MCC Adult Education and Literacy: Free classes to help adults develop job skills

By Olivia Evans

More and more jobs are requiring a technical certificate or a college degree. To meet the demands for a more skilled workforce, McLennan Community College offers a variety of classes and programs to help adults in the Waco community develop skills to match the jobs available in the area. These free classes served over 900 adult students in the 2019-20 academic year. MCC’s Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) program offers various pathways and classes including:

  • High School Equivalency (HSE) Preparation Classes (formerly GED) improve basic skills in preparation for the High School Equivalency Test.
  • English as a Second Language (ESL) Classes equip English language learners with the skills needed to advance in their careers and participate fully in their communities.
  • Transition Classes help students improve their workplace and/or college preparedness skills.
  • Career Pathway Classes provide college and workplace readiness in an in-demand career field.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the AEL program has continued its commitment to help the Waco community achieve their educational and career goals by making swift changes to adjust to the new circumstances. “Within three weeks, our small staff completely switched to remote classes using the Zoom platform,” said AEL Instructor Margie De Laurell.

Currently, all 30 classes offered are held virtually. Despite these unprecedented times, the AEL staff is dedicated to ensuring that individuals in Waco, who are looking to advance themselves in their careers and education, are able to do so. Student success includes adjustments and additional learning not just from students but from instructors as well. “English-language learners and many of our instructors learned how to use their devices like never before! Digital literacy has always been part of the curriculum, but thanks to the pandemic, we all got a crash course,” said De Laurell.

AEL classes are free and open to anyone over the age of 18. There is no cost to community members other than time and dedication. All of the AEL students are extremely hardworking and exemplify the work ethic and positive mental outlook that is required to succeed under very challenging circumstances, including a global pandemic.

“As instructors, we are constantly inspired and motivated by our learners’ perseverance, courage, and resourcefulness,” said De Laurell.

For more information about registration AEL programs, call (254) 299-8777 or visit www.mclennan.edu/adult-education-programs/.


Olivia Evans is an intern in McLennan Community College’s Marketing and Communications office. She is a senior at Baylor University studying Public Relations and Corporate Communications. Olivia is a Houston, Texas native and plans to work in sports and entertainment digital marketing.

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.

Masks make voting safer

By Jack Hill

I recently completed poll working training in anticipation of working Early Voting and Election Day sites. I was shocked to learn that, although Waco has mask requirements in place for all restaurants and bars, masks will not be required for anyone who votes, neither during Early Voting nor on November 3rd. Rather, signs will be posted outside voting sites stating only that “masks are recommended.”

Gosh, I wanted to help out, but it is too risky to do so given the lack of safeguards for poll workers in Texas. According to the CDC, three factors especially facilitate the spread of Covid-19: being in

  • crowds,
  • enclosed spaces with others with limited ventilation and,
  • an enclosed space with persons who are not wearing masks.

Evidence indicates that Covid-19 is primarily spread by aerosols—microscopic particles produced when we cough, talk loudly, yell or sneeze. Aerosols may remain in the air long after persons who emitted them have left the vicinity. They may also travel well beyond six feet.

To work in any enclosed space, virtually non-stop for 5-12+ hours, for the 18 consecutive days of Early Voting —in which individuals are permitted to come and go without wearing masks—is not only unnecessary from a public health standpoint, it is like playing Russian roulette—you may not get the bullet, but then again, you may.

Several states, such as Colorado, have state-wide mask mandates in place. Texas is not one of them

The nonpartisan organization, Mi Familia Vota, together with the Texas NAACP, have filed a lawsuit to protest the state of Texas’ decision to tolerate voters who refuse to wear a mask on Election Day. But even in states, like New York, which also do not require masks, it is recommended that each polling site have an isolated area where poll workers in special protective gear can assist voters who are unwilling to wear a mask.

This is a state-level decision. Come on fellow Texans, call Governor Abbott (512- 463-2000). We can do at least as well as New York!


Jack A. Hill is a political activist and Emeritus Professor of Religion and Social Ethics at TCU, where he taught for the past two decades. Prior to coming to TX, he resided in the Caribbean, the Fiji Islands and Southern Africa for 15 years of an international teaching career. He was the first U.S. born Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Partner in Mission to be ordained by a church overseas—the Jamaican Disciples of Christ (April 8, 1980). He has written eight books, including Ethics in the Global Village: Moral Insights for the Post 9-11 U.S.A. and I-Sight: The World of Rastafari. He was a Fulbright Scholar (Distinguished Chair) in Scotland and served as President of the American Academy of Religion in the Southwest. He has two daughters and six grand-children. Dr. Hill resides in Waco with his wife, Katherine Logue.

Caritas offers numerous services to the community. Do you know them all?

By Alicia Jallah

These are challenging times we are currently in. There have been significant changes that we all have had to make to our lifestyles in order to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with these changes many in our community are still struggling to meet basic needs such as housing, food and utilities because of unemployment, underemployment and/or trying to catch up on bills that accrued during the shelter-in-place order.

At Caritas we are grateful that we are able to stand in the gap and help those who are having to make difficult decisions during this season.

Do you need assistance or know someone who does? Here is how we can help.

Veterans Case Management

  • Veterans receive specialized assistance through a grant provided by the Texas Veterans Commission. Our case manager Mr. Harris, assists with financial needs such as housing, utilities and childcare. He can be reached at 254-753-4593 ext. 233 or charris@caritas-waco.org.

COVID Case Management

  • Those that have been personally affected by COVID due to layoffs, diagnosis, etc. can receive financial assistance funded by the COVID-19 Community Response Fund created by the Waco Foundation and United Way of Waco-McLennan County. To receive more information about qualifications you can call Ms. Ramon at 254-753-4593 ext. 226 or jramon@caritas-waco.org.

“I lost my job due to Covid-19, I was in panic mode and unemployment was a mess. I applied and it took months before I even heard from someone. I am a single mom with two kids, it was really rough. I called Caritas and was connected with a Caritas case manager that day and she answered all of my questions immediately. Caritas was able to pay my utility and mortgage bills. It gives me hope to have an organization like Caritas in our community.”  — Sabrina, Caritas Client

Utility Assistance

  • When funds are available we are able to assist with utilities call the main line at 254-753-4593, to hear more information about qualifications and current assistance.

Food

  • Our drive-thru food distribution occurs Monday- Friday from 8:30-11:00 and 1:00-2:00 (weather permitting). The drive-thru line is on the front side of the building facing Mary street and wraps around 15th street. The food will only be loaded into the trunk. Please, make sure that trunks are empty before getting in line. Households can come twice a month and will be asked for a photo id.

Employment Case Management

  • We work directly with employees to find and maintain employment. Our case manager, Ms. Tyler can help employees with financial assistance for transportation, housing and child-care. She can be reached at 254-753-4593 ext. 234 or ctyler@caritas-waco.org.

Hidden Treasures  

  • Our Hidden Treasures thrift stores offer low cost options for our community. They carry household essentials, clothing, furniture and more. Our stores are located at 3912 Bosque Blvd and 3016 Bellmead Dr and are open Monday-Friday, 12:00-6:00 and Saturday, 10:00-6:00.

SNAP

  • We offer enrollment assistance for state and federal programs. Clients are individually guided through the application process online or with paper applications.  Ms. Morales can be reached at 254-753-4593 ext. 204.

Those who would like to join us in the fight against poverty and food insecurity can do so in various ways. Join us by volunteering your time in the distribution line by loading the food into the trunks of our clients. We need a lot of food to meet the needs; individuals, business and organizations can host food drives for us. Our common needs are pop-top cans of soup and proteins, grains such as noodles and oats and kid-friendly items like applesauce, mac-n-cheese and granola bars. Those who would like to be financial supporters can do so on our website caritas-waco.org  or mail checks to 300 S. 15TH St. Waco, Tx 76701.

We could not do this without the continued support of our community and donors. Even during these challenging times, we have seen the best of humanity come together to support those who have been affected the most.

We hope that you and your family stay safe and well!


After earning her Masters of Arts from Denver Seminary, Alicia Jallah, entered the non-profit world to act on her calling of providing dignity and respect to those struggling in poverty. She currently has the privilege of serving as Co-Executive Director at Caritas of Waco. When she is not working you can find her in the glorious outdoors with her husband and son.

he 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.

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 FamilyAbuseCenter.org/Donate.

To learn more about Donating With the Waco Stars, visit https://www.familyabusecenter.org/dwtws2020/.

For more information about Family Abuse Center, email Info@FamilyAbuseCenter.org 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

Ingredients:

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)

Instructions:

Combine ingredients in a bowl or blender

Mix until smooth

Serve or refrigerate within 2 hours

Enjoy!

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Enjoy!

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 www.yourtexasbenefits.com

References:

Food Hero (2020) Recipes. Retrieved from: https://foodhero.org/recipes/pumpkin-smoothie-cup

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension (2020) Vegetable Fact Sheet Guide. Retrieved from: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#search/lindsey/FMfcgxwJXLmlTmrsWggKBbBkJgmzwHJC?projector=1&messagePartId=0.5

U.S. Department of Agriculture (2020) Pumpkins. Retrieved from: https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide/pumpkin

University of Illinois Extension (2020) Pumpkins and More. Retrieved from: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/pumpkins/selection.cfm

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  

MEDIA RELEASE  

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 nkelinske@wacofoundation.org  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.


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 HMIS@prosperwaco.org 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).