Small faith community offers big-hearted resolutions

By Jo Welter       

Jo Welter

Although members of the Baha’I Faith all across the United States have been working at and toward race unity for well over 100 years, even including the small Baha’i community here in Waco, Texas. There are clearly certain times when people are more open to racial issues and recognizing we must do something to unite.  And although there have been an endless and varied number of examples of continuous and ongoing oppression pervading every aspect of our society, it seems the murder of George Floyd and immediate subsequent killings of other African Americans has struck the right chord in people of all colors and backgrounds to focus on this issue. 

The Baha’i writings state, “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established,” and “The best-beloved of all things in My sight is justice.” Our unity is predicated upon justice and equity for all human beings.

Justice, equity and the essential oneness of all humanity are principles that are dear to the hearts of members of the Baha’i Faith since The Baha’i teachings revolve around the oneness of humanity, with laws and precepts regarding creating unity or eliminating barriers to unity.

Barriers to our unity vary world-wide, but Baha’is understand that in this country the biggest obstacle to justice and unity is that of racism.   

There is no scientific or spiritual basis for the idea of race.  Race is a made-up construct invented by man to divide and separate us in order to maintain power and satisfy greed.  This is the time when we can commit, as individuals and as a national community, to working tirelessly at justice and unity.  This is an effort that will take commitment on the part of every person, institution and entity through genuine relationships, understanding and thoughtful wisdom in our commitment to each other and to the betterment of our community.   

In the middle of this month’s Anchor News, readers will find a letter from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States regarding race and racism and our commitment to seizing this opportunity and openness to working toward justice, equity and unity.   We invite you to read this carefully to understand where the Baha’is stand, why and how we work toward justice and unity. 

Whatever your faith or background, the Waco Baha’is invite you to a Zoom gathering to explore together our shared commitment to achieving justice, equity and unity Friday evening, October 30 at 7 pm.  If you would like to participate in the discussion, email

This article was originally published in the October 2020 issue of The Anchor NewsThe Anchor News is a free, monthly publication of Crawford Publishing.  The Anchor News is dedicated to serving the community and surrounding area, focusing on positive news and accomplishments of minorities.  For more information about The Anchor News including how to subscribe or where to pick up a copy, please visit The Anchor News website.

New workforce initiative launched at Prosper Waco; Gallegos Whitley leading

By Ferrell Foster

WACO — Prosper Waco has begun an effort called UpSkill Waco to promote coordination of workforce initiatives in Greater Waco and to provide scholarship funding for residents, particularly those impacted by COVID-19, to gain needed training or re-skilling for high-demand occupations.

Cooper Foundation is funding the effort, which will be led by Tiffany Gallegos Whitley, Prosper Waco’s new director of workforce initiatives. She will continue in her role as chair of Waco Employer Resource Network (WERN), a working group of higher education, community organizations, and employers involved in workforce development and employee retention.

Tiffany Gallegos Whitley

The goal of UpSkill Waco is to train local residents to improve their work skills in a manner that matches local job needs and to do so using a cost-effective model. 

“Working toward this goal takes coordination,” said Hermann Pereira, Prosper Waco’s senior education and workforce specialist. “Prosper Waco has met with City Council members, existing leaders of businesses in five sectors, the three Chambers of Commerce, instructors from MCC & TSTC training programs in five areas, Goodwill industries, City of Waco services and local organizers with roots in neighborhoods. Prosper Waco has gotten commitment from these entities to create an aligned system of services to provide workforce training at a reasonable cost for Waco.” 

Gallegos Whitley said the initiative is particularly focused on persons about age 18-24 who have a high school diploma but no post-high school education or training. Unemployment rates are highest among this group, she said. 

“My role was created to coordinate multiple stakeholders across the city and county to move the needle on workforce initiatives,” said Gallegos Whitley. The effort will focus on increasing the capacity of current workforce training, filling gaps in training, and providing equitable career paths to help people move into family-sustaining careers.

Prosper Waco CEO Suzii Paynter March said: “Successful workforce initiatives are based on education, training, and relevance to industry needs. Tiffany and Hermann are a talented staff team combining strengths in education and workforce success. Waco will benefit from the teamwork.”

Cooper Foundation Executive Director Felicia Goodman said: “Cooper Foundation is committed to making Waco a better and more desirable community in which to live. An important part of any healthy community is having job opportunities and trained persons to serve in those jobs. This workforce initiative will help both the people and businesses of Waco.”

The project is yet another outgrowth of the 2014 Upjohn economic development plan presented to the city. “We are building off of the Upjohn report and going beyond,” said Gallegos Whitley. “We are staying current with new data.”

“Upjohn has influenced all that we have done with workforce development in recent years, giving us a north star to guide our efforts,” Pereira said. “In this newest stage we are investing in the goals of other organizations involved in the effort.”

Gallegos Whitley has called Waco home for the past 12 years. She is a two-time Baylor University graduate, receiving a bachelor’s degree in international studies and a Master of Social Work degree. Between undergraduate studies and graduate school, Gallegos Whitley worked with the Texas Hunger Initiative, helping communities organize around food security issues. She became passionate about community development and decided to root herself in Waco.

Prior to joining Prosper Waco, Gallegos Whitley worked 5½ years with Heart of Texas Goodwill Industries, where she oversaw building strategic community and business partnerships to further Goodwill’s job training and education programs. During her time at Goodwill, she also helped implement the Waco Employer Resource Network, a national model of skills training and job retention for incumbent workers.

In her role with Prosper Waco, Gallegos Whitley will oversee workforce projects that bring together key stakeholders to collaborate and continue building equitable training and career pathways for all McLennan County residents.

Ferrell Foster is senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

Fall into a good book!

By Becca Muncy

While any book lover will tell you that reading is a year-round activity, there’s something special about getting caught up in a new book during the fall. The cooler temperatures, the longer nights – it makes me want to hibernate under a cozy blanket by a roaring fire (even if a fireplace isn’t the most practical thing in a Texas house).

Sarah Freeland, branch manager of the Waco-McLennan County Central Library, says there are two types of fall readers: those who want to scare themselves with spooky horror stories, and those who just want to curl up with cozy, comforting books. She says she falls more into the latter group, favoring “golden-age” mysteries by Agatha Christie and Dorthory Sayer and childhood classics like the Harry Potter series.

Similarly, Alison Frenzel, co-owner of Fabled Bookshop & Cafe in downtown Waco, says she prefers historical fiction (like A Most English Princess by Clare McHugh), classics (like Anne of Green Gables or Wuthering Heights), or just a good page-turner in lieu of truly scary stories. But for those who want to dip their toes into a bit of spookiness, Freeland recommends works by Stepehen King (like It), Shirley Jackson (such as The Haunting of Hill House or We Have Always Lived in the Castle), and Edgar Allen Poe. And Frenzel suggests checking out Home Before Dark by Riley Sager or Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella, which were both released earlier this summer.

At the library, Freeland says that seasonal picture and non-fiction children’s books became especially popular as the weather changes, particularly books like Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf and Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn, which teach children about the transition from summer to fall. She says that those books remain popular year after year as parents check them out to help their kids “understand what’s going on in the natural world.” And at Fabled, Frenzel says the spooky books that crowd the display table at the front of the store, the “books that feel creepy, that feel mysterious,” are a big hit during this season.

Some of the best books are released in the fall months. Publishers typically publish books that they know will perform well during September, October, and November, in anticipation of the Christmas shopping season. If a great book comes out in the fall, chances are someone will read it and then buy it as a gift for a friend or family member. So if you stop by a bookstore or library in the next few weeks, you’ve got a lot of good options! Here are some soon-to-be published and recently released books that Freeland and Frenzel are excited about:

  • Anxious People by Fredrick Backman (published September 8)
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (published October 6)
  • The Searcher by Tana French (Chicago cop thriller, published 10/6)
  • A Time for Mercy by John Grisham (the sequel to A Time to Kill, published October 13)
  • Just Like You by Nick Hornby (out 10/31)
  • What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer (Baer’s poetry debut, out November 10)
  • Promised Land by Barack Obama (Obama’s memoir, out November 17. This book is so highly anticipated that the Booker Prize rescheduled its awards ceremony so this book could be included in the running)

If you’re looking for a new release to spice up your November book club, Frenzel suggests We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper. Frenzel says this book, which follows an unsolved murder msytery at Harvard, would be a good choice for a book club because it’s a good conversation starter. She says, “It was a fascinating book, I read it in probably two days… several of our staff members read it and we all had different opinions about what we thought about it.” Keep the Dead Close comes out on November 10.

If you’re looking for more recommendations, check out the library’s “discovery boxes” and “book bundles,” which launch in November. The discovery boxes, curated by Waco librarians, are filled with resources (books, DVDs, etc) about a certain topic or interest, and are a great way to get immersed in a new hobby or learn about a new subject. Book bundles are also a great way to discover new books. Pick a genre and let a librarian surprise you with 5 books from that genre.

Hopefully, these recommendations have inspired you to pick up something new the next time you’re shopping for books, to dive into some spooky stories now that Halloween is just around the corner, or to just rediscover the joy of reading. So the only thing to do now is grab a hot drink, get cozy, and relax with a great new book! Happy fall, everyone!

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.

Increased costs due to Covid, Cuts in federal and state funding may force reduced services at Meals on Wheels

By Christine Perera

As a part-time resident assistant at an assisted living facility in my hometown of Boerne (TX), I have the pleasure of getting to know senior citizens. While at school, I look forward to summers spent reconnecting with residents at The Heritage Place. When I entered the facility this summer, however, things were different. Instead of a warm welcoming, all the residents were tucked away in their rooms. Social distancing policies made interactions between residents scarce and reconnection a luxury that many assisted living facilities can no longer afford.

Since COVID-19 broke out, everyone has made sacrifices. At the living facility, residents sacrificed communal dining experiences for meals taken in lonely rooms. I have helped with delivering such meals to residents, and there is one instance my mind often revisits. I pushed an old busser cart filled with trays of homemade tomato soup, and the tangy, comforting scent followed me down the long, carpeted hall. When I arrived at the first door, I balanced a tray in my arms and, as one hand lifted to knock on the door, the tray began to slip from the other. Hot soup spilled all over the floor, causing me to jump back in surprise. Luckily, I knew the kitchen had a large pot of soup on the stove. I didn’t bat an eye as I mopped up the mess and headed back to the kitchen for another bowl. Instead, I took comfort in knowing that such a small mistake could happen to anyone. As I learned more about senior hunger, this very thought developed into a source of worry.

Many people do not have the means to access another bowl of soup when they need it. My experience as an intern for the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty showed me that sometimes accidents, like dropping food, cause senior citizens with already limited food access to go hungry. Being unable to physically get more food can also have long-term health consequences.

Amidst the global pandemic, obstacles to food accessibility have become a larger problem than normal. This is especially true for home-bound senior citizens, who face new difficulties in accessing food due to the virus. While stay-at-home orders keep COVID-19 in check, they can also make trips to the grocery store a frightful task for those at increased risk of contracting severe cases of COVID-19. Because of the high risks, caring for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, is more important than ever before.

Meals on Wheels is a food aid program that delivers nutritious meals to senior citizens. The program also helps look after the in-home safety of participants, connect participants with their communities, and increase socialization. According to Debbie King, Executive Director of Meals on Wheels in Waco, volunteers are sometimes the only people participants interact with all day. While delivering meals, volunteers chat with seniors and take note of health issues they believe might indicate severe or life-threatening conditions. These health issues are then reported to worried family members, who may live far away and be unable to check on their loved ones themselves.

According to the More Than A Meal Comprehensive Network Study, in-home health assessments (safety checks), social opportunity, and nutritional access make Meals on Wheels an invaluable program. Many families take comfort in knowing they can rely on Meals on Wheels volunteers during these unprecedented times. Additionally, those who cannot afford care at a senior facility can receive aid at a fraction of the private and/or public cost. For reference, the average cost of board at a senior facility is $57,000/year, in comparison to Meals on Wheels participation, which costs the organization roughly $2,000/year per person (based on Texas data). Unfortunately, due to decreased funding and increased demand, Meals on Wheels in Waco may soon be unable to support all its participants.

Meal on Wheels is supported by federal and state grant programs. The recent elimination of federal grants that once funded Meals on Wheels have made program budgets tighten. A statement from Meals on Wheels America President and CEO Ellie Hollander revealed that among cut grants are the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Social Services Block Grant (SSBG).

Texans Feeding Texans is a grant that Waco’s Meals on Wheels chapter relies on, and Texans Feeding Texans is also at risk of losing funding. Texans Feeding Texans is a state grant funded by the Texas Department of Agriculture. The Texas State Department recently decreased the Texas Department of Agriculture’s budget by 5%, creating a loss of up to $1,400,000 during the current biennium. This budget cut means there is less money available to fund grant programs. When the Texas legislature evaluates the Texans Feeding Texans grant in 2021, the program risks reduced funding if not enough people advocate for it.

Meals on Wheels in Waco is also supported by local funders and volunteers. Many local healthcare providers and non-profit organizations sustain Meals on Wheels through fundraising and donations. Volunteers play a key role in getting the meals to Meals on Wheels participants. Because of COVID-19, people may feel reluctant to physically help their community members. Additionally, limited funds have presented obstacles in delivering meals to all program participants. Whereas the Waco chapter used to deliver food daily, King stated that local volunteers now visit with participants 3-5 times per week.

Since COVID-19 broke out in February, Meals on Wheels in Waco has experienced a 20% increase in participants. The national Meals on Wheels program had a 47% increase in participants since March. The program has spent more than originally planned to ensure meals are made and delivered per CDC health guidelines. To compensate for the unpredictability of food resources, King explained that Meals on Wheels in Waco also increased portion sizes by 30%. The extra costs of such care-inspired decisions and limited funds have increased net costs of delivering meals by 97% (according to a national Meals on Wheels Pulse survey). If the net costs of delivering meals remains so high, Meals on Wheels chapters may be unable to reach all participants at the same time that participants are more reliant on food accessibility assistance than ever.

The Waco community cannot afford to be complacent about senior hunger. Wacoans have a duty to get involved with our community so programs like Meals on Wheels get the funding and support they deserve. There are many ways you can get involved. Stay informed about local, state, and federal government and call your representatives to advocate for program funding through grants such as Texans Feeding Texans. Make time to deliver meals to vulnerable community members. Donate money to your local Meals on Wheels chapter to help senior citizens get the food they need. These actions will allow Meals on Wheels to access much needed supplies, deliver more meals, and conduct more safety checks. Please visit (national organization) and (Waco chapter) to contribute to or learn more about the Meals on Wheels program.

Christine Perera is a senior at Baylor University. She is an intern for the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty. Christine is majoring in Professional Writing/Rhetoric and minoring in Philosophy. In her free time, she loves to read and take long walks with her dog.

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.


  • King, Debbie. “Texans Feeding Texans.” Meals on Wheels Waco. 30 Sept. 2020, Online meeting.
  • Meals on Wheels America. “A Story of Meals on Wheels in Communities Across the Country Study Summary.” More Than a Meal Comprehensive Network Study, 2019.
  • Perera, Christine S, and Debbie King. “Conversation About Meals on Wheels.” 29 Sept. 2020.

Civic Insights: Who Pays for that Pipe, Part IV

(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

Back in September, we began this series with a broad look at what an impact fee policy is. A month ago, we focused on the legal process for establishing an impact fee. Two weeks ago, we took a look at pipe-related details of the report that serves as the basis for any impact fee policy in Waco. This week, we’ll take a look at the road side of things. Then we will wrap up next week, by looking at the policy the City considered on October 20th. 

As a bit of reminder, we are working our way through the following steps that were used to calculate maximum impact fees:

  1. Determine a service area
  2. Identify a way to connect demand for service to supply for service
  3. Calculate increased demand for services
  4. Review existing supply for services
  5. Determine and cost projects needed to meet increased demand
  6. Identify service unit to divide costs amongst projects
  7. Calculate maximum impact fees

1. Service Area 

As you may recall from two weeks ago, service areas are the geographic boundaries of the impact fee policy. Chapter 395 provides guidance on what these areas can be or must be. For roads, there is a unique limitation that is not applied to pipes. Service areas for roads are limited to about twelve miles across (technically a six-mile radius). The reasoning here is that one part of town should not have to pay for the roads of a different part of town. For pipes the network is considered as a united system, whereas with roads smaller service areas are required. Additionally, a service area for roads cannot extend beyond the city limits (excluding the Extra-Terratorial Jurisdiction).

How these twelve mile “areas” are drawn is left up to the city or county looking to begin impact fees. For Waco the service areas ended up as this map:

2. Connecting Demand and Supply 

We will once again need to find some measurement to connect a new house or business park (demand) to the existing system of roads and any potential expansions (supply). The measurement needs to be scalable to the variety of demands that will come from new development and be measurable for distinct projects and supply systems. For roads, that measure is vehicle-mile at the PM peak hour. That probably needs some unpacking.

In thinking about the kind of measure we need here, the first impulse might be to simply count the cars. How many vehicles use the road system at any given point in time? That would get us part of the way there, but would miss a critical question: how far are those cars going? A car going a couple miles to a local restaurant “uses” substantially less roadway than a car going ten miles to work. 

So we need to know not only how many cars are out there, but how far all of them are going. That is how we get to vehicle-miles. Ten cars going one mile has the same “vehicle miles” as one care going ten miles (10 cars x 1 mile = 10 vehicle-miles vs 1 car x 10 miles = 10 vehicle-miles).

On top of this, roadway use changes throughout the day, much like pipes (diurnal patterns). Road use peaks in the AM and the PM rush hours with less use in between. So, for the sake of impact fees the PM peak hour is used to measure vehicle-miles. 

3. Increased Demand

Projecting how much Waco will grow overall, and where that growth will occur follows the exact same pattern that was used for pipes. For roads, however, a simple breakdown between growth in residents and employees will not be enough to fully capture the impact on roadways. For roads, the kind of employment becomes important.

We can see this if we think about the differences between a small industrial center and a retail park. Both may hire the same number of employees, but they generate substantially different vehicle-miles. At the industrial center, employees arrive and leave plus the occasional shipment of goods. However, at the retail center not only do you have employees and shipments coming and going, you also have customers. 

To account for this our consultants, Freese and Nichols, broke employment growth down into basic, retail, and service categories. Each of these have a different impact on vehicle-miles. They then translated the number of new employees into anticipated square feet of use and bridged from that measure into vehicle-miles. For new residents, they looked at growth on a residences (rather than residents) basis.

Combining all this together they were able to project increased vehicle-mile demand for each of the service areas over the next ten years.  

4. Existing Supply and 5. New Projects

A factor of particular importance in looking at how the current roadways will be able to accommodate the increased pressures of growth is how much are they currently being used. Pipes are metered. Water users are billed based on how much demand they put on the current systems. So it is fairly simple to gather information about current use. Roads are different. Their use is not tracked nearly as closely. For the sake of this study, Freese and Nichols relied on traffic counts that were collected on thirty separate locations across the city in May of 2019. 

They then compared these counts to the traffic capacity of various road segments (think of these as the bits of road where the road stays the same, so the part of x drive that has four lanes is separated from the part that has two lanes). Capacity can normally be determined by looking at the design of the road. On a really rough level, you can see that I-35 has more capacity than Waco Drive which has more capacity than 10th Street. So looking at the current use and the design capacity of each roadway you can figure how many additional vehicle miles you can add in without needing to change the road (incidentally there are some roads that are already used more than their capacity, these “deficits” are ultimately taken out of the calculation of improvement cost since they are not a result of new demand). 

Much like with pipes, Freese and Nichols along with City Staff then identified a number of improvements that might be eligible for impact fee funding. Unlike pipes, these projects were assigned to specific service areas. Where a project crossed the boundary between two service areas, its costs were split between the two. These projects were then examined for the amount of vehicle-mile capacity they added to the service area. So long as this added capacity was less than the increased demand in that service area (see step 3) the entire cost of the projects for that area could be included in the impact fee calculation. Where the added capacity was more than the increased demand, only that portion of the projects that covered the increased demand could be considered. 

Combining all the allowable costs together, the report then applies the same 50% credit to the costs that we discussed with pipes. At the end of this process we have the total eligible impact fee cost – the total cost of increased capacity due to new demand after consideration of a credit for future taxes for each service area. 

6. Service Unit

Chapter 395 calls for the establishment of a service unit specifically. It defines this (in broad terms) as a standardized measure of use. Although vehicle-miles remain a good connector between supply and demand, it is difficult to determine the exact number of vehicle-miles any given development would generate. So, the study scales vehicle-miles on the basis of a single-family residence. Basically, we look at each development in terms of how it relates to the demand generated by a single-family residence. 

As was mentioned above, in general you can calculate the vehicle-miles produced by any given development based on its characteristics. We look at this in terms ultimately of trip total trip length. That is the number of vehicle-miles generated by the development. There are a number of interesting factors that go into this calculation (like trip generation, individual trip length, adjustments for diverted trips and local conditions), but we don’t have the space to get into all of these here. Instead we can go with a nice round number example. Let’s assume a single-family residence produces 4 miles of adjusted trip length and a retail store produces 12. The retail store will be scaled so that it can be measured as a multiple of a single family residence. With this example that multiple is 3 (12 divided by 4). 

Here are some of the real ratios to give you an idea of how they work in the study. A hospital is anticipated to generate 1.72 times the demand of a single-family residence for every 1,000 square feet it contains. A clinic, in contrast, generates 5.81 times the demand of a single-family residence for every 1,000 square feet.  These ratios allow for the generation of a comprehensible unit of measure to distribute the costs of the improvements. 

7. Maximum Impact Fee

Knowing our service unit and our total eligible costs, the final step can be taken. A projection is made of the total new service units anticipated by development (for roads this projection relies heavily on land use assumptions since different kinds of development vary greatly in terms of trip generation). This projection is made on the basis of the service areas we noted above. For example, service area five as zero anticipated growth in service units. Whereas, service area one anticipates 15,947 new single-family resident equivalents. The chart below completes the process. 

Here we see that after all these steps the maximum impact fee allowable by law for roads in service area one is $6 and for service area eleven is $1,169. These numbers are the final product of that could process we discussed at the very beginning of all of this. That is the process to determine what impact fees could be (as opposed to should be).  Whatever the outcome of the should process is, the impact fees cannot exceed these amounts for a single-family residence equivalent.

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.