Mourning the loss of a Young Leader in the Waco Community

By Deneece Ferrales

It is with great regret and sadness that I write this post about the passing of Christian Kelly Aguilar, BSW.  Christian was an active member of the Waco community, devoting his time and talents to social justice and equity.  A vital member of the gay community, Mr. Aguilar was supportive of his peers and advocated for LGBTQ rights as well as the rights of persons with mental illness, criminal histories, women and children, and the elderly. 

Mr. Aguilar completed his BSW degree with honors at Tarleton State University in the Social Work program on the Waco campus in May of 2019.  He was scheduled to graduate on August 7 with his MSW.   It was during his time in the social work program that I came to know Christian as his teacher, faculty mentor, and finally as a proud colleague and friend.  I have enjoyed the privilege of teaching and mentoring many bright students over the past 8 years that have graduated and become valuable professionals in our community.  However, I felt compelled to write about Christian because his impact on others and on me was so strong that I believe his contributions deserve public recognition.  I first met Christian when he enrolled in the social work program at Tarleton on the MCC campus in the Fall of 2017.  Christian immediately showed his leadership ability through becoming an officer of the Waco Student Social Work Association.  Through this work, his community work, and his work in the classroom, I got to know an incredibly strong and committed young man.  I will always treasure the gift he gave me by allowing me to mentor him. 

Perhaps the most memorable thing about Christian was the impact he had on people.  To say that he offered support to his colleagues would be an understatement.  One of his fellow students, Stefani LeBlanc, stated, “Christian has forever left an imprint in my life.  I can only hope that I can take what I have learned from him and be as great as I know he would have been.”   Stefani went on to say that “He was a source of support for many in the LGBTQ community.  Over and over I have read people’s stories of his unwavering support, even despite his own battles belonging to the (LGBTQ) community.”

He was close to and supportive of his colleagues.  His colleagues respected him so much that he became president of SSWA Waco his senior year.   He was described by one of his instructors as having an “almost jolly” demeanor, always pleasant in the classroom, showing leadership and an eagerness to learn. 

Christian enjoyed academic success completing his BSW program with honors and was chosen to speak at the Social Work Symposium in Memphis, Tennessee where he won 2nd place for his poster presentation.   Christian continued his academic success in his MSW program, despite the imposed limitation due to the COVID pandemic, having earned a spot on the Dean’s list for the Fall and Spring semesters with a perfect 4.0.   Christian completed field work training at Regent Care Center, a nursing care facility, and with Cenikor, a substance abuse program. At each place he worked, he successfully provided social work services to the organizations’ clientele.  Christian was scheduled to graduate on Friday, August 7, with his MSW. 

Beyond academic success, Christian had an unwavering commitment to service and to the Waco community.  Stefani LeBlanc said of Christian, “He was a man of unwavering service and his legacy in the social work world will continue through those he knew.”  Christian used his time and talents to help in the Waco community in numerous ways: raising funds for Angel trees,  helping register people to vote, and helping to organize field days for people with developmental disabilities among many other examples.  He was an advocate for people who do not have a voice.  He attended Advocacy Day at the Texas Legislature two years in a row and organized children’s activities for a Child Welfare Awareness Rally.  

Christian was a person of great promise in the Tarleton Social Work Program.   When asked to make a statement about Christian, Dr. Darla Beaty said, “Christian Aguilar embodied the values of social work.  Specifically, he provided service as the president of the Tarleton Student Social Work Association, leading his colleagues in community projects in Waco for several years.  He demonstrated competence and integrity as an excellent student who used his emotional intelligence to bring out the strengths in his fellow students.  He highly valued the importance of his relationships with students, professors, and community partners.  He treated everyone with respect and dignity and was a fierce advocate for social justice.  He made a positive difference in the lives of those of us whose lives he touched”.   This is a profound loss of a remarkable soul – for his friends, family, the social work profession, and the Waco community. 

If you knew Christian and would like to express your condolences, you may go online to Lakeshore Funeral Home and Cremation Services.  Christian’s death was unexpected, so donations through Lakeshore FH will also be accepted by and helpful to the family.

Deneece Ferrales, Ph.D., is a social worker who has been living in Waco for the past 8 years.  Though she has only been in the area 8 years, Dr. Ferrales has adopted Waco as her home and loves being a part of the community.  Dr. Ferrales received her Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Ferrales most recently worked as an Assistant Professor at Tarleton State University.  Prior to that, Dr. Ferrales was a court-ordered custody evaluator and parent facilitator and CEO of For A Better World in San Antonio, TX.  Dr. Ferrales’ primary interests include community organizing and development, HIV/AIDS, women, children and youth, and social policy.  Dr. Ferrales is married to Bobby Ferrales and they have an 18 year old who will become a Southwestern Pirate in September 2020. 

Waco ISD looking for partners in HUD-funded program

By Sarah Pedrotti

The Waco Public Housing Authority received a COVID-19 response grant this summer from Housing and Urban Development. This grant is to increase bandwidth and Internet access across WPHA properties and provide enrichment for students. Transformation Waco has partnered with WPHA to offer enrichment programming at Estella Maxey.

EAST (Enriching All Students Together) Waco allows students the opportunity to learn more about themselves and their passions through the lens of literacy, health and wellness, STEM, and workforce solutions. EAST Waco students will participate in several groups throughout the year, opening the door to more opportunities. 

We are looking for several partners to assist us in creating experiences for our students. We need organizations to lead groups for book clubs, STEM-themed activities, physical activities, wellness groups, and a group for 8th-12th graders on workforce development. The calendar allows for three or six-week commitments from group leaders.

Groups will meet weekly noon-1:30 p.m. Saturday. Tentative start date is Sept, 7. Groups have the option of meeting virtually or in-person at Estella Maxey. Groups that chose to meet virtually will have in-person student support at Estella Maxey. We do have funding for supplies and dues. 

Waco ISD is asking people to help them gather partners for the endeavor. Pass on this information to any organizations that might be interested in participating and hosting a group or send their contact information to

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at any time. 

Session Calendar:

Dates:Session ## of Weeks:
9/12/2020-10/17/2020 16
10/24/2020-11/21/2020 23
12/5/2020-12/19/2020 33
1/9/2020-2/13/2020 46
2/20/2020-4/10/2020 56
4/17/2020-5/22/2020 66

Sarah Pedrotti is director of student advocacy for Transformation Waco. She has served in various roles with Waco ISD, including elementary school teacher, instructional coach at the middle school level, and assistant principal and principal at the elementary level. Mrs. Pedrotti received her master’s degree in education from Tarleton State University and her bachelor’s in education from Baylor University. Her heartfelt desire to provide teachers with support and coaching, build strong relationships within schools, and tap into the passions of adult and student learners.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

Grupo de Apoyo para Familias: Deshazte de tu Soledad

escrito por Sara Beth Stoltzfus and Ana Martinez

Criar hijos es difícil. Criar hijos durante una pandemia global es otra cosa. La soledad es algo común en nuestra sociedad y especialmente entre los padres. En esta pandemia estamos aún más asilados, estresados, sin control de las cosas pasando en el mundo. Tal vez también nos estamos sintiendo con menos control de las cosas diarias como nuestras finanzas, el comportamiento de los niños, o nuestra propia salud física y mental. 

En MCH Family Outreach, tenemos varios programas de apoyo para padres incluyendo apoyo para una familia individual, utilizando metas creadas específicamente para esa familia, varias clases para padres y al último, grupos de apoyo para padres. ¡Uno de nuestros grupos está en español! Este grupo fue en persona por varios años, pero en este momento, por la seguridad de todos, está virtual por Zoom. 

En los grupitos, hablamos de muchos temas diferentes incluyendo: como entender y apoyar los sentimientos de los niños, como disciplinar efectivamente, como comunicar efectivamente entre papas e hijos, como cuidar para uno mismo, como conectar con recursos en la comunidad, y mucho más. A veces hacemos juegos o manualidades y estamos riéndonos y a veces estamos compartiendo las cosas dolorosas de nuestros corazones. 

Por todo lo malo que está pasando, también hay cosas buenas. Por ejemplo: hablando por teléfono con familia y amistades, trayendo comida a familiares que no pueden salir de casa, pasando más tiempo con su propia familia y tal vez más tiempo en la naturaleza.  

Esperamos que este grupito sea una de las cosas buenas en su vida, que le traiga esperanza, un reconocimiento de su propia fortaleza y un escape de la soledad de estos días. ¡Esperamos conocerlos pronto!

Sara Beth y Ana

*Para registrase, solo llame a uno de los números en el folleto abajo y le mandamos el enlace de zoom.  No hay costo para venir. Lo importante es tener un teléfono o computadora con micrófono y camera. Podemos ayudar si se encuentran dificultades. 

Sara Beth Stoltzfus

Sara Beth Stoltzfus es una trabajadora social y ha trabajado con MCH Family Outreach por 6 años. Sara Beth es originalmente del estado de Pennsylvania, pero ha estado viviendo en Tejas por 11 años.

Ana Martinez

Ana Martinez es una manejadora de casos en MCH Family Outreach y ha trabajado en varias organizaciones en Waco desde 2016. Ella trabaja con familias para dar apoyo y enseñar sobre la crianza y el desarrollo de niños y adolescentes.  En su tiempo libre, Ana disfruta salir a caminar con sus perritos y probar comida de restaurantes locales (¡mientras usa su máscara, por supuesto!).

Este blog de “Act Locally Waco” escribe publicaciones con una conexión a estas aspiraciones para Waco. Si quiere escribir algo para el blog de “Act Locally Waco,” por favor envía un correo en ingles para más información.

Here is what I learned from my family’s battle with COVID-19

By Nelissa Davalos

My name is Nelissa, and I am an otherwise healthy 25-year-old female with no prior medical history. In early March, reports of transmission of COVID-19 began to appear in the United States. When my mother learned of the transmissions, she immediately urged us to wear face masks to protect ourselves and those around us.  She was terrified of this virus because she has been diagnosed with type-2 Diabetes as well as asthma. Due to these underlying conditions, she is at higher risk of developing serious complications from the virus. When my mother first heard of the virus there were no signs of community spread in Waco, so my small family of three did not wear masks until signs began showing in our county.

My family had previous plans to visit South Padre Island from June 26-30 of 2020 to celebrate my brother joining the U.S. Navy. Our family decided not to cancel this trip. Instead we committed to wearing face masks, sanitizing, social distancing, and quarantining ourselves once we returned to Waco. Although we had made plans to be safe the fact of the matter is – you NEVER know who has been exposed. My father was unknowingly exposed to an infected individual at his workplace Thursday before we left for South Padre Island. Leadership did not inform him right away as I believe they should have.  In fact, they did not inform him until two weeks after the incident occurred. Unknowingly, we continued our trip to the beach and followed the rules we had set in place prior to traveling.

Soon after we returned, I received a call from my mother who was in tears. She told me that my father had been notified of his exposure. He had been advised that he and anyone he had been in contact with should get tested. There was dead silence on the phone.  I could not believe that we had been put at risk from my own father.

It was frustrating to me to know that no matter the precautions we had taken, we had been put at risk due to the behaviors of others who may have not taken this virus as seriously as we did. Sadly, our test results all returned positive. In the next few weeks my family would begin to experience an array of symptoms. My own symptoms included lower back pain, chills, nausea, diarrhea, a cough which caused shortness of breath, as well as losing my sense of taste. To combat the virus we took vitamin C, ibuprofen, drank ample amounts of water and slept most of the day due to fatigue.  Our recovery seemed to be going well.

Then my mother’s recovery took a different route. She was admitted to our local hospital with breathing complications. Her battle with COVID-19 was only beginning. Her doctor explained that her symptoms were worsening, and she was not receiving enough oxygen due to her asthma.  The virus was wreaking havoc on her immune system and lungs. Doctors administered insulin and steroids every few hours due to the impact of the virus and her underlying illnesses.

As each day passed, she grew weaker. We were told to prepare for the worst outcome. A blood transfusion was suggested so the antibodies created from a recovered patient would help her combat the virus. We waited anxiously for a match that never came.

Thankfully, days later, my mother began to breathe on her own and was permitted to come home to recover.

As of now, we have all made full recoveries, but there was a moment where we had no idea what would happen. While hospitalized my mother was preparing for the worst outcome.  I learned she had made plans for her cremation and written us goodbye letters. This broke my heart to hear.  I cried and thanked her as well as my father for doing the best they could with us. Growing up there was never an end to the amount of love and support they provided.

Why is my story important?

Because this could have easily been your story, this could have been your mother, your son, or your husband. I encourage you to read my story and do the following:

Stay home. It is the easiest way to prevent community spread. I have seen first-hand how this virus takes lives. During my mom’s stay in the ICU two women passed away because of this virus.  They were only a few doors away from my mother’s room.

Wear a mask. Based on the demographics provided by Mclennan County, the Hispanic population makes up about 50% of positive tests. Of those tested 22 cases are between the ages of 20-29 years of age. You can find this information at We don’t know who is positive and who is not. Wearing a mask can help us slow the spread. Research from the CDC shows some studies have estimated that people without symptoms (whether truly asymptomatic or presymptomatic) could be responsible for up to half of the spread. This is why the virus has been so difficult to contain.  You may be harming those you love without realizing it.

If you have recovered, donate plasma. If you have recovered from COVID-19 your body has produced antibodies to combat the virus.  I would encourage you to visit Carter Blood Care online and learn how you can provide plasma for treating COVID-19.  It may well save the life of a stranger.

You may not be worried about contracting the virus and you may feel as if you have nothing to lose, but there are others with underlying conditions who could lose everything.

If we join together as a community, we can all help keep our loved ones safe so others in our community do not have to experience my family’s story.

Useful links:

Nelissa Davalos currently serves as the Marketing and Economic Development Coordinator for the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She is grateful for the knowledge and inspiration that local entrepreneurs and businesses have shared with her. Nelissa and her husband Ralph are the proud parents of their outgoing son Jacob. In her spare time, she enjoys learning new skills, reading, and spending time with her family. She frequently volunteers for local community organizations located in the greater Waco area, one of her favorite volunteering activities is welcoming children on the first day of school. She currently serves on the solid gold neighbor ambassador council as well as the child well- being core committee for United Way of McLennan County. Nelissa is an advocate for holistic health and in her free time encourages family and friends to take a break from their work life and enjoy their family. She looks forward to creating a positive impact in the Hispanic Community, as well as the Greater Waco area by sharing the impact her chamber has had on her life with today’s growing neighborhood and business sectors.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

There is hope, resilience, humility, light for the COVID tunnel

By Jamie Willmann

We do not know when the pandemic will end. Thus, we need to be our own light at the end of the tunnel. We must maintain “Hope, Resilience, Humility, and Generosity” to help empower our communities to fight on. 

This is why the Crisis Counseling Program (CCP), known as #TexansRecoveringTogether in Texas, is here. Those of us working in the program are here to empower our communities and to offer a voice of help during a time of fear and uncertainty.

CCP is dedicated to serving the needs of those affected by COVID-19. This virus has wreaked havoc physically, but it has also affected us in other ways. Stress, anxiety, depression, irritability, confusion, and frustration are all common reactions that have increased since the start of the pandemic. Our program is here to offer emotional support during these trying times.

There are many individuals who are going through hardships and major changes. Through these events, it is important to maintain a healthy mindset. It is good to be aware of how the pandemic is affecting our emotional and mental well-being.

We have all lost so much; we can’t lose hope now. We grasp hope and know that one day, we will look back, and see how this has changed our world. We search for the positives within ourselves and our communities.

CPP is here to help you cope through the disaster and provide you with the means necessary to continue fighting on. Instead of fear and dread of the future, let’s have hope for brighter days. 

We are a team dedicated to providing accessible, caring, and responsive services. These services include crisis counseling for individuals, families, and groups. Referrals and resource linkage to much needed services such as food banks, medical and mental health services, and utility assistance, are also available through the Texans Recovering Together program.

We are here to support, empower, and provide you with what you need to press on. CPP is a network of community support and engagement, taking a strength-based approach, to mitigate long-term reactions to COVID-19.

We are #TexansRecoveringTogether. We believe that we are better together and we are here to help you recover. 

To speak with a counselor, call us at (254) 297-7017 or toll-free at (866) 576-1101.

Jamie Willmann was raised in a Christian home and was taught to serve and love others at an early age. She has a passion for making people smile and brightening people’s days. Jamie came from Wisconsin three years ago to attend Baylor, where she graduated with a degree in international studies. She now devotes her free time to self-care, exercising, relaxing in nature, and fellowship with friends.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

Mayborn Museum is reopening with attention to safety


Mayborn Museum will reopen to the public on Aug. 8, but members get access Aug. 1-7. 

A 20% discount is available on new and renewing memberships through Sept. 30. Use the promo code: SUMMER.

In collaboration with Baylor University officials and using the guidelines recommended by national, state, and local agencies/authorities, the Mayborn Museum is implementing the following measures to keep staff and visitors safe: 

Tickets / Visitor Capacity

To allow for proper social distancing, the museum will be operating at 25% capacity or less. We will adjust the flow of visitors through timed tickets. If you arrive at the museum and we are at capacity, our staff will ask you to wait until some visitors exit. Purchase your tickets in advance on our website for a low-touch check-in and to limit your chance of wait time.

Closed Areas / Modifications

Some hands-on exhibition components within the Natural and Cultural History Wing and the Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village will be disabled. The Harry and Anna Jeanes Discovery Center will remain closed with the exception of the Backyard Ecology Hall. General admission prices have been adjusted temporarily to compensate for this closure. Paw Patrol Adventure Play will be open in the Anding Traveling Exhibit Gallery. Guest numbers will be monitored and controlled to ensure capacity restrictions are met.

Masks Required

Masks will be required for all staff and for all visitors except children under age 2.


The museum is installing more hand sanitizing stations and instituting heightened cleaning protocols, including frequent environmental cleaning and disinfection of “high-touch” door handles, elevators, and restrooms.

Safety Training

All staff members have gone through required training sessions to understand and implement these modified procedures and sanitation practices to ensure the health of both staff and visitors.

Schedule Change

The museum will have a temporary change in its operating schedule. The museum will be open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

Hands Off Can Be Fun, Too!

Additional interpretive exhibit elements will be added to our exhibits. Stay-tuned for exhibit pop-ups throughout the summer. 

Meeting Insights: Waco City Council Meeting – 08/04/20

By Jeffrey Vitarius

(Civic meetings happen in Waco every week – city council, school board, planning commission, and countless others.  Decisions from these meetings affect our lives every day.  Many of us are curious about these meetings, but to be honest, it’s just too hard to decipher the jargon and figure out what’s going on and why it’s important.  Act Locally Waco is trying something new in August! Jeffrey Vitarius follows civic meetings for his work and out of personal interest.  Each week in August he will pick a meeting in our community and highlight one or two items from the agenda to translate from “government-ese” into language we can all understand.  We’re calling the series “Meeting Insights.” Let us know what you think! If you enjoy it, we will try to keep it going!  — ALW )

The Waco City Council meets every other Tuesday. The work session starts at 3:00, that is where most of the explanation and discussion happens.  The business session is at 6:00, that is when the council takes action (votes).  The public is invited to attend either or both of these sessions, although, for the time being due to COVID-19, that attendance is virtual through the Waco City Cable Channel (WCCC.TV/live) with public comments sent in ahead of time. Today we will highlight Work Session Agenda item 3…taxes.

Meeting Basics

  • Work Session – 3:00 pm / Business Session – 6:00pm
  • To watch the live stream click here (City of Waco Cable Channel,
  • For the full agenda click here
  • For the meeting packet with the documents pertinent to the meeting click here. I will refer to page numbers from this packet in the notes below.
  • Details on how to provide public comment are listed in the agenda

Work Session Agenda item 3 –  WS-2020-508 – Discussion of the Property Tax Certified Appraisal Roll and Certified Estimate of taxable value, as well as information on the No-new-revenue Tax Rate, the Voter-approval Tax Rate, and the Tax Collection Rate.

Agenda item 3 is just one part of an ongoing budget process. So, let’s start with a bit of a timeline. Two weeks ago, city staff talked through preliminary budget projections with City Council (minutes and video). Since then city staff has received a certified estimate of tax value (more on that below) and developed a proposed budget and tax rate. This week the council will discuss these proposed items and set a public hearing on the budget (tentatively – 9/1) and the tax rate (tentatively 9/1 with vote on 9/8). In today’s “Meeting Insights” we’ll zero in on the tax rates.

The image above comes from this week’s meeting packet and lists three kinds of tax rates: the Proposed Tax Rate, the No New Revenue Tax Rate, and the Voter-Approval Tax Rate.

Most of us are familiar with the Proposed Tax Rate – that’s the rate we would pay should it pass. The city applies this rate to the values it receives from the McLennan County Appraisal (MCAD) to calculate its property tax revenues for the year.

The “No New Revenue Tax Rate” is the rate that would generate the same revenues as the last year, taking into account changes in appraised values.  In other words, if property values went UP last year, the No New Revenue Tax Rate would go DOWN – because a lower rate would get the city the same amount of revenue.  If property values went DOWN last year, the No New Revenue Tax Rate would go UP – because the city would have to charge a higher rate to get the same amount of revenue.  As the name implies, it is the rate that would result in “No New Revenue.”

(Note: The No New Revenue Tax Rate does not take into account new property. It looks at the property from last year’s appraisal roll, and the revenues from those properties, not new properties that may have come on the roll since.)  

This year provides an interesting example. The value of taxable property from last year went DOWN compared to the year before. On net, properties last year declined in value. So, the No New Revenue Tax Rate this year is higher than the Property Tax Rate from last year. If there were no new properties, the city would expect to collect less in property taxes than it had the previous year if the Property Tax Rate remains the same.

Why does the city calculate the No New Revenue Tax Rate?  Because you need that rate to be able to calculate the Voter Approval Tax Rate.  The “Voter Approval Tax Rate” is the maximum rate allowed by law without voter approval. These two rates are connected by a multiplier that is decided by the Texas Legislature. The multiplier changes from time to time, but currently the Voter Approval Tax Rate is basically the No New Revenue Tax Rate X 3.5%. (I say “basically” because some adjustments are made to take into account debt service.) In other words, the city may not impose a Property Tax Rate more than 3.5% times the rate needed to collect the same tax revenues as the previous year. (The language around tax rates can be somewhat confusing. If you are interested, here is an explainer from the Texas Municipal League with much, much, much more information.)  

For the past six years, the city’s tax rate for property taxes has been “0.776232/$100” or about 78 cents for every $100 of property value. The city’s income from property taxes has steadily increased over the last six years because the value of taxable property within the city limits (and the addition of new property this year) has been steadily on the rise, not because the city has increased its tax rate.  In the 2019-2020 budget property taxes made up a little less than a third (29%) of the city’s operating budget.

For this fiscal year, the city is projecting to continue the $0.776232 per $100 tax rate from previous years. Since this rate is less than both the “No New Revenue Tax Rate” and the “Voter-Approval Tax Rate,” no tax-rate election will be necessary. If all proceeds as proposed, the average homeowner would pay $1,276.63 in city property taxes next year. 

Here is another interesting point: the chart above shows a number called “ARB Pending Discount.”  What is that?  COVID-19 has slowed the tax assessment and protest process. As a result, the city has received an ESTIMATE of property values rather than a certified VALUE like they usually get. The city has accordingly subtracted about 3% of the estimated values. This is the amount the city anticipates property value protests will drive down appraised values – that is the “ARB Pending Discount.”

The budgeting process continues!

Other Interesting (to me) Items From the Agenda:

  • The city is looking at purchasing a boat slip at Ridgewood Marina. This should reduce the response time of the Fire Department’s new rescue boat from 10-12 minutes to 8 minutes or less
  • The J.H. Hines Elementary Sidewalk Project is proceeding. This week the council plans to approve an Advance Funding Agreement with the state of Texas. The project requires no local match and the City would be responsible solely for non-reimbursable costs and any overruns.

Jeffrey Vitarius has been actively local since early 2017. He lives in Sanger Heights with partner (JD) and his son (Callahan). He helped found Waco Pride Network and now serves as that organization’s treasurer and Pride Planning Chair. Jeffrey works at City Center Waco where he helps keep Downtown Waco clean, safe, and vibrant. He is a member of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and graduated from Baylor in 2011.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

Baylor’s Lifelong Learning Fall 2020 online brochure now available


Baylor University’s Lifelong Learning (LLL) has opened online registration for 2020-2021 annual membership and fall courses and events.

A hard copy will arrive in mailboxes in early August, but you don’t have to wait to see LLL’s courses and events or to register yourself online.

Receive a 10% discount on class fees if you register yourself online. Because of Baylor staff members working remotely, mailed in registrations will experience significant delays, and LLL cannot take phone registrations at all at this time.

Please do NOT leave a credit card number on the LLL voicemail.

People who have taken courses within the last three years already have a student profile. Log into that profile to register rather than creating a new one. If you do not know your login credentials, choose “forgot password.” Once logged in, follow these instructions to register.

Click the button below to register for any of the eight engaging courses designed by your Curriculum Committee:
— “People of Interest” Book Review, with Bob Anne Senter;
— Dicey Dames: Women in the Bible, with Rosalie Beck;
— Your Family Tree, with Dr. Judith Staples;
— How to Survive and Thrive Through Transitions in Family and Friends’ Relationships, with Dennis Myers;
— Write Your Memoir, with Dr. Elaine White;
— Voices from WW2: Discovering Combat Veterans’ Untold Stories, with Brad Livingstone;
— Introduction to Reading C.S. Lewis, with Dr. Thomas Hanks; and
— Goal Setting that Brings Results, with Mona Dunkin;
— The Best Monuments of the World with Larry Smith.

Because health and safety are our highest priorities, all LLL programing will take place online this fall using the communication platform Zoom. Save your registration confirmation email, since it will contain your class link.

Participants are encouraged to install the program early and practice with family and friends before the fall semester begins. Three free practice sessions are scheduled so you an experience Zoom before classes start. You can find details on the Courses page.

If you received a credit because of a canceled class or event during spring 2020, that credit will automatically be applied to your account. You should be able to see it when you click “checkout.”



Bienestar brings mental health focus to Latino community

Editor’s Note: July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. It is an effort to elevate voices, to listen and better understand, and to support the unique needs and range of experiences of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.

By Joy Pfanner

A group of helping professionals in Waco came together five years ago to discuss the need for more mental health support for the Latino, and especially Spanish-speaking, community in our city. That group consisted of local pastors, social work professors and students, mental health professionals, and other social service providers who work directly with the Latino community or are passionate about creating equitable access to resources for this population. 

The Bienestar Latino Mental Health Coalition was born. It sought to provide education in order to increase accessibility to mental health resources within the community and to destigmatize mental health concerns and treatment. 

“Bienestar” is the Spanish word for “well-being.” When we talk about being “well,” we are not only referencing finding help and healing from mental illness. We are also talking about the following:

— learning how to manage stress and disappointment;

— “wellness” in all areas of life that directly affect our mental health, including our physical health, our spiritual/emotional health, and our relationships;

— having all of our daily needs met;

— finding healing in the midst of loss, finding new ways of coping, and learning that our mind and our bodies are so interconnected that the two cannot be separated, and we must honor and care for both. 

We felt “Bienestar” was a holistic, all-encompassing word to describe what we hope to share with the Latino community. 

As the newly formed coalition began to consider what its impact might be, it saw an opportunity to reach out to local churches and provide mental health information to their congregations. In the early years, outreach included monthly coalition meetings and an annual one-day workshop on various mental health topics for pastors. 

As the coalition continued to grow, the group decided to take a more direct approach by going into churches upon invitation and providing educational workshops on mental health to the congregants. This strategy has proved successful and the coalition has been able to reach a larger number of people this way.

All workshops are offered in Spanish, as well as English, in order to ensure that language is not a barrier to learning about mental health and receiving information about services in Spanish within the community. 

As the coalition continues to expand its capacity and reach, we hope to build more relationships in various sectors in order to reach even more people within the Latino community. 

Mental health resources offered in Spanish are very limited in Waco; currently you can count on one hand the number of Spanish-speaking therapists here. With such little access currently available, the coalition hopes to provide up-to-date information about mental health and the Spanish-speaking mental health services that do exist in the community, as well as partner with other organizations and universities to work toward increasing the number of Spanish-speaking helping professionals available. 

The coalition is composed of incredible people who volunteer their time to do this meaningful work, and all services we provide are free. Most of our work is being done virtually for the time being due to COVID-19. We have big dreams for the coalition, and we continue to plan for ways in which we can better serve and care for our Latino community. 

To connect with us, please visit us at Bienestar Latino Mental Health Coalition on Facebook or email us at 

We are always happy to welcome new members to the coalition, as well as to talk with you about ways in which we can partner to offer workshops on mental health related topics. 

Joy Pfanner is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Waco. She assists Ana Chatham, LCSW, with managing Bienestar Latino Mental Health Coalition. Joy has many years of experience providing both clinical and non-clinical social work services to the Spanish-speaking community. Joy holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from Baylor, and prior to moving back to Waco, she spent about three years living internationally in Spanish-speaking countries. 

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

“Our Hope is to Be A BLESSING to Others”

“The Lord bless you and keep you. Make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” — Lyrics from the song, “The Blessing”

By Dr. Tyrha M. Lindsey-Warren

The words from the song, “The Blessing” by Cody Carnes, Elevation Worship, and Kari Jobe, inspire the second season of the Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival, which kicks-off on July 31, 2020 with our 1st Annual Community Barbecue and Back-to-School Picnic and the opening of our film submissions on August 15, 2020.

Given all that is going on in our world today led by the unpredictable backdrop of the Coronavirus, the Festival team wanted to start our second season featuring the voices of families from Waco and across Central Texas to sing a blessing over our community. Here is a sneak peek of “The Blessing,” on our new YouTube channel.

The full version will be released on 7/31. The song/video is about 4 minutes long and features around 15 vocalists and musicians. The video will be available on the festival’s  YouTube page, social media and website at Many thanks to Dr. Stephanie Boddie for being the inspiration for the effort, along with Dr. Horace Maxile, who served as Musical Director, and Cody Nethery, who served as Co-Producer and Editor.

In addition to our Blessing Project, we also continue to live our mission of being “dedicated to EMPOWERING the creative spirit, SERVING with heart, and CELEBRATING all!” On July 31, 2020, in the parking lot of Extraco Bank at 1700 North Valley Mills Drive, we will continue to serve the Waco community with heart with our 1st Annual Community Barbecue and Back-to-School Picnic. Due to City guidelines, this event will be a DRIVE-THRU picnic with all of the traditional fixings, from FREE barbecue prepared by the Extraco Bank Barbecue Pit Crew to FREE school supplies and backpack distribution, fun film gifts, and fabulous music played by DJ Auggie! Thanks to Mr. Alex Eichenberg of Extraco Bank, Mrs. Rosemarie Tatum of the Delta Alpha Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Mrs. Jocelyn Williams of Grassroots Community Development, and Susan Krause of the YMCA for your wonderful volunteerism and support of this effort.

In conclusion, our Festival team believes in the power of film and storytelling to empower and  change lives for the better. We ALWAYS work to do our part for the betterment of our community and our world in service of humanity. The Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival will continue to be an agent for positive change as well as work to open the hearts and minds so that we all may treat each other a little better, be kinder to each other, and perhaps love each other a little better because at the end of the day, we are all more alike than we are different.

We look forward to seeing you on July 31, 2020, from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., in the parking lot of Extraco Bank (1700 N. Valley Mills Drive, * Waco, Texas 76710 (and while supplies last)) as we celebrate our community at the 1st Annual Community Barbecue and Back-to-School Picnic! You don’t want to miss it!  Blessings!           

Dr. Tyrha M. Lindsey-Warren is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University. At Baylor, Dr. Lindsey-Warren teaches Advertising, Digital Marketing and is the Founder of the Baylor Business Advertising Summit. She is also the Founder and Producer of the Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival. In her spare time, Dr. Lindsey-Warren sings jazz professionally and has opened for GRAMMY award-winning jazz musicians. Dr. Lindsey-Warren is married to Sidney Warren, a successful entrepreneur.  

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.