Service to others brings all kinds of joy

By Ferrell Foster

The murmur of the television filtered through the wall separating me from it, but another noise tickled my soul. My adult daughter, Tabitha, spoke over the TV voices. Music to the soul has a different rhythm and cadence than music for the ears; my daughter spoke to my soul because she was speaking to my mother’s ears.

My 92-year-old mother is virtually blind, seeing what I suspect are only hazy images. She can see enough to walk around our house with a little bit of guidance, but she cannot see the images on a television. 

During Thursday night’s Dallas Cowboys football game, my mother sat with focused attention gazing at the TV. Every once in a while when the camera zoomed in on a helmet, she blurted out, “There’s the star,” but mostly she sat staring at the screen’s brightness.

In the midst of this, Tabitha provided the necessary play-by-play commentary so Mom would know what was going on. TV announcers speak with the assumption you can see the basics of what is happening; a blind person needs more.

Mom has been a Cowboys fan for about 57 years, almost as long as they have been a franchise. One year, about 1964, we attended the State Fair of Texas and the Cowboys were playing a game that day at the Cotton Bowl, which was inside the fairgrounds. Dad and I were able to beg Mom and my sister to go to the game with us.

The Cowboys were just becoming good; they were a long way from becoming America’s Team. But mother became a fan that day. We ended up attending virtually every home game, and we even met Don Meredith, a distant cousin, and his dad after one of the games. 

Mother was and is a super fan. As a kid I would see my mother jump and scream and clap for the Cowboys as she would for nothing else. She still came close to jumping and screaming Thursday when she caught a glimpse of the now famous star on the helmets. She’s blind, but she still wants to “watch” Cowboys games.

So Tabitha gave Mom a great gift by telling her all that was happening in the game.

Virtually all of us need help with something, but we don’t always have someone to help us. There are needs throughout this community that are crying out for residents to help meet them. No one of us can help with all of those needs, but we can plug in to make a difference in one challenge.

Ashley Bean Thornton started Act Locally Waco to help residents enjoy Waco and get involved. We are still trying to do that. We share fun things, but we also tell other things that are happening so residents can get involved and make a difference.

If you see some community need on Act Locally Waco or elsewhere and your heart strings tug, get involved. If we all did one thing for others on a regular basis we would make a huge difference in the lives around us. And all of us need help with something either now or in the future.

It may not seem like a big deal to do the play-by-play for a blind person, but for a sightless person who cares about the Cowboys, it can mean the world. Little things can do that. And my daughter will always remember helping her grandmother enjoy the simple pleasures of “watching” a football game. Shoot, Tabitha, a Green Bay Packers fan, even used the “we” in talking about Mom’s team. Now that’s saying a lot, but little things matter.

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Act Locally Waco brings people together

By Ferrell Foster

This has been a shocking week in our national history. Act Locally Waco is focused on Waco, but most of us have been a bit stunned this week as Americans.

In such divisive times, a communication tool like Act Locally Waco is more important than ever. Those of us involved in ALW — the board members, volunteers, and interns — believe in Waco and the people of this great city. We are so committed to Greater Waco, that we invest our time in service to it and want to help it achieve its great potential.

Waco has its various neighborhoods, religious bodies, businesses, and nonprofits, but we also need to promote our connectedness as we pursue the common good. Act Locally Waco is committed to that common good.

This has been the first week in ALW’s history that Ashley Thornton has not been at the head of Act Locally Waco. She has stepped down as executive director, but she is still our founder and very much a part of the heart of ALW.

I will serve for a time as acting executive director, and all of us involved with Act Locally Waco will be working to uphold its trusted place in our community.

So, while some things divide people, I’m confident we can also come together and continue the work of building the best Waco possible. 

It is the community members who contribute to ALW that make it what it is, so please help us tell the stories and share the information about what is happening in our town. I’m an email away — [email protected]

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

New Year – New Beginnings: You can help!

By Catherine Haynes Bauer

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a challenging year. Act Locally Waco was born out of a desire by our founder, Ashley Bean Thornton, to build community in Waco, and to bring people together who shared a desire to make Waco a better, more productive, and connected place. It began very simply as a means to communicate what was happening in the community in one central place and grew to include The Whole Enchilada newsletter, guest blog posts, a book club, a thriving community of contributors and readers, and so much more.

In the context of 2020 and a global pandemic, when so many events and gatherings have been canceled and postponed, it has never been more important to find new ways to build community. As Wacoans have evolved to adapt to new ways of gathering and sharing ideas amidst a global pandemic, so too has Act Locally Waco had to explore how to evolve. 2021 ushers in for us a new era as we adapt to the changes in the world and uncertainty regarding when we’ll be able to gather together in physical spaces. With the arrival of a vaccine we look forward to having more events and gatherings to promote and new ways to engage with our community in 2021 and beyond.


Forward-looking nonprofits with forward-looking founders plan for the future and equip their organizations to exist in perpetuity. And Ashley, our devoted founder, did just that. After pouring many years of her heart and soul into Act Locally Waco, Ashley decided in 2020 that it was time to establish a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in order allow ALW to expand and grow. She selected a founding board of directors made up of like-minded, passionate community leaders who were similarly devoted to supporting Waco and building a robust and diverse community. Those individuals include: Catherine Haynes Bauer, Cory Dickman, Ferrell Foster, Jillian Ohriner, Cuevas Peacock, and Alfred Solano. As a board entrusted with upholding Ashley’s vision for Act Locally Waco and committed to ALW’s loyal followers, it has now become our responsibility to plan for Act Locally Waco’s future. Beginning in 2021, Ashley is turning over the reigns of this dynamic organization to us, her carefully selected board members, and we are honored to continue her mission and vision for Act Locally Waco.

As we eagerly anticipate the arrival of a new year and a fresh start, the board of Act Locally Waco would like to invite you to help us dream for the future, while expanding upon our capabilities and offerings. Please consider an end of year gift to Act Locally Waco to equip us to serve our community well into the future. We look forward to sharing the exciting ways in which Act Locally Waco will be evolving in the future. And we’d also love to hear your ideas and desires for how we can together make Act Locally Waco a better and stronger resource for the Waco community. Join us on social media or send us an email to let us know what ideas you have….and please don’t forget to remember us in your end of year giving. You might also consider an end-of-year gift in honor and recognition of Ashley Thornton’s countless contributions to Act Locally Waco as we thank her for her service and boundless devotion. Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year! On behalf of Ashley Bean Thornton and the new ALW board of directors, thank you for reading and for your continued support. Stay tuned for good things to come in 2021 and beyond.

With gratitude and hope,

Catherine, Cory, Ferrell, Jillian, Cuevas, and Alfred

Thank you for letting me give you a little something from my heart

By Ashley Bean Thornton

It’s a cliché to say that the giver receives more than the getter when it comes to community work – but despite the best efforts of dozens of English teachers in my life – I can’ think of any better way to start these musings than to acknowledge that universal truth.    If you are reading this post you are no doubt at least familiar with Act Locally Waco, hopefully you are one of our dedicated readers! I started Act Locally Waco in 2008 and it has been my main form of “community service” ever since.  I hope you are enjoying it! I doubt you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you.

Ashley Bean Thornton with one of the scholars from the Transformation Waco AfterSchool Academies

In January I am stepping back from leading Act Locally Waco.  Don’t worry – ALW is not going anywhere! I am leaving it capable hands!  I’m not going anywhere either.  I am excited to be able to focus my energies on the Transformation Waco AfterSchool Academy – a part-time job that has become a passion.

Even though I am looking forward to handing over the reins to ALW, I hope you will indulge me in a little reminiscing and a little philosophizing as I turn the page on one chapter and look forward to the next.

My family moved around quite a bit when I was growing up – I had lived at 18 different addresses by the time I was 18.  Although we lived for quite a while in Baytown, Texas, where I graduated high school, I never really felt like I had a hometown.  Maybe that’s why I didn’t get involved in any particular community until pretty late in life – in my 40’s.  When I did finally start getting involved, that community was Waco.  I’ve now lived here far longer than any other place I have lived in my life.  It’s not technically my hometown – but it’s the closest I will ever have to one!

Until I started getting involved in Waco, the communities and cities where I lived were just backdrops to my life.  I might not have liked everything about a particular place, but it never occurred to me to care enough to try to build or change things to make it better.  I was a consumer of community – if I didn’t like something, well, that was someone else’s fault.  “They” needed to fix it!   The biggest thing I have learned through Act Locally Waco is that there is no “They” — only “We.”  If WE want our community to be better in some way, then WE need to get moving.   Loving a community comes from taking responsibility for it, from looking at it as a creator, not as a consumer.

When I moved to Waco, now more than twenty years ago, Waco was a different place.  You can see some of the differences – think back to the Austin and Elm Avenues of 1996!  But for me the biggest difference is less tangible. Then I saw Waco as OK, but maybe boring.  Now it hums with energy, creativity, friendship. I think what changed is my perception of my community.

It is my nature to be an observer more than a do-er.   Maybe that’s why when I finally decided to get involved in my community, I chose to do something that allowed me a panoramic view.  Through Act Locally Waco I’ve had a front row seat to observe artists, entrepreneurs, city council, the police, the Public Health District, the schools, a jillion non-profits – and that’s just part of the list!  I’ve observed people giving every kind of gift from picking up trash, to painting a mural, to starting a business, to writing a 40-year comprehensive plan for the city.    It has opened my eyes to the glorious complexity of 138,183 people living and working together.   

As I shift my focus from Act Locally Waco to AfterSchool I want to remember some of the things I have learned.

Do something – We all need the superheroes who do amazing things – the mayors and elected leaders and superintendents and presidents and executive directors – but in addition to that we need the collective power of everyone doing something: picking up litter one Saturday, tutoring one child, buying art from a local artist, eating at a local restaurant.  A couple of thousand of us doing a little something gets more done than any one person could possibly get done on his or her own.   

Start small and keep going – Think about the kind of community you want to live in, then do the smallest thing you can think of to move Waco in that direction.  The smallest thing we actually do is more powerful than the biggest thing we daydream about, but never start.   If you want a walkable community, take walk, then read a book about walking, then go to a meeting about walking, then, then, then.  If you want better education, run through some flashcards with your kid, then tutor another kid, then read an article about the school board in the paper, then vote for a school board rep, then join the PTA, then, then, then….

Get to know people who are different from you – Get to know people who are richer and poorer, people with skin a different color from yours, people with different political beliefs, different jobs, a different church or a different kind of faith.  You don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but a healthy network of loose connections that cross boundaries is the secret sauce to being able to get things done as a community.

Say thanks more often than you complain – People are working hard and putting their heart into our community.  “They” are not “they” – they are us.

And with that final point in mind, Thank you!  Thank you for all you are doing to make our community great!  Thank you for reading Act Locally Waco and getting involved! Thank you for writing blog posts and sharing Facebook posts and standing with me under a tent when it was 100 degrees outside signing up subscribers. Thank you for donating. Thank you for coming to book club and going on walks. Thank you for coming to events because you heard us talking about them on KWBU. Thank you for talking to one of our interns. Thank you for BEING one of our interns. Thank you for buying and wearing a T-shirt. Thank you for getting your picture taken in the Big Orange Frame. Thank you for all the gifts you have given me!  Thank you for being my community!   Looking forward to seeing you in the New Year!


Beginning January 1, 2021, the Interim Executive Director of Act Locally Waco will be Ferrell Foster. Ferrell’s “day job” is being the Content Specialist for Care and Communication at Prosper Waco. He is a graduate of East Texas State University in Commerce, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, where he earned his doctorate focusing on African American perspectives on justice. A native of Dallas, Dr. Foster has spent most of his professional life as an ethics and justice advocate and communications leader, including time as editor of three publications. His email is [email protected].


This Act Locally Waco blog post is by Ashley Bean Thornton, she founded Act Locally Waco in 2008 and now works for Transformation Waco helping to coordinate afterschool programs.  She likes to walk and write highly questionable stories about Waco History. She spends an outrageous amount of time at Whataburger.   

 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 [email protected] for more information.

WHOLE Enchilada Subscription Drive: Will you help us grow? (And, no, we’re not asking for money!)

It’s You – the people of Waco – that make Waco a terrific place to live!  You are the not-so-secret ingredient that’s making Waco better and better.  Our job at Act Locally Waco is to help you do that!  Will you help us help you?

Every Friday Act Locally Waco pumps out the information you need to stay involved and engaged in Waco.  It’s all there in our free weekly e-newsletter, The WHOLE Enchilada.  November is “subscription drive month” for The WHOLE Enchilada.  Will you help us grow?   We are asking all friends of Act Locally Waco to basically do two things: 1. Subscribe yourself (if you haven’t already), and 2. Encourage your friends to do the same!

Since 2013, The Act Locally Waco weekly newsletter – The WHOLE Enchilada — has been providing engaged Wacoans (That’s You again!) with the information you need to enjoy Waco and get involved in building up your community. 

Here are a few examples of the kinds of information we have gathered for you from the last few weeks:

  • Statements from the mayor/city council candidates to help you understand how they would approach the job if elected
  • A “plain English” translation of the “impact fee” proposal– an important, but complicated issue for the future of Waco that City Council has been working on for years.
  • An introduction to Tiffany Gallegos Whitley who will be leading the new “Upskill Waco” workforce initiative at Prosper Waco.
  • Updates on Meals and Wheels, Caritas, Christian Women’s Job Corps and other non-profits.  Information to keep you informed about what’s happening with them and how you can help.
  • Events from the YMCA, the Centex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Grassroots Waco, the Mayborn Museum, Keep Waco Beautiful, Creative Waco, McLennan County Community College and countless others so you can plan your weeks and days.  
  • Job opportunities for example at the COVE and the Salvation Army among others. 

And that’s just a taste of what you find in The WHOLE Enchilada each week.  It is truly full to the edge of the plate with Waco goodness, plus – it’s free!

We currently have 3,111 subscribers, and our goal is to add 1,000 more.  Imagine the benefit to Waco of 1,000 more involved, engaged people!

If you are a social media follower, but you haven’t subscribed yet, go ahead and sign up!  Our current subscribers love the convenience of having everything pulled together each week and delivered to their email. If you are already a subscriber, please help us out by sharing The WHOLE Enchilada with 2 or 3 (or 10!) friends each week during November, and encouraging them to subscribe.   We’ll be posting the subscription link regularly on Facebook during November – so please share that as well.

Whether it’s patronizing an art opening, volunteering to help a child in the foster system, participating in an online auction for a local cause you care about, or finding out about opportunities to pick up litter – The WHOLE Enchilada makes it easy for you to stay informed so you can get involved.  Subscribe today!  Help us grow!  


“Act Locally Waco has been a really successful resource for us. Ashley Bean Thornton and all the people at Act Locally Waco have been willing to share all the things that we do around Waco to try and make it better. ”  — Ashley Millerd  Crownover, Keep Waco Beautiful

“Just about everything I’ve learned about Waco, aside from the Silos and Baylor, I’ve learned from Act Locally Waco!” — Ferrell Foster, brand new Waco resident 

“By subscribing to Act Locally Waco, I am always in the know of things that are happening within our community and amongst my neighbors.” — Cuevas Peacock, community volunteer and cheerleader  

“The Whole Enchilada is one of my weekly favorites. As both a subscriber and a contributor, I feel equally blessed by the efforts that Ashley and her team put forth in bringing such vital and unifying information to our community. Act Locally Waco and The Whole Enchilada are two of my favorite go-to sources for what’s new and happening in our community and how we are growing together to make Waco a great place to live for everyone!” — Lydia Tate, Christian Women’s Job Corps  

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What do we want for Waco?

By Ashley Bean Thornton

Sometimes people wonder about the things that get included in the Act Locally Waco newsletter. Why do we include things like “Art on Elm” or “Do Well, Be Well with Diabetes” or “First Friday Downtown.” What do these things have to do with reducing poverty?

It’s because poverty is not a problem like a weed that can be pulled out. Poverty is a vacuum. It’s a hole where something good should be, but isn’t. The only way to make the hole smaller is to put the good things in, things like healthy lifestyles, a booming economy, art, beauty, opportunity. To make Waco a great place to live we need to focus on what we want, not just on what we don’t want (poverty).

With that in mind Act Locally Waco uses the following twelve aspirations as a guide. They are a slightly modified version of the aspirations adopted by the Poverty Solutions Steering Committee and presented to the Waco City Council in June of 2012. They express what we want for Waco. Is this what you want too? If so, join us! Get informed. Get involved! Get a great community!

What we want for Waco…

1. To improve the health of our children and to support healthy, safe lives for all. – More children in Waco will be born healthy and more residents of Waco will be healthy throughout their lives. We will all be safe.

2. To prepare our children for success in school and beyond. – More children in Waco will start school ready to succeed, and more children will succeed through high school graduation.

3. To launch our young people into productive lives. – More young people in Waco will successfully make the transition from school to productive work that pays enough to establish a satisfying quality of life, and more will know how to manage resources wisely to sustain that quality of life.

4. To gainfully employ our working-age population. – More Waco residents will find and keep jobs that pay enough to sustain a satisfying quality of life without the need of government assistance, and more will know how to manage their resources wisely to maintain that quality of life.

5. To care for our elderly population. – More of the elderly people in Waco will have the resources they need to live out their lives with security and dignity.

6. To support residents who face special challenges. – More Waco residents who face physical, mental and social challenges will have the resources they need to live their lives with security and dignity.

7. To align our social services effectively. – Social-services and policy will be coordinated to effectively support upward mobility from economic dependence to independence where possible, and to effectively and respectfully serve those for whom independence is not possible.

8. To strengthen our neighborhoods. – More of our neighborhoods and residential areas in Waco will be clean, safe and attractive. Neighbors will work effectively together to accomplish common goals.

9. To make our shared spaces beautiful. – More of our shared public spaces and commercial spaces will be clean, safe, attractive, accessible and accommodating.Logo - 11-30-2012

10. To energize our economic base. – Our local economy will create more job opportunities with the living wages needed to help employees achieve their goals.

11. To empower our residents. – More residents of Waco will have the cultural, political and leadership skills and sense of responsibility to advocate effectively for themselves, their families and their communities. More people will participate in the collaborative work of making our city a great place to live for every person of every income level.

12. To enjoy life together! – Waco residents and visitors, regardless of socio-economic status, will enjoy opportunities to appreciate natural beauty, to have fun, to enjoy the arts and to grow socially and culturally.

Questions about community…

By Ashley Bean Thornton

When I started Act Locally Waco, it was based on a simple idea. I knew there were all kinds of activities going on around town to build up the community, but it seemed like I was always finding out about them too late. I specifically remember reading about the “Walk for the Homeless” downtown three years in a row… always the day after it was over. I thought it would be handy to have someplace where people could find out about these kinds of events in time to plan to participate. I mentioned the idea to a few other people, and they seemed to agree, so I put up a website and down the road we went.

Up to that point I had not thought very much about what we mean when we say “community.” Working on Act Locally Waco, though, and later serving on the Poverty Solutions Steering Committee caused me to think more and more about the concept: What is a community, really? What kind of community do I want to live in? What is my role and responsibility in bringing that about? What about people who disagree about what kind of community we want? Who do I want to be “in community” with? Can a city as large as Waco have a real sense of community? How can a community work together to solve problems or move toward goals? How do we get a community of people with diverse histories, cultures, financial situations, education levels, religions, political persuasions, etc. etc. to even decide what we want to do, much less work together? How do we balance self-interest with the mutual interests of the community? What builds a community? What tears it down? Why should we care?

This past Thursday, like many of you, I watched the beautiful, somber, heart-breaking, uplifting service for the first-responders who died in the terrible explosion in West. Nearly 10,000 people filled the Ferrell Center for the service and thousands more watched from satellite locations and through computer and television screens. Every single one of us, I imagine, considers these twelve to be heroes – not simply because they died, though that is tragic — but because they died for the sake of others – for the community. Lord God, what would you have me learn from them about what it means to be a community?

What’s the connection?

By Ashley Bean Thornton

Today – as you know – has been a glorious spring day in Waco. I had already been to the Downtown Farmer’s Market for lunch, and was taking a break after exploring Art on Elm when I happened to walk up behind my friend DB in line at Lula Jane’s . He surprised me by gallantly paying for my orange-cranberry scone and iced tea.  That’s the kind of day it has been, the kind where somebody picks up your tab just because you’re standing next to him in line — a TERRIFIC day.

So it came to pass that I’m munching my scone and visiting with my benefactor and his lovely and talented wife, LB, when she says, “I got your email,” meaning the Act Locally Waco Friday Update email. Then she makes a sweeping gesture with her arm that takes in the scone, Art on Elm, and the whole glorious day, and she asks, “What’s the connection?”   I don’t know why she asked it – maybe she had seen the blurb about Art on Elm in the Friday Update and wanted to know why a blurb about an art festival was included in a newsletter about reducing poverty.  We didn’t end up talking about it.  Someone else wandered up and took the conversation in a different direction, or maybe we just got distracted by an especially tasty bite of scone; anyway, we never finished the thought.

There is a connection though.

Act Locally Waco was born out of a desire to help reduce poverty in Waco.  The basic idea was that there are (A) lots of people in Waco who care about reducing poverty, and (B) lots of things going on in town to reduce poverty, and maybe it would be (C) helpful to have a website to help bring A and B together. From the very beginning, though, an important part of the Act Locally Waco philosophy has been that “not-poverty” is not enough.  It’s not enough to dwell solely on what we DON’T want; we need to do some dwelling on what we DO want. And one of the things we DO want is more days like today:  a day that every person in Waco can enjoy regardless of income level, a day to come out and commune with your neighbors and listen to music in the beautiful sunshine, a day to fall in love with everyone you see, a day to remember how great we can be together.