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 —

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

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 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