Control Initiative, has launched the latest study at the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s Cockrell Butterfly Center because of the center’s contained environment, healthy ecosystem, and unique ability to educate the public about innovative biocontrol methods.

Native to the southeastern United States, mosquito assassins (Toxorhynchites rutilus) lay eggs in rainwater-filled vessels in which pest mosquito larvae are likely to be found. After hatching, immature mosquito assassins feed on aquatic insects – including pest mosquito larvae. By adulthood, mosquito assassins take flight to feed on plant nectar and pollinate flowers.

“The mosquito assassin poses no risk to the environment or the public and helps control mosquito populations,” said Schiller. “They are also beautifully colored, much like some butterflies, and locally self-sustaining. This study will give us a better idea of how fast mosquito assassins reproduce and eliminate mosquitoes in a semi-controlled environment.”

“We are excited to be a part of this study and welcome these fascinating beneficial insects into the Cockrell Butterfly Center,” said Erin Mills, the director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center. “They are a wonderful addition to the team of predatory organisms we have fighting against pest activity!”

Schiller has studied mosquito assassins since 2012, when Commissioner R. Jack Cagle formed the Biological Control Initiative and tasked her with developing natural and effective mosquito-control methods. Schiller’s team now breeds the insects and releases them into Precinct 4 parks to control mosquito populations without pesticides. To learn more about the Harris County Precinct 4 Biological Control Initiative, visit



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08 May
By: Communications 0

Check Out Mercer’s Tool Library

Books aren’t the only items you can check out from Baldwin Boettcher Library at Mercer Botanic Gardens. Visitors can now also borrow tools!

Baldwin Boettcher’s tool library opened in March for visitors interested in do-it-yourself gardening and landscaping.

“The tool library is an opportunity for our guests doing lawn and gardening projects to check out tools so they don’t have to buy them,” said Victoria Knauff, interim assistant branch manager.

Visitors can borrow a variety of yard and gardening equipment, including shovels, rakes, wheelbarrows, cultivators, loppers, shears, spades, and more.

Knauff said the process is just like checking out a library book.

“Anyone with a Harris County Public Library card in good standing can check out tools from the Baldwin Boettcher Branch Library at Mercer,” she said. “You can borrow a total of 40 tools, up to 20 small tools and 20 large ones.”

Visitors must follow the gardening tools policy and sign a waiver before borrowing tools.

Also, like checking out a library book, there are ramifications if tools are not returned on time.

“The lending period for tools is 14 days, with no renewals, and you must return the items by the due date. If you still need the tool, you may borrow it again if there isn’t a waiting list,” Knauff said.

Fines and fees apply if borrowers don’t return the tools on time. Fines range from 10 cents per day for small tools to $2 per day for large tools. Lost and damaged tools must also be replaced at the borrower’s expense.

“So far, we haven’t had a problem with patrons borrowing tools and not returning them on time,” said Knauff. “Most people are grateful for the service.”

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22 Apr
By: Communications 0

New Community Center Announcement

More services are on the way for north Harris County residents, thanks to a new Precinct 4 community center opening in 2021. The 24,500-square-foot facility named for President George H.W. Bush is near the Barbara Bush Branch Library and Precinct 4’s Collins Park, all in the Cypress Creek Cultural District.

“We chose the property for a variety of reasons,” said Commissioner R. Jack Cagle. “The community center stands in a densely populated area near Precinct 4’s Collins and Meyers parks. The facility’s large size ensures we can accommodate Precinct 4’s growing population.”

Mangum-Howell Center is currently Precinct 4’s only dedicated community center, serving nearly 1.4 million residents.

When Precinct 4’s second community center opens, the facility will serve youth, families, senior adults, and civic organizations, as well as provide a meeting space for local and civic organizations.

Before flooding during Hurricane Harvey, the building served as a community center for the Cypress Creek Christian Church. Precinct 4 purchased the property last year, and Harris County Commissioners Court named the facility the George H.W. Bush Community Center during its April 9 meeting.

Construction on the community center is scheduled to begin in November and take one year to complete.

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