TSA PreCheck Applicable Center open at Waco airport May 24-28

By City of Waco Public Information

Residents of Waco will be able to enroll in the Transportation Security Administration’s popular TSA PreCheck program at Waco Regional Airport May 24-28.

The airport is a convenient location to sign up for the program that enables enrolled people to travel with more ease through the expedited security screening process. The “pop-up” office will be inside the lobby of the terminal in the baggage claim area.

The application process allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to enroll directly in TSA PreCheck — an expedited screening program that allows travelers to leave on their shoes, light outerwear, and belt, keep their laptop in its case and their 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in a carry-on, in select TSA airport checkpoint screening lanes. More than 200 airports participate in TSA PreCheck program nationwide.

Visit TSA PreCheck | Transportation Security Administration website to register for the upcoming enrollment event.  Applicants must bring proof of identity and U.S. citizenship. This can either be through a current U.S. passport, or driver’s license and a copy of their birth certificate. The enrollment process must be completed in person at ACT for the proper paperwork and fingerprints to be collected.

The application fee is $85 and can be paid during the enrollment appointment with either a credit card, money order, company check or certified/cashier’s check. Cash or personal checks are not accepted.

Travelers can go to the Waco Regional Airport (7909 Karl May Dr., Waco, TX 76708) lobby of the terminal area at 9 a.m.-noon or 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, May 24-28.

After completing enrollment, successful applicants will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) via U.S. mail within two weeks and is valid for five years. The enrollee should enter the provided KTN in the “Known Traveler Number” field when booking airline reservations.  The KTN also can be added when booking reservations online via a participating airline website, via phone call to the airline reservation center, or with the travel management company.  Additionally, the KTN can be entered in participating airline frequent flyer profiles as well.

For more information, contact Joel Martinez at 254-750-8657 or joelm@wacotx.gov.

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

5 local businesses sponsor adoption of all shelter dogs through weekend

By Paula Rivadeneira

Five Waco businesses are sponsoring every dog adoption at the Waco Animal Shelter until 1 p.m. Sunday, which means adoptions will be free until that deadline. Greg May Honda, Greg May Hyundai, Pretty In Pink Flamingo Boutique, Z’s at the Curry, and Z’s Brew at the Curry are sponsoring the effort.

The Humane Society of Central Texas is trying to find homes for 60 dogs by 1 p.m. Sunday to free up space at the Waco Animal Shelter where 115 new animals have come in since May 1.

The shelter is full of big dogs, small dogs, old dogs, puppies … you name it! Most of the dogs participate in daily play groups so staff know they are dog friendly, and even those that may be particular about other animals are still family friendly. The large kennels are nearly full so the staff is trying especially to place dogs over 25 pounds in new homes.

The adoption process is simple. Bring in everyone from your household, including your kids and dogs, for a meet and greet, and a Pet Matchmaker will walk you through the kennels and match you and your family with a shelter dog who is just right for you. 

If you are not ready to adopt, consider fostering. When you foster an animal, you provide the home and the love while HSCTX continues to provide veterinary care. While the dog is in your home, you learn everything you can about the pet, and help staff to find the dog a forever home. Even if you can only foster for a week or two, that’s enough time to help an animal decompress from shelter life, which gives them a better chance at finding a forever home when they come back to the shelter. And if you are worried about falling in love and adopting your foster pet, don’t worry, staff call that a Foster Win.

HSCTX is open Mon 1-6pm, Tues-Fri 11am-6pm, Sat 10am-5pm. This Sunday only, HSCTX will be open 10am-1pm. Meet and greets end 45 minutes before close, but staff are committed to getting homes for all the animals so if they are busy, they will stay open!!!

The Humane Society of Central Texas is at 2032 Circle Road, Waco. Staff must accompany guests through the kennels, and COVID precautions are observed. Bring your own dogs and everyone who lives in your household to the meet and greet so your family can be matched with the perfect pet.

The Humane Society of Central Texas is an advocate for the animals at the City of Waco Animal Shelter. The Humane Society provides adoption, rescue, and foster opportunities, as well as community education regarding responsible pet ownership. The partnership between HSCTX and the City of Waco Animal Services, along with the support of the community, has resulted in a current average live-exit rate above 90%, giving the Waco Animal Shelter No-Kill status! Our goal is to save each and every healthy and treatable animal that comes into the shelter because we believe Every Waco Animal Deserves A Chance!

By Paula Rivadeneira is executive director of the Humane Society of Central Texas. She may be reached at 254-754-1454 or paular@hsctx.org.

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

MCC saves money by refunding bonds

By Lisa Elliott

The McLennan Community College Board of Trustees decided during its February 2021 meeting to take advantage of the low interest rate environment in both the taxable and tax-exempt bond markets and to refund several of the MCC’s outstanding bonds. The refunding transactions will save MCC and taxpayers a total of $2.6 million over the remaining life of the bonds.

The limited tax refunding bond transaction provided the majority of the savings. The College refunded $24.5 million in outstanding limited tax bonds. This refunding generated gross savings of $2.26 million, which has a net present value of $2 million. This savings directly impacts MCC’s property tax rate, which is comprised of two portions: a maintenance and operations rate, which helps operate MCC, and an interest and sinking fund rate, which provides revenue to service tax-backed debt.

The revenue-refunding bond transaction was a smaller refunding with $2.38 million. This refunding generated gross savings of $352,395, which has a net present value of $333,555. Revenue bond debt service is paid by MCC from a combination of resources — tuition and fees, auxiliary revenues, and interest income. Savings on revenue bond debt service allows resources to be directed to other programmatic priorities of the College.

MCC prides itself on being financially responsible, and with the guidance of our financial advisors at RBC Capital Markets, this decision shows a continued commitment by the Board of Trustees for the responsible use of financial resources.

For more information, please contact Dr. Stephen Benson, Vice President of Finance & Administration at MCC, at sbenson@mclennan.edu or 254-299-8679.

Lisa Elliott is director of marketing & communications for McLennan Community College.

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

Caritas program helps veterans access their earned benefits

By Charles Ray Harris

In support of the Caritas Veterans Case Management Program, I serve as the case manager. The program, funded by the Texas Veterans Commission Fund for Veterans Assistance, provides supportive services to low-income veterans and surviving spouses, living in McLennan, Bosque, Falls, Freestone, Limestone, and Hill counties. 

Being a veteran myself, I appreciate and I am honored to work for an organization that provides services to assist this special population. I served over 20 years as a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. The main role of an NCO is the welfare of the soldier and his or her family. 

At Caritas, I am doing the same thing I did in the Army, but now the soldier is a veteran. This is a very important program, and I am thrilled to be a part of helping and empowering veterans and their families. 

The Veterans Case Management Program takes a two-step approach, focusing on basic needs leading to long-term stability. In order for a person to thrive, basic needs must be met before they are able to build stability. 

Available resources include assistance with rent and mortgage, utilities, food, and other emergency services. In addition, the program helps clients gain long-term employment at a living wage. Employment services include pre-vocation training and testing, financial assistance for certification, licensing and educational materials, clothing for employment, and assistance for childcare and transportation costs.

As the case manager, I am here to ensure veterans secure the benefits rightfully earned in exchange for their service in our nation’s armed forces. To schedule an appointment, I can be reached at 254-753-4593 ext. 233, or by cell at 254-644-9391, or charris@caritas-waco.org

For more information on Caritas of Waco, please visit caritas-waco.org. 

First Sgt. Charles Ray Harris, Jr., USA, retired, was born and raised in Waco and graduated from Jefferson Moore High School. He served over 20 years in the U.S. Army before retiring. After the military, he graduated from Tarleton State University with a bachelor’s degree in business. He also graduated from McLennan Community College with an associate’s degrees in social work, youth counseling, and mental health counseling. He has been married for 35 years and has one daughter. 

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

It’s important to not become fatigued about opportunity gaps

By Hermann Pereira

Everyone is feeling the fatigue of all that we have been through this past year. In our fatigue, it is easy to overlook things, but I want to bring something to our attention as a community that is important for us not to get fatigued about. 

Every student graduating from high school deserves an opportunity to move on to their post-secondary plans of choice. In our community we have great higher education choices and growing industries that our students should have access to, but the data says otherwise. 

I would like to bring your attention to just the enrollment data, which shows the rate at which high school students enroll in higher education. The numbers from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center are staggering. It compares the data from the class of 2019 and the class of 2020, remember the class of 2020 is the one that graduated in the midst of the pandemic. 

Overall enrollment in higher education High Poverty Schools Low Poverty Schools
Class of 2019-1.5%-1.6%-1.4%
Class of 2020-6.8%-11.4% -2.9%

In Greater Waco, we have six larger school districts which total 35,000+ students. Three of the six districts are in that higher poverty range, and they have more than 20,000 students. This growing gap in higher education enrollment is a major opportunity gap, and it is only getting bigger. 

There are existing efforts that are looking to address this growing opportunity gap. I want to highlight two upcoming existing efforts:

  • The McLennan County College Access Network is hosting a Drive Thru Event 10 a.m.-2 p.m. April 24. The event will be for all high school seniors and their parents to get help with financial aid, college admissions, and enrollment. The event will be held at Communities in Schools, 1001 Washington Ave.. 
  • Prosper Waco and Waco Foundation will begin a comprehensive study on the college and career continuum in McLennan County. We hope to capture who is providing what services to which students and to what affect in our county. At the conclusion of the study we will share results openly with the community. 

Prosper Waco is committed to ensuring all students in McLennan County have equitable access to college and career resources. If you have any questions or want to discuss education in our community please reach out to me at hermann@prosperwaco.org.

Hermann Pereira is chief program officer of Prosper Waco.

Drinking Water Week: Water there when you need it

Drinking Water Week offers consumers an opportunity to recognize the hardworking people performing various roles ensuring tap water is “There When You Need It.” Drinking Water Week is May 2-8.

The City of Waco and partners throughout North America are observing Drinking Water Week by recognizing the vital role tap water plays in daily life, the infrastructure that is required to carry it to and from homes and businesses, and the important work of water professionals “behind the scenes.”

The City of Waco Water Utility Services Department’s staff of 150 water professionals is proud to serve the Waco community, ensuring the continuous delivery of safe, high quality drinking water to all customers.

Whether an engineer designing a capital project, an operator ensuring the safety and quality of drinking water, or a member of a pipe crew maintaining the infrastructure in our community, water professionals work around the clock to ensure tap water is there when you need it.

“The coronavirus pandemic continues to make evident the hard work performed by the people in the water sector,” said American Water Works Association CEO David LaFrance. “The work they are performing throughout the pandemic, often sacrificing time with their family, is nothing short of heroic. I am proud to be associated with them.”

“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been proud of our employees here at the City of Waco,” said City Manager, Bradley Ford. “Particularly during the recent winter storm, Water Utility Services staff did an incredible job, working day and night in extreme circumstances, to keep our water system functioning. That work will be remembered for years to come.”

To commemorate the week, water utilities, water organizations, government entities, environmental advocates, schools, and others throughout North America and beyond encourage consumers to learn more about the importance of water and water infrastructure, especially in times of crisis.

About Drinking Water Week

For several decades, AWWA and its members have celebrated Drinking Water Week, a unique opportunity for both water professionals and the communities they serve to join in recognizing the vital role water plays in daily lives. Free materials for download and additional information about Drinking Water Week are available on the Drinking Water Week webpage.

We all win when women win

By Dexter Hall

As we approach Mother’s Day, my mother Mrs. Mildred Y. Hall has weighed heavy on my heart. I lost my mother on Sept. 3, 2019, and not a day has gone by that something has not reminded me of her.

Mildred Y. Hall and her son, Dexter Hall

My mother was a fiercely independent woman who raised five kids and worked her entire life until her health failed. As a kid I knew she worked a lot and sometimes held two jobs. Because of her job(s) she wasn’t always able to make it to my school events. While it was disappointing, as an adult doing financial security work in our community, I have an even better understanding of “WHY.”

The pandemic has been a force to be reckoned with across numerous fronts. This beast has shined light on many disparities in our community, including those impacting women, as it did my mother.

I was deeply troubled when the January unemployment numbers showed 346,000 members of our American community had filed for unemployment. I became more troubled and saddened when I learned 80% or 246,000 of those who had filed were women. February-November 2020 statistics show 5.3 million women have lost their jobs compared to 4.6 million men. 

These numbers alone are startling by themselves but are compounded by gender/ethnicity pay gaps. 

According to a study by J.P. Morgan Chase on Racial Gaps in Financial Outcomes, “Black women (like my mother) face the greatest gap in take-home income and liquid assets compared to White men, but racial gaps are larger among men than women.”

Women of color and especially Black women have been disproportionately affected by this pandemic.

Working women have now lost more than three decades of labor force gains in less than a year, as reported in the new issue of Fortune. The ongoing employment crisis, which is closely aligned with a widespread caregiving crisis, has especially hurt the women of color who disproportionately work in restaurants, retail, education, health care, and other “essential” industries. These workers, who are often paid very low wages, rarely have the option of working remotely and trying to schedule their paid work around remote learning and other childcare responsibilities.

My mother would say she has known this to be true long before a pandemic.

Having less costs more – especially for those trying to invest in their own education. Black graduates with bachelor’s and associate’s degrees carry 13% and 26% more student debt than their White peers. They also get paid less, earning 27% and 14% less for the same degrees.

Thasunda Brown Duckett, CEO of Chase Consumer Banking at JPMorgan Chase, says we must move beyond the “ingrained perception that talking about money and race is taboo, and that financial hardship results simply from bad personal decisions. . . . It also requires moving beyond a culture with the prevailing ideology that success comes simply from individual responsibility.”

While my mother was not the CEO of a bank, she certainly managed what she had while working two jobs and raising a family like she was the leader of one. I salute my mother, Mrs. Mildred Y. Hall and the fight she instilled in me to fight for our community and ensure an inclusive economy for all.

When women win, we all win! Happy Mother’s Day.

Prosper Waco welcomes you to join us in the fight for an inclusive economy for women and everyone. Please contact me for opportunities to assist at Dexter@prosperwaco.org.

Dexter Hall is chief of staff and senior content specialist for financial security with Prosper Waco.

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

Caritas receives grant to provide nourishing food

Again in 2021, the Beaumont Foundation of America has granted Caritas of Waco $50,000 to purchase fresh produce and other nutritional food items for clients needing emergency food assistance. The grant has been given to Caritas every year since 2006 and has supported efforts of the organization to provide healthier food items to people in need.   

“Nourishing food is essential for families to function optimally,” said Alicia Jallah, Caritas co-executive director. “Caritas is committed to offering the highest level of nutritional food to the thousands of individuals that are struggling with food insecurity in our community. Beaumont Foundation is a strategic partner in the fight against hunger in our community. They continue to provide us with the necessary funds to purchase healthy food options for our pantry.”

In 2020 the food pantry distributed over 5.2 million pounds of food.

Caritas of Waco is a nonprofit that serves McLennan County and the surrounding area by providing individuals and families with urgent support and long-term solutions to poverty. In 2020, Caritas served over 40,680 families with emergency food assistance. For more information on Caritas of Waco or how you can support its community efforts, please visit www.caritas-waco.org or call 254-753-4593. 

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

Celebrate Community College Month with MCC

By Madison Schick 

The value of a college degree or workforce certificate has become nearly indisputable; its critical function within the national and local economy is further secured by the role of college degrees in society. 

College degrees enable graduates to achieve a status that may allude others, and this points to an innate worth in higher education. McLennan Community College recognizes Community College Month and its goals throughout the month of April to advocate and support community colleges and their current and prospective students nationwide. MCC invites all to join in the celebration of equitable education in Waco. 

In 2016 nearly one-third of community college attendees were first-generation college students, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The American Association of Community Colleges reports for the same year, “two out of every three students at community colleges work[ed] while enrolled, with 20.6% of mostly full-time students working full-time jobs.”  

In addition to demographic diversity, community colleges serve various populations of students, each with differing goals. MCC serves well over 1,000 high school students each year through Dual Credit courses – permitting students to receive college credit while keeping their academic and career goals forefront. Half of McLennan County high school valedictorians and salutatorians in 2020 graduated with an associate’s degree from MCC. 

A recent Inside Higher Ed article examined results from a survey produced by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Over half of people earning bachelor’s degrees between 2008 and 2017 were previously enrolled at a community college, and one-quarter had received an associate’s degree prior to their bachelor’s degree. 

Community colleges will continue to differ from four-year schools, partly due to the goals of the students they serve. Community colleges surpass the ability of four-year schools in supplying the local and national workforce with well-educated, certified, and trained workers. They do this in a shorter time frame while accommodating students’ availability for attending classes. 

Community colleges use their multipurpose role within the economy, society, and higher education to meet the needs of students with diverse goals and backgrounds. 

“You can go anywhere from here,” said MCC President Johnette McKown. “If you want to eventually graduate from Baylor, Texas Tech, Tarleton, Texas A&M, or anywhere, start here. If you want to be a health professional, first responder, or professional in any other field, start here.” 

Madison Schick is social media and communications specialist at McLennan Community
College. A literature enthusiast and graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio, Madison studied environmental science, English, and history, and still loves all things related to reading and writing.

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

Getting in our own way; racism affects everyone

By Jeremy Rhodes

I’m currently reading a book by Heather McGhee called The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How we can Prosper Together. Her book begins with an analogy that can serve to illustrate many of the ways we can get in our own way. 

By the middle of the 20th century, many towns in America had invested in public swimming pools that were free for the members of their communities. However, attendance at these pools was usually limited to whites only. As Black Americans began winning the integration of public spaces through the 1950s and 1960s, these communities were forced to integrate their public swimming pools.

Many of them, however, refused to integrate. Some of the cities sold their public pools to private organizations, which could charge high fees for swimming, effectively re-segregating the pools. Many more communities decided to abandon the pools altogether, filling them in with concrete. These folks decided that it was better to eliminate a public good than to share that public good with Black people. So, no one gets to swim. 

McGhee writes, “A once-public resource became a luxury amenity, and entire communities lost out on the benefits of public life and civic engagement once understood to be the key to making American democracy real.”

Heather McGhee’s analogy gives me a lot to think about. Many of us believe that the cost of racism is exclusively borne by people of color. However, as McGhee points out, racism creates an enormous cost for all of us, regardless of our race or ethnicity. 

We would do well to consider the massive impact of all forms of racism, whether overt or subtle. When any of us deny resources to an underprivileged few, we are all made smaller.

Jeremy Rhodes is director of research and community impact with Prosper Waco.

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.