The Show Must Go on for Family Abuse Center’s Only Annual Fundraiser

(press release)

When COVID-19 forced the cancellation of Family Abuse Center’s annual fundraising event, Dancing with the Waco Stars, two donors committed to match up to $40,000 of all donations given before December 1.

The fundraiser, which is live online as Donating with the Waco Stars, has already raised over $8,000 in donations for the Waco shelter.

“The annual fundraiser is crucial for Family Abuse Center because the donations are used to fund expenses that aren’t covered by grants,” Executive Director Kathy Reid said.  “Expenses like gas to drive survivors to medical appointments or work clothes for a survivor who is starting a new job.”

In 2018, 211 Texans were killed by their intimate partners.1 According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.2

Lisa and Larry Jaynes, the donors responsible for the match, said among other reasons, they support Family Abuse Center because it provides a desperately needed service to its community.

“The many programs offered [at Family Abuse Center] are available to hundreds of individuals in our area to help them start a new life without being exposed to the constant abuse of themselves and their children,” Lisa Jaynes said.

Join Family Abuse Center in the fight against domestic violence by donating today and doubling your impact at

To learn more about Donating With the Waco Stars, visit

For more information about Family Abuse Center, email or call 254-772-8999 for more information.

About Family Abuse Center – For 40 years, Family Abuse Center has worked to eliminate domestic violence in Central Texas by sheltering victims of domestic violence and by preventing abuse from occurring through intervention and education. If you or someone you know is at risk, please call Family Abuse Center’s 24-hour hotline at 800-283-8401.

Fruit of the month: Pumpkins

Happy fall, y’all! I hope everyone is enjoying the cooler weather as much as I am. 

The fruit I will feature in this blog is often mistaken as a vegetable, an all-time favorite the pumpkin. Pumpkins bring forth a bit of nostalgia, thinking of my late grandmother who would give us sun-toasted pumpkin seeds. I enjoy observing the anticipation and excitement of all things pumpkin spice.

Did you know eighty percent of our United States pumpkin supply is available in October? Let’s not forget our pumpkin patches, fall décor, children’s activities, and oversized sweaters. I look forward to all the new and creative ways individuals and communities will embrace the season while practicing social distancing. 

Select pumpkins that are firm and heavy. Look for those with a one to two-inch stem, those with small stems will decay faster. Avoid those with soft spots or blemishes. Pumpkins may last up to two months when stored in a cool, dark, and dry location.

Canned pumpkin is also an option. Pumpkins can also be purchased canned and are safe to consume past the expiration date so long as the can is free of dents, swelling, or rust. For decorative purposes, keep in mind lopsided pumpkins are not necessarily bad. 

Pumpkins are 90% water. They’re low in calories, fat free, cholesterol free, saturated fat free, sodium free, high in vitamin A, and a great source of vitamin K. 

Get the Facts!

Wash your hands as recommended by the CDC, and clean contact surfaces often. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture MyPlate provides recipes, tips, and resources to guide you in creating a healthy eating plan. Start simple, download the MyPlate App, an easy-to-use app that will help guide you and track your progress.

Enjoy the tasty recipes below:

Pumpkin Smoothie in a Cup

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Serving: 1 cup


2/3 cups low-fat vanilla yogurt or 1 six ounce container

¼ cup canned pumpkin

2 teaspoons brown sugar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 tea spoon nutmeg (optional)


Combine ingredients in a bowl or blender

Mix until smooth

Serve or refrigerate within 2 hours


Additional suggestions:

Add granola

Excess canned pumpkin can be frozen

Low-Fat Pumpkin Bread

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 Hour

Serving: 20 Slices


1 ½ cup of whole wheat flour

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon of baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

½ teaspoon of grown cloves

¼ teaspoon of ground ginger

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

4 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup applesauce

¾ cup packed brown sugar

¾ cup sugar


Preheat the oven 350 degrees

Lightly coat an 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf pan with cooking spray oil and set aside

Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves, ginger and nutmeg in a medium bowl (dry ingredients) 

Combine eggs, pumpkin, applesauce, brown sugar and sugar in a separate bowl and mix (wet ingredients)

Combine wet and dry ingredients. Careful not to over mix

Pour batter onto pan and spread into the corners

Bake for approximately 60 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean when inserted in the middle

Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes

Remove loaf from pan and slice

Wrap and freeze leftovers for up to one month


Paula Solano is a Master in Public Health student at Baylor University, a certified Community Health Worker, and is volunteering at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. A Waco native, she is passionate about serving her community, particularly the underserved and underrepresented. 

Due to the continued spread of COVID-19 and the challenges it poses to communities across Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and many others continue to practice public health recommendations. Whether we are communicating online or face-to-face know that program content will always be research-backed to help individuals navigate decisions for themselves and their families. For information on resources, ideas, and programs for yourself and family visit Texas A&M AgriLife’s HUB.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP. To learn more about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or to apply for benefits, visit


Food Hero (2020) Recipes. Retrieved from:

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension (2020) Vegetable Fact Sheet Guide. Retrieved from:

U.S. Department of Agriculture (2020) Pumpkins. Retrieved from:

University of Illinois Extension (2020) Pumpkins and More. Retrieved from:

Plenty of free COVID-19 testing available in October

Surge testing available at the following sites and times:

All tests are FREE. Pre-register or register on-site. All tests are the self-administered nasal swab taken from the lower nasal passage.
For any updates to location and dates, please check: COVIDWACO.COM

Pre-Register Here
All sites open 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Bring your voucher to you test appointment. If you cannot print, a voucher will be created for you at the site.

Oct. 9 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 10 
Waco Convention Center (walk-up) 100 Washington Ave. (enter from Franklin Avenue side and follow signs)
McLennan Community College 
(drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

October 11 
Waco Convention Center (walk-up) 100 Washington Ave. (enter from Franklin Avenue side and follow signs)
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 12 
Waco ISD Stadium (drive-through) 1401 S. New Road, Waco
Waco Convention Center (walk-up) 100 Washington Ave. (enter from Franklin Avenue side and follow signs)
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.
Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (walk-up) 915 LaSalle Ave.

Oct. 13 
Waco ISD Stadium (drive-through) 1401 S. New Road, Waco
Waco Convention Center (walk-up) 100 Washington Ave. (enter from Franklin Avenue side and follow signs)
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.
Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (walk-up) 915 LaSalle Ave.

Oct. 14 
Waco ISD Stadium (drive-through) 1401 S. New Road, Waco
Waco Convention Center (walk-up) 100 Washington Ave. (enter from Franklin Avenue side and follow signs)
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.
Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (walk-up) 915 LaSalle Ave.

Oct. 15 
Waco ISD Stadium (drive-through) 1401 S. New Road, Waco
Waco Convention Center (walk-up) 100 Washington Ave. (enter from Franklin Avenue side and follow signs)
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 16 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.
Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (walk-up) 915 LaSalle Ave.

Oct. 17 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.
Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (walk-up) 915 LaSalle Ave.

Oct. 18 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 19 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 20 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 21 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 22 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 23 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 24 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.
Remember, social distancing is our new normal:You are more likely to get COVID-19 from someone you know than a stranger.Stay home and avoid social gatherings, even with your family and close friends.If you have tested for COVID-19 self-isolate immediately until you receive the results. If it is negative, you may stop isolation. If it is positive, you should continue to isolate: At least 10 days from symptom onset AND72 hours of no fever without the use of fever-reducing medication ANDRespiratory symptoms are improving. Always wear a face covering/mask when you are in public and keep 6 feet apart from other people.

10 Waco organizations collaborate to promote free mental health services

City of Waco

Strategic Communications Workgroup  


Ten Waco organizations are partnering with Heart of Texas MHMR to  promote free, confidential mental health services available to all Central Texans. Mental health needs have risen with COVID-19, and these organizations want community members to know there is help available at no cost to the recipient.  

Heart of Texas MHMR is participating in the Texans Recovering Together Crisis Counseling Program that provides short-term interventions to help people impacted by COVID-19. The program is available to anyone impacted by COVID-19 and is designed to reduce stress and provide emotional support, as well as connect folks with other agencies that can help in the recovery process. All services are free, anonymous, confidential, and available by virtual visit.  

While many organizations are working together to promote a safe, healthy environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health can’t be overlooked. The uncertainty brought on by the virus coupled with job loss, financial burdens, education complexities, and health concerns has led to an  increase in stress, anxiety, and other mental health needs across the county. Texans Recovering Together  is here to help our community get through this crisis.  

The organizations participating in the campaign include McLennan Community College, United Way of Waco-McLennan County, Prosper Waco, Baylor University, Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, Waco Foundation, the City of Waco, and McLennan County.  

Each participating organization will promote a series of social media posts on specific days in an effort to  widely spread messaging about mental health assistance. The Communications Co-op, co-funded by the  City of Waco, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, and Waco Foundation, will provide grants to each organization for social media promotion of the mental health campaign. 

The Strategic Communications Workgroup is one of four committees established by Mayor Kyle Deaver in an effort to provide accurate information to all residents of Waco and McLennan County.

For more information, contact Natalie Kelinske, director of communications & donor services for Waco Foundation, at  or 254-754-3404.

New Act Locally Waco T-shirt shows off Animals of Waco

(Press Release) An orangutan, a duck, a mammoth and a bear — the 2020 Act Locally Waco T-shirt shows off the wild side of Waco! Designed by local artist Hanna Braud, the shirts are on sale now! Order yours today and proudly show the world you are “Wild about Waco!”

Here are some fun facts about the animals on the shirt:

Razak – Razak is the youngest member of Cameron Park Zoo’s group of Bornean orangutans. He was born January 12, 2017 in Waco, Texas. He shares the orangutan habitat with his parents, Mei and Kerajaan (KJ); his aunt, Kutai; and Mukah, the other adult male orangutan at Cameron Park Zoo. You can see a statue of Razak and his Aunt Kutai at the University Parks entrance to Cameron Park Zoo. The name “Razak” means “protector.”

Wise Elephant – The Bubble blowing elephant on the top of the bridge is our nod to “Wise Elephant” one of the sculptures in the Waco Sculpture zoo. The sculpture zoo is a collection of 28 animal-based artworks along the Brazos River trail between downtown Waco and the Pecan Bottoms entrance to Cameron Park Zoo.  (Find out more at the Creative Waco website.) Wise Elephant was created by artist Trevor O’Tool. It is a humorous take off on the famous Rodin sculpture “The Thinker.”  Wise Elephant is life-sized, so you can sit beside him and see how big you are compared to an elephant!

Waco Mammoth – The Waco Mammoth National Monument preserves the nation’s first and only discovery of a nursery herd of Columbian mammoths. Columbian mammoths were up to 14 feet tall and weighed as much as 20,000 pounds. More than twenty-four Columbian mammoths have been found at Waco Mammoth National Monument…and counting! The Waco mammoth fossils are organized by letters of the alphabet. Staff fondly refer to Mammoth “Q” as Quincy and Mammoth “W” as Wanda.

Baylor Bear – Baylor has had a live bear mascot since 1918. The first bear, Ted, was donated to Baylor by the 107th Engineers of the Army’s 32nd Division.  They were stationed at Camp MacArthur in Waco during WWI.  The bears live in a special bear habitat on Baylor campus which is currently licensed by the USDA as a Class C Zoo.  Since 1974, all of the bears have been named “Judge” in honor of Judge R.E.B. Baylor and Judge Abner McCAll who was president of Baylor from 1961 – 1981.  The current bears are Judge Joy and Judge Lady. They are named after the wives of two former Baylor presidents.  Judge Joy and Judge Lady are biological sisters and have lived at Baylor since they were cubs.

Ducks & Heron – The ducks and the blue heron represent some of the abundant wildlife, especially birds, in the Waco area.  The Great Blue Heron is a huge bird with a wingspan of 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 feet!  They are frequent visitors to the Brazos River and the Lake Waco Wetlands.  It’s also fun to see how many different kinds of ducks come to swim on the Brazos River.  Some you may see are the Black-bellied Whistling Duck, the Mallard, and the Pied-billed Grebe.

Candidate for City Council, District 4: Kelly Palmer

By Kelly Palmer

Affordable housing, economic development, and COVID-19 are three of the most pressing issues our District IV City Councilmember must prioritize. More than ever, we need trustworthy leaders who listen to their constituents’ needs and are well equipped to address the complex issues our city faces. 

Issue 1: Affordable Housing

The rising cost of housing in our community is one of the concerns I have heard repeatedly voiced by District IV residents. Since 2015, the cost of property taxes and housing in Waco has skyrocketed while wages have mostly stayed stagnate. Nearly half of our city’s residents are “housing burdened” and spend more than 30% of their monthly income on housing. As housing costs continue to surge, folks have to move further and further from the city’s core, where many of Waco’s highest paying jobs are located. Housing is an issue where we see poverty and race significantly intersect, in everything from disproportionate homeownership rates to redlining in communities of color. 

While there are several ways to address housing-related issues, I believe we will not see meaningful change enacted until housing is a priority in our city’s budget — which ultimately reflects the city’s values. In reviewing the city of Waco’s budget from the past three fiscal years, I was surprised to learn that housing and community development are consistently the least funded budget category. Year after year, housing has made up only 1% of the city’s annual budget. By allocating greater resources to housing, we can invest in solutions that will help alleviate this significant area of need in our community. If elected to the council, I would advocate for both for the development of mixed-income housing, which the data suggests can significantly benefit both communities and residents, in addition to pursuing policies that prevent gentrification and displacement of families from generational homes. 

Issue 2: Equitable Development

Waco has experienced a significant economic boom over the past several years, and yet, 44% of District IV residents make under $25,000 a year. While Waco’s growth has undoubtedly benefited some segments of our community, many of our neighbors have not shared in the prosperity or growth. As the city continues to expand in the coming years, the development we pursue must be sustainable and rooted in equity. 

Equitable Development is a framework that encompasses economic and community development goals, in which community members are actively engaged in the decision-making process. If elected, I would pursue economic development initiatives that seek to improve the quality of life for all Wacoans, focusing particularly on our residents experiencing financial insecurity. One way I will do this is by championing jobs that provide our residents with a living wage and supporting our local workforce development programs. Through my work with Communities In Schools, I have seen firsthand the impact that workforce development programming can have on someone’s life by equipping them with an employable skill set that opens the door to financial security.    

I look forward to reinforcing partnerships like this within our city, bringing together schools, non-profit organizations, and businesses to train our residents with the specialized skill sets needed to access high paying jobs available within the Greater Waco area.

Issue 3: COVID-19 Management & Recovery

COVID-19 continues to pose a real threat to the security and wellbeing of our community. While the virus has had broad sweeping adverse effects on all of our residents, it has significantly hit our communities of color. Our Black and Latinx populations have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, as evidenced by the positivity and morbidity rates among these demographic groups. Addressing racial disparity as it relates to the novel-coronavirus is an issue of critical importance. 

While there are no quick fixes or easy answers, our city council members must continue to provide thoughtful leadership throughout the duration of this crisis. Getting up-to-date, accurate information to our residents will continue to be an important area of focus. Finding ways to access hard-to-reach populations and populations at heightened risk of contracting the virus is also vital. We need city leaders who can strategically mitigate and respond to the wide range of effects COVID-19 has on our community. Even after a vaccine has been created and widely distributed, we will likely face the virus’s ramifications for months, if not years to come. As a city, we must be thoughtful as we develop plans for the long-term multi-tiered recovery we will need.

I commend Mayor Deaver, Judge Felton, and our extensive network of local healthcare providers for the decisive actions taken since March to flatten the curve and minimize the transmission of COVID-19 in our community. The road ahead of us is long, but we can weather the storms of this virus together. My experience working on the frontlines of a humanitarian aid crisis in 2015 and 2016 has equipped me with the skills needed to effectively prioritize competing values and lead during times of collective crisis.

2020 has been a challenging year, but there is hope for a brighter tomorrow. Our community is resilient and resourceful; we will get through this together. Collectively we can build a healthy future for all Wacoans – one where our neighbors have access to needed resources, our local economy is strong, and our community thrives. As a social worker and educator, I have the tools and expertise necessary to get us there. I have been on the frontlines, showing up for our community for years, and I’m ready to serve District IV residents as their next city councilwoman.

Biographical information for Kelly Palmer

Kelly Palmer is a licensed social worker and educator running for Waco City Council, District IV. She has called Waco home since 2013, when she moved to here to pursue her Masters in Social Work for Baylor University. Kelly is running for public office to further serve the community she loves by promoting greater equity and justice through public policy and city funding. Kelly’s campaign priorities are housing, COVID-19 leadership, and economic development with a focus on impacting our most financially insecure neighbors. When she’s not working, you can usually find Kelly volunteering with a local non-profit, on a walk with her husband, or nose deep in a book from the library.

Civic Insights: Understanding what areas of town are eligible for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)

(City council, school board, planning commission, county commissioners – these groups and several others represent us.  They do the day to day work of running our community. It is our responsibility to keep informed about their work so that we can help them represent us effectively.  “Civic Insights” by Jeffrey Vitarius is a regular feature of Act Locally Waco.  Its purpose is to help us understand decisions that shape our community so that we can participate effectively as informed, engaged residents of Waco. – ALW)   

By Jeffrey Vitarius

Two weeks ago we tackled breaking down a sentence about the City Council’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) public hearing. During the course of the City Council’s review of that item, Council Member Sabio raised a question regarding this map of CDBG eligible areas:

It was noted at the meeting that the borders included above come from the federal government and are based on census information. I thought it might be interesting to find out the how and why behind this map. Let’s jump right in.

The CDBG program was created by the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 (HCDA). Section 104(b)(3) of the act identifies the three “national objectives” of the program:

  • Benefiting low- and moderate-income persons,
  • Preventing or eliminating blight, or
  • Meeting an urgent need (this one is a little complicated)

CDBG funding has to go towards achieving one of these objectives. 

As noted in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Guide to National Objectives and Eligible Activities for CDBG Entitlement Communities benefiting low- and moderate income persons “is usually spoken of as the most important national objective of the CDBG program because of the related  requirement that the vast majority of CDBG expenditures must be for activities that meet this objective.” Translation, most programs are directed towards the benefiting low- and moderate-income persons objective. Also, as an FYI, entitlement communities are local governments that develop CDBG programs and receive funding to implement them (like the City of Waco). 

The question then becomes how does an “entitlement community” establish that a particular program or project is benefiting low- and moderate-income persons. HUD has outlined four different ways to meet this goal. A program can simply serve a limited clientele. If a particular program only or mostly provides services to low- and moderate-income folks, then it can easily be said to be fulfilling the national objective.

But what if a program or project doesn’t serve specific people? What is the “clientele” of a park? This is where the “area benefit” criteria comes into play. For this method the “entitlement community” identifies the service area of a program or project. If most of the residents (defined as 51%) in that service area have a low- or moderate-income the project can be considered to fulfill the national objective.

This possibility opens up a host of other questions. What income level makes a resident a low- or moderate-income? How do you determine a service area? What data can be used to determine if an area has low- or moderate-income residents? We’ll tackle each of these questions in more detail below. But first  let’s take one quick sidestep to the remaining two criteria. Housing development and job creation programs are unique enough to warrant their own criteria. We do not have the space this week to delve into those criteria, but it’s worthwhile to know they are out there. 

Back to our questions.

What income level makes a resident a low- or moderate-income?

Section 102 of the HCDA defines low- or moderate-income as 80% of the median income in the area. So first you determine an area’s “median family income.” This is the income you would find at the exact middle of Waco’s income distribution (for the math folks, we are looking at median here rather than mean or average). If you put all the family incomes from Waco in order it would be the one at the middle of your list. HUD identifies this as $65,700 in Waco. 80% of that number is approximately $52,550. Once you scale this for family size (larger families have a higher income threshold), you can determine if any given resident is low- or moderate-income. More details on these thresholds can be found at this useful tool put together by HUD. 

How do you determine a service area?

Service area is the kind of idea that makes a lot of sense in theory and is really hard to define in practice. If you think back to our park example, you can probably imagine what the area served by that park might be, but if you had to sit down and draw it out on a street grid, it would get difficult fast. How far away is walking distance? Do we consider residents who can drive? Do busy streets separate “service areas” from one another?

As a result of this complexity HUD has placed the responsibility of determining service areas on “entitlement communities.” The guide I noted above states that “HUD will generally accept a grantee’s determination unless the nature of the activity or its location raises serious doubts about the area

claimed by the grantee.” Basically, as long as the service area doesn’t “look fishy” HUD will likely accept it as reasonable.

The range of what is or isn’t reasonable is very broad here. Based on the information in the City’s consolidated and annual plans (see this previous post for more info on what those plans are) it looks like Waco focuses on “block groups.” These are the smallest geographic units used by the census. You can think of them as literal groups of city blocks. According to the census, block groups typically have between 3,000 and 6,000 residents. The map at the beginning of this post breaks down Waco into these “block groups.”

What data can be used to determine if an area has low- or moderate-income residents?

So thinking of a “typical” block group of 5,000 residents. We now know that it is considered a low- or-moderate income service area if 2,550 (51%) of those residents reside in families (the distinction between families and households is interesting, but complicated and out of our reach here) that make less than 80% of median income for Waco. So how do we actually know if that is the case?

There are two ways HUD has endorsed for a community to accomplish this. The first is to use HUD’s own data (the Low Moderate Income Survey Data [LMISD]). The second is to conduct their own survey of residents following certain HUD guidance and minimum standards. Waco uses HUD’s data. That data can be found using this GIS application provided by HUD. On that application you can draw out service areas or just take a look at block groups and see which ones clear the 51% threshold (HUD provides a useful video introduction to the application here).  

If we look at Waco’s consolidated five-year plan we find a section focused on geographic distribution (AP-50). In that section the city notes:

The City allocates infrastructure and facility improvements (not related to special needs populations [remember our limited clientele option]) within the CDBG Target Areas — those census block groups with 51% or more low to moderate-income residents. 

This brings us back to the map at the top. There we find all of the block groups in Waco where at least 51% of the residents make less than 80% of Waco’s median income. These areas are the focus of much of Waco’s CDBG funding. Over time, as income levels move and data changes, this map will change too.

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.

Prosper Waco takes on Homeless Management Information System

Press release – The City of Waco has contracted with Prosper Waco to administer the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), which is the federally funded program to track homeless populations and to understand their needs.

Prosper Waco will provide data management and a reporting system for participating providers serving Greater Waco’s homeless and low-income population with a variety of services.

“We are proud to begin this new responsibility to provide data coordination for the City of Waco,” said Suzii Paynter March, CEO of Prosper Waco. “We have experience and expertise in handling data but do not provide direct social services.”

“Prosper Waco is a data driven organization and is equipped to oversee the HMIS administrator position. We are confident in the work they have provided within the community and excited to partner with them to assist in data collection for the City of Waco, “said Raynesha Hudnell, Community Services Interim Director.

The Heart of Texas Homeless Coalition uses HMIS to coordinate data upon entry into services, track services provided to people who are experiencing housing instability. This includes people who are “couch surfing,” need rental assistance, live in a shelter, or have no shelter.

Prosper Waco’s Sammy Salazar, community data specialist and HMIS administrator, will manage the day-to-day operations of HMIS. Contact Salazar at for technical assistance related to HMIS.

One aspect of the Homeless Coalition’s work is the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count. The 2020 figures revealed 234 people in Waco with housing instability. Prosper Waco will support the PIT count by the coalition and its partners in January.

Homeless services through a variety of providers are funded by private donations, foundations, and the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development. The local continuum of care consists of six counties (Bosque, Hill, Falls, Freestone, Limestone, and McLennan).

Turn $5 into $10: New Voucher Program Launches to Boost Downtown Waco Business Sales

Press Release – A new voucher program, Biz Bucks, will launch at 8am on Thursday, October 1 as part of the “All in for Downtown Waco” campaign put in place to help support local Waco businesses. The Biz Bucks program aims to boost shopping in historic areas around Waco and was created to help local small businesses who are suffering from the economic impact of COVID-19.

Biz Bucks vouchers can be purchased for $5 each and redeemed for a $10 purchase at participating downtown, uptown, East Waco and La Salle destinations. There will be a total of 3,000 vouchers sold which will be redeemable through November 15.

Community partners including the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, City of Waco, Downtown Public Improvement District, City Center Waco, Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce, Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Startup Waco are working to promote the initiative through their marketing channels and will be encouraging qualifying businesses to participate in the program.

“The goal of the Biz Bucks voucher program is to provide a way for Wacoans to support local businesses in a meaningful and tangible manner,” said Kris Collins, senior vice president – economic development for the Greater Waco Chamber. “We are honored to partner with other local organizations and help support local businesses that are the heart of our community.” Biz Bucks vouchers can be purchased exclusively online at

Purchased vouchers will be mailed or can be picked up from the Greater Waco Chamber, located at 101 S. 3rd St. The cost difference between the $5 voucher and the $10 redemption value will be made up by underwriting partners. Participating businesses will receive reimbursement once collected Biz Bucks vouchers are submitted. Small, locally owned business merchants located in downtown, uptown, East Waco and La Salle areas are invited to participate by visiting to fill out the application.

“We knew that we wanted to create a program that would provide fast and tangible relief to local merchants that are suffering,” said Collins. “In these rapidly changing times we wanted to develop a way for locals to show support and investment in Waco merchants that benefitted both the merchant and locals. For locals, the ability to purchase a $10 voucher for the price of $5 gives them a cost-savings opportunity. And, for participating businesses the vouchers drive locals into their stores and provide revenues immediately for merchants.”

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to impact local businesses, this Biz Bucks voucher program is hoped to help business owners drive direct local spending to merchants as well as provide a multiplier effect from consumer spending. Increasing local consumer spending is a primary focus of the Biz Bucks voucher program. Not only will it help build a community among Waco locals and Downtown Waco merchants, but will also provide immediate positive effects and build long-term relationships. To guard against fraud, each voucher comes with its own unique serial number and security features. Up to five Biz Bucks vouchers can be redeemed per customer per visit.

“There has never been a better time than now to support Local Businesses and the All in for Downtown program adds even more reasons to visit our Downtown, Uptown, East Waco, and La Salle merchants. Buy your Biz Bucks and you will immediately provide financial support to participating merchants and as a bonus you will get a great discount too,” said Alfred Solano, president/CEO for the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

For questions about Biz Bucks voucher program, visit or email

Waco Culture Guide shines spotlight on Waco’s cultural wealth

By Cuevas Peacock (First published by the Baylor University Office of External Affairs)

The Waco Culture Guide highlights the districts, affinity groups, businesses, history, and more of Waco’s communities of color. The vastness of Waco’s Cultural Wealth is often missed by those new to the city. This is especially true for the faculty, staff, and students of color who make Waco home during their time at Baylor. With the Waco Culture Guide, we hope to provide a snapshot of the diversity present throughout Waco to the Baylor community and all who view it. By shining light on the opportunities to engage in Waco’s affinity groups geared towards growing leaders of color, we hope to support the pipeline of diverse leadership within our city for generations to come. By listing the churches and restaurants of color, we hope to aid you in your attempt to be both physically and spiritually fed in an inclusive setting. By telling the stories of our city’s cultural landmarks, we hope to connect you to our past pillars, strengthening your foundation for the positive future you will create.

The Cultural Wealth of Waco is strong, thriving, and has been a pleasure to highlight through the Waco Cultural Guide. Compiling the resource was a fun, collaborative process where we collected information about our community from a wide variety of listed individuals and organizations into a shared space for all to experience. Additionally, we reached out to several longtime Wacoans for what we called a tone check, ensuring that the content was both culturally appropriate and as exhaustive as possible. However, it is a process that is incomplete. There are still stories that have gone uncaptured, cultural landmarks that have gone unhighlighted, and people that have gone unrecognized. Through the publication’s release, we are both elated on what we included and reminded of what we missed. Knowing of the many things we failed to capture, we encourage viewers of the culture guide to be intentional in building a connection with Waco’s communities of color to truly experience the city’s culture.

To capture the fullness of Waco’s Cultural Wealth, we must all commit to engaging every part of our city or risk missing the multitude of contributions made by our communities of color, that make Waco great. The Waco Culture Guide is one of many attempts to do this work. We welcome all thoughts and additions to enhance the Waco Culture Guide so that it is more representative of the Cultural Wealth present in our community, and ask that any inquiries be sent to The Waco Culture Guide can be viewed virtually at, where we also encourage you to explore the page to learn more about the work happening within Baylor’s Solid Gold Neighbor initiative.

Cuevas Peacock is a community builder with dreams of becoming a poet, for he was once told that they are life’s last true teachers. Hailing from Port Arthur Texas, the only place where oil and water mixes, Cuevas serves as the Assistant Director of Community Relations-Cultural Wealth at Baylor University. Through this role he is able to serve and support the university’s Solid Gold Neighbor Initiative which seeks to further the impact of the university in Waco through various community engagement efforts.

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.