CWJC: Staying In and Stepping Up

This is part 1 of a 4-part series on The Christian Women’s Job Corps of McLennan County. For all of the posts in this series, click here: CWJC. — ALW

By Lydia Tate

“I want to show my son school doesn’t have to be scary.”

“I have the confidence to dream again.”

“I found my calling.”

“CWJC gave me the skills and the foundation I needed to actually live.”

As I read these words just over 10 months ago on a local charity’s website, my pulse quickened, and I got goosebumps. I read on to find that CWJC not only impacts the Waco area – but chapters of this organization impact women around the world. More goosebumps. Nurturing women, transforming lives…Equip, Encourage, Empower…some of their key slogans and more great reasons to align with CWJC Waco. I sent my resume to the Board of Directors, I prayed and asked God to equip me.

Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC) of McLennan County is a dynamic organization empowering the lives of women over the age of 18 in our area. The women who seek CWJC out are hungry for change, transformation, and accountability to meet their goals. They are often scared too. With the help of our steady volunteers, women receive one-on-one mentoring, case management, tutoring, and training. Our classes include money management, computer skills, job retention, resume building, interview skills, communication, Boundaries, GED prep, Bible study, and personal development topics. With a holistic, goal-oriented, positive approach, women graduate from CWJC’s programs feeling empowered and confident. And they’ve done this since 2003 for hundreds of women with the help of thousands of volunteers.

Like I said before: goosebumps.

Becoming a part of CWJC’s mission was like diving into a beautiful lagoon. It was easy to see why so many lives were being changed and why I got “all the feels” reading testimonial after testimonial. Then as I learned more – I saw how deeply invested in the community CWJC was and is becoming. I believe deeply in what I’m seeing modeled by CWJC – partnership is powerful. From our community partners to our volunteers, our donors to our interns – partnership is powerful.

CWJC Waco is on a partnership journey right now: normally we would be preparing for our annual dinner and silent auction on Sept. 22 called Baskets of Hope – a celebration of CWJC’s impact to be sure. With COVID coming to town, we knew going into the summer that this event would be compromised.

Staying In and Stepping Up” was the necessary choice CWJC made this year. Our grand celebration of the great work CWJC does has had to take a pandemic shift to This year we traded the party for “the ask.” This year we are asking for GED scholarships so 100 women can get their GED in the year to come. This year we are asking for laptop fund donations to help us provide for technology needs in light of our enhanced need for digital instruction in the pandemic. This year we are asking for monthly donations that can be matched by our underwriter, TFNB – Your Bank For Life. And this year, instead of tables and baskets – we ask for your generous sponsorships that provide Joy, Hope, Faith, and Love to the women of CWJC. Join CWJC in the mission of empowering lives by Staying In and Stepping Up at or call 254-757-0416 for more information.

Lydia Tate has happily called Waco home since 2011, after spending most of her life in the Houston area. During her time as an undergrad at Houston Baptist University, Lydia found a passion and calling for the work of women’s ministry. The joy of bringing women together to support each other became a career in nonprofit work at Sigma Phi Lambda as their first national Executive Director. Lydia is inspired by the great work that CWJC does in the community. She would love to share conversation with you over a warm beverage and chat about the mission of CWJC and how you can be a part of its vision. Lydia can also be found singing, playing piano, playing board games, and serving at her church, Calvary Baptist. She also enjoys life with her husband, David, their three sons, and their amazing dog, Cami.

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.

COVID-19 vs. The Flu

By Kayla Gilchrist

Oftentimes, many people confuse COVID-19 and its risks with influenza (flu), believing they are relatively the same.

“It’s not that serious; it’s just like the flu.”

“Why can’t they find a seasonal vaccine for coronavirus like they did for the flu?”

“I’ve had the flu before so I’m pretty sure I can handle COVID-19.”

Although both COVID-19 and the flu share similar characteristics, such as both being contagious respiratory illnesses, they are caused by separate viruses which bring about some vital differences.

Coronaviruses are found in both humans and animals causing mild to moderate respiratory issues. COVID-19 is caused by a completely new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, which causes a more severe illness. The flu is caused by influenza viruses — completely different strands of viruses than coronaviruses.

From: Waco Family Health Center

Due to some of the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 being similar, it can be difficult to tell the difference without testing to confirm a proper diagnosis. Because COVID-19 comes from an entirely new strand of virus (SARS-CoV-2), we are learning more and more everyday.

Given the best and most updated information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, below are some key differences and similarities between COVID-19 and influenza.


1. Common symptoms shared by both COVID-19 and the flu which range from asymptomatic (no symptoms) to severe are:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

2. For both the flu and COVID-19, one or more days can pass before an infected person starts to experience signs of illness or symptoms.

3. It’s possible to spread both viruses up to 24 hours before showing any symptoms.

4. Both can spread between people within about 6 feet or from person-to-person contact through droplets made when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can reach the mouth, nose, or be inhaled into the lungs of someone nearby an infected person. Both viruses can also spread through physical touch (e.g. shaking hands) or by people touching infected surfaces then touching their face.

5. Both COVID-19 and flu pose the highest risk to:

  • Older adults
  • People with certain underlying medical conditions
  • Pregnant women

6. Both COVID-19 and flu can cause these complications:

  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory failure
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (i.e. fluid in lungs)
  • Sepsis
  • Cardiac injury (e.g. heart attacks and stroke)
  • Multiple-organ failure (respiratory failure, kidney failure, shock)
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions (involving the lungs, heart, nervous system or diabetes)
  • Inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissues
  • Secondary bacterial infections (i.e. infections that occur in people who have already been infected with flu or COVID-19)

7. Anyone with a high-risk of complications and/or who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 or flu should receive proper medical care.

8. Any and all vaccinations for COVID-19 and flu must be approved or authorized for emergency use (EUA) by the FDA.


1. If you have COVID-19, it could take longer to develop symptoms than if you have the flu — up to 14 days after infection. A person with the flu usually develops signs and symptoms anywhere from one to four days after infection. Unlike the flu, with COVID-19 you may also experience a change in or loss of taste or smell as part of your symptoms.

2. If you have COVID-19, you might be contagious longer than if you have the flu. Most people with the flu are contagious up to 7 days while those with COVID-19 can remain contagious up to 10 days.

3. COVID-19 is believed to be more contagious. It’s been observed to spread quicker and more easily to a wider range of people than the flu.

4. Children are more at risk for complications from the flu than from COVID-19, however the CDC states that “both infants and children with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for both flu and COVID-19.”

5. School-aged children pose a higher risk of a rare but severe complication of COVID-19 called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MISC).

6. Those with the flu will most likely recover in less than two weeks unless they develop complications, whereas recovering from COVID-19 could take up to two weeks and even longer should complications develop.

7. The flu has FDA-approved influenza antiviral drugs to treat it and multiple vaccines produced annually for prevention. Studies, including a study on an antiviral agent called Remdesivir, which is available under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), are still in progress on how to prevent and treat COVID-19. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) developed a regularly updated guide on treatment of COVID-19 here

Here are resources to use for what to do if you are sick with COVID-19 or the flu and how to prevent them:


Kayla Gilchrist is an adventure-seeking, fun-loving, Christ-oriented, twenty-something with an extensive background in media and a knack for writing. She received her bachelor’s in communications with a minor in theatre arts from Prairie View A&M University. When she isn’t writing or managing social media accounts, Kayla enjoys acting, directing short films, delicious food, poetry, swimming, novels, and spending time with family and friends. She happily just joined the City of Waco team and is excited to use her skills as a helpful resource during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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.

How to Help when there is a Hurricane

By Craig Nash

A Hurricane Season Public Service Announcement. (Can also be used for tornado season, flood season, earthquake season, etc.): The best way to help during a disaster is to send money directly to an organization that is already doing work in the area affected by the disaster.

Don’t collect bottles of water to send to them. They know how much water they need better than we do and already have mechanisms in place for purchasing and distributing it. They just need money to buy the water.

Don’t collect food to send to them. They know who needs the food because they are there. They know what foods are appropriate. They know what types of food they are low on and what types of food they have too much of. Sending them unsolicited food complicates their work. They need money to buy the food.

They need the flexibility to spend the money on

  • Diapers.
  • Formula.
  • Hardhats.
  • Chainsaws.
  • Pet Food.
  • Assorted Clothes.

Purchasing or collecting these items to send makes us feel a lot better than sending money to a trusted organization.  It makes us feel like we are actually doing something. But even though it feels better, it is far less helpful. Whether it is the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Texas Baptist Men, or a Feeding America Food Bank on the coast (for example South East Texas Food Bank), or a local church in a coastal town, there are organizations that know the needs and work day in and day out every day to hone and improve the processes for providing relief during a disaster. They can do a lot more with accumulated money than they can with accumulated bags of stuff. What they need is money.

Craig Nash is regional manager for child hunger outreach at Baylor’s Texas Hunger Initiative. He enjoys talking and writing about Waco, country music, and faith. He blogs at

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.

Overdose Awareness Saves Lives – Overdose Awareness Day, August 31

By Becca Muncy

International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event that takes place on August 31 each year and aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death.

This year’s International Overdose Awareness Day in Waco will be hosted by the VASA (Voices Against Substance Abuse) Community Coalition, a program of VOICE (Viable Options in Community Endeavors), a nonprofit that teaches healthy living skills, including avoiding substance abuse. The event includes:

  • Virtual overdose training from Baylor University’s Beauchamp Addiction Recovery Center (one session in the morning form 10-11:45 and one in the afternoon from 3-4:45)
  • Food and refreshments from MHMR Substance Abuse Services from 1:00-6:00 PM at 2220 Austin Ave.
  • NARCAN overdose reversal kits provided by Central Texas Harm Reduction, available at 2220 Austin Ave.
  • T-shirts provided by Texas Harm Reduction Alliance, also available at 2220 Austin Ave.
  • Referrals for free telehealth family counseling sessions for families affected by addiction

In addition to the trainings and activities listed above, the I-35 Interstate bridge near McLane stadium will also be lit purple in remembrance of those who have died or been injured by overdose.

In the United States, 67,367 overdose deaths occurred in 2018 (Center for Disease Control) and 70,980 occurred in 2019 (American Hospital Association). And with the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of drug related deaths have risen by 18%, as people struggle with isolation and those who are in addiction recovery programs are cut off from their support systems (NPR). Now, more than ever, raising awareness of overdose, recognizing the signs of overdose, learning how to prevent or reverse overdose, and grieving with the loved ones of overdose victims is vital.

The main goal of International Overdose Awareness Day is to bring awareness and education to the community. Jessica Wheeler-Macias, Community Coalition Coordinator at VOICE, said it’s important for everyone to know the basics of overdose prevention and reversal, and that breaking down the stigma around discussions of overdose is an important step in spreading that knowledge. Breaking down the stigma includes breaking down the stereotypes of those affected by addiction or overdose. Wheeler-Macias said she wishes everyone knew that the issue of overdose doesn’t discriminate, and that there is no one type of person who will become a victim of overdose, as victims come from all walks of life. “It can be anyone,” Wheeler-Macias said, adding that family members didn’t create the disease of addiction that led to overdose. 

Lily Ettinger, Assistant Director of Wellness of Recovery Services at the Beauchamp Addiction Recovery Center, stressed the importance of widespread education as well, saying, “Most people aren’t overdosing in professional settings… it’s in their homes and communities, so it’s important for everyone, not just first responders, to be empowered in knowing how to respond.” She also said something she wished more people knew about overdose prevention is that overdosing often isn’t as extreme as it’s shown in the media and that overdose deaths aren’t always instantaneous. She pointed specifically to opioid overdose, which can happen over the course of several hours, where “there is time available to save someone’s life.”

Ettinger has also seen the effect overdose education and overdose prevention has on overdose survivors, saying, “Their lives today aren’t the same as they were back then, but that’s because they were gifted the chance to survive.”

Wheeler-Macias said she hopes this event will start new conversations about overdose and overdose prevention. She hopes with the training and information provided during the event, people will be able to better identify the signs and signals of overdose and not be afraid to address it when they see it. She said the biggest takeaway she hopes people will have is the simple fact that overdose is a “completely preventable death” and that everyone has the opportunity to save a life with the appropriate training, and that the Waco community has the opportunity to raise “everyday heroes.” And in the end, those everyday heroes, Wheeler-Macias said, “Are what make the world go around… people helping people.”

For those who find themselves hungry to learn and do more after August 31, Ettinger said Waco has “a wealth of resources” including those participating in this event and beyond, like the Central Texas Harm Reduction, Cenikor, The VASA Coalition, the Poison Control Center, Oxford Houses, and the Beauchamp Addiction Recovery Center.

Sign ups for the Beauchamp Addiction Recovery Center’s overdose prevention training sessions are available at and more information about International Overdose Awareness Day can be found on the VASA Community Coalition Facebook page.

Becca Muncy is an Act Locally intern from Dallas. She is studying professional writing at Baylor University and is completing her senior year.

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.

Meeting Insights: Plan Commission – 08/25/20

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 City of Waco Plan Commission meets three times each month. They hold work sessions on the 3rd Wednesday of each month at noon and the 4th Tuesday of each month at 6:00 pm, that is where a lot of the explanation and discussion happens.  They hold one business session each month on the 4th Tuesday at 7:00 pm, that is when the commission takes action (votes) and where the public can provide comments.  Due to COVID-19, attendance at the business session is virtual through the Waco City Cable Channel (WCCC.TV/live) with public comments sent in or scheduled ahead of time. Today we will be highlighting Zoning Application Agenda item 6…a short-term rental special permit.

Meeting Basics 

  • Work Session – 6:00 pm / Business Session – 7:00pm
  • To watch the live stream click here (City of Waco Cable Channel,
  • For the full agenda click here
  • For the agenda item details with the documents pertinent to the meeting click here
  • Details on how to provide public comment are listed in the agenda

The Language of Short-Term Rentals

Zoning Applications Item 6 – Z-20-55 – Enrique and Laura Najera – 3601 Orchard Lane – Special Permit for a Short Term Rental Type II in an R-1B District. 

Let’s start with some history. In 2016, the “tourism boom” generated by Magnolia Market at the Silos (a project at least partially funded by the TIF) met with the expansion of online short-term rental services like Airbnb and VRBO to create a unique boomlet of “vacation rentals” in Waco. At the time, there was a permitting process around these kinds of rentals (identifying them as either “temporary residential rental units” or “bed-and-breakfast homestays”). The city began actively pursuing units lacking a permit in September of 2016, and there were a number of controversies and disputes around these permits in late 2016 and early 2017.

As a result, a task force was called together to review the existing permitting process and propose changes to streamline the process and address neighborhood concerns. The resulting ordinance was passed by city council in July of 2017. Earlier this year, changes to the ordinance (mostly focused on higher density areas) were approved by council

The process around short-term rentals can be a bit complicated so this may take a few meeting insights to tackle. For today, we’ll focus on breaking down the agenda item as it is listed and understanding what this tells us about the permit up for discussion and review.

“Enrique and Laura Najera – 3601 Orchard Lane” – this portion of the item identifies who is seeking the special permit and the address that the permit would apply to. Pretty straight forward to start.

“Special Permit” – permits are the way the city manages certain kinds of activity within its boundaries (here is a list from the city’s website). These activities range from community gardens and farmer’s markets to short-term rentals.  The activity is not allowed unless one has gone through the process of obtaining a permit. Each permit has its own process and different permits require different approvals. Short-term rental permits require a City Council vote to be granted.    

“for a Short-Term Rental” – this is the kind of permit pursued. In case you were wondering, short-term renting is defined as renting for less than thirty consecutive days. 

“Type II” – this is the kind of short-term rental permit pursued. This is where things get complicated. The ordinance passed back in 2017 created five different categories of “short-term rental permits.” In a basic sense they can be understood based on four conditions:

  • Is there “onsite” management? – meaning is there a property owner or representative of the property owner at the location when it is being rented
  • Are multiple groups allowed? – can the location be rented out to different groups of people at the same time
  • Is the location part of a multi-family property? – is the location located on a property with three or more residential units (think apartment or condo complexes as opposed to stand-alone houses)
  • How many guest rooms are permitted? – this identifies what kind of bed and breakfast the location would be considered

The table below shows how these four conditions create the five categories.

Category“Onsite” management?Multiple Groups?Part of multi-family property?Guest Rooms Permitted
Bed and Breakfast Homestay Establishment (BBHE)YesYesNoNo more than 5
Bed and Breakfast Inn (B&B Inn)YesYesNoNo more than 15
Short Term Rental Type I (STR Type I)YesNoNoNot applicable
Short Term Rental Type II (STR Type II)NoNoNoNot applicable
Short Term Rental Type III (STR Type III)NoNoYesNot applicable

Looking through these conditions you can see why they were considered when creating the different categories. It probably matters to neighbors whether there is someone there to keep an eye on renters and if the location is going to be rented out to multiple groups. 

Each category has different restrictions and limits (a good topic for another time). The category under consideration here is STR Type II meaning there may not be onsite supervision, there will not be multiple groups allowed, and the location is not a multi-family property.

“in an R-1B District” – this indicates the zoning of the property being considered for the permit. Zoning is its own huge complicated topic, but in a basic sense zoning indicates what kinds of buildings and uses can occur in a particular area. In this case R-1B zoning is generally meant for stand-alone homes with moderate density. A good deal of this zoning can be found in North and West Waco. 

So putting all this together – Enrique and Laura Najera are seeking a permit for 3601 Orchard Lane that would allow them to rent that location out for less than thirty days to one group of people without onsite supervision in a part of town where stand-alone homes of moderate density are the norm. 

More on short-term rentals

As I noted earlier, this is big topic so I wanted to make sure and note some resources I have come across in taking a look at this:

Other Interesting (to me) Items from the Agenda

  • There is another STR Type II in an R-1B District permit up this week at 2701 Herring Avenue. What makes this one interesting is that there is already a permit in place for that location, but permits cannot be transferred from one owner to another. So it is back at plan commission for review under a new potential owner
  • There are three rezones up for this week’s meeting, one from R-2 to O-3, one from R-1B (the one we touched on above) to R-2, and one from M-2 to O-2. I am hoping over time we can work our way through the different zones and what they mean for Wacoans 

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.