Red Cross: Around the World and Right Here in McLennan County

By Amy Grace

March is Red Cross month! That time of year in which we—along with community leaders, partners and volunteers—recognize how the American Red Cross helps people down the street, across the country and around the world.

As we wrap up the month, I wanted to share how the Red Cross is helping our local community in very practical ways that most people never even hear about.

thank youIn 2015, the Red Cross responded to 85 McLennan County families who lost possessions, pets, clothes and, in some cases, their entire home to a fire, flood or tornado. Our incredible team of volunteers and staff deploy to help any family in our community devastated by disaster, no matter the nationality, ethnicity, income level or even citizenship of the victims…we provide relief. Period.  And we are on call to respond 24/7, 365 days a year without question, right here in Waco.

Additionally, throughout 2015, 1,861 McLennan county residents were trained to provide life-saving skills such as CPR, First Aid, Water Safety, Babysitting and more. That’s 1,861 more of us who are able to jump in and help save lives when needed, and that need could happen anywhere – restaurants, the grocery store, sports events – you just never know!

And lastly, did you know we have an entire arm of the Red Cross dedicated to serving and assisting our military, active and retired? Not only do we provide volunteer assistance to service members at local VA hospitals, but we also provide mental health services and reconnect military families across the globe who have been separated by war, tragedy or circumstance.  In 2015, we provided assistance to military families and service members 262 times in McLennan County.

In other words, the Red Cross is here, supporting and providing relief in many ways to people in our own back yard every day. If you would like to join us in volunteering here in your own community, we would love to have you! Our volunteers are our life-blood, and we are proud of and grateful for every one of them! To register as a Red Cross volunteer, please visit Enter your zip code and choose volunteer opportunities of interest, or if you don’t see something of interest in the listed opportunities, complete your profile anyway and call our office to talk about other volunteer options.

April 7 – Volunteer Teams of HOT American Red Cross Meeting – Naomi Dews, Volunteer Services Specialist and Trevor Sikes, Disaster Services Specialist will be discussing ways volunteers can provide relief to those affected by disasters and help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Prospective volunteers are welcome to attend. Cost: FREE. Time: 6:30 PM. Location: 4224 Cobbs Drive. For more information, please call 254-523-4985 ext 1109 or email

Amy Grace PhotoAmy Grace is a native Texan and is serving our community as the Executive Director of the Heart of Texas chapter of the American Red Cross. She has an extensive professional background but is most proud of being a mom to her incredible four-year old daughter and paying forward a legacy of courage, resilience, hope and abundance. She currently resides in Temple with her daughter, two canine family members (Ranger and Silver) and her grandmother.

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.



Amy Grace,

Executive Director

High School Drop-out? Think it will take too long to earn a college degree? New Program at MCC can help!

By Janet Phelps

It can take years for a student to get a GED and finish college. Take, Patty*, for example, who started studying for her GED® in 2014 after dropping out of the 10th grade many years earlier because of a tough situation at home.

Patty completed her GED® just eight months later but continued to work minimum wage factory jobs to support her kids as a single mom.

Last fall, Patty took a CNA class and got a full-time job. She leveraged her newfound stability to take a FastTrack to College class, and then started classes toward her nursing degree at McLennan Community College this spring.

That should be the happy ending to Patty’s story­— but it’s not.

She still has to complete her remedial class requirements at MCC while working full-time and struggling to make ends meet. She’s years away from that salaried job she desperately needs.

The length of time it takes people in Patty’s situation to first attain a GED, then complete remedial classes (which don’t typically count toward a degree), and THEN complete classes for a degree is often just too much.  Many students drop out along the way. For many, the path is too long to be practical – too many things can go wrong along the way.

MCC is starting a program this spring through a grant from the Higher Education Coordinating Board to help students like Patty achieve their goals. This new Career Pathway option will allow students who dropped out of high school, or who need academic helps to be successful in college, to begin earning college credit more quickly.

Classes begin in May for the first pathway which will result in a Computer Support Specialist Certificate.

The program is designed for students to finish six courses (18 credit hours) and complete their GEDs® in two semesters (Summer and Fall) —bypassing the remedial courses that most students have to take when they start at MCC.  Participating students will also get the chance to work toward achieving a work readiness certificate during the class.

Students will be able to go to work immediately when the courses finish in December, and the 18 hours of college credit they earn will also give them a good start toward earning a one or two-year degree in one of five areas at MCC: Computer Information Systems and Applications, Computer Applications, Paralegal, Administrative Assistant and Medical Office Assistant.

MCC’s Adult Education & Literacy Department also plans to partner with Communities in Schools (CIS) to provide paid work experience for students in this program who meet CIS’s eligibility requirements.

MCC is seeking to enroll 15 students without a GED® or high school diploma into this program.  If qualified and accepted, MCC will pay for a student’s credit classes until the student demonstrates the success that’s required to qualify for federal financial aid (See: Ability to Benefit). The program is also open to students who have a high school diploma but who need academic remediation or English language help in college. Students who enroll will get academic and social support plus financial help with textbooks and supplies in addition to free tuition at MCC and free GED education.

The Computer Support Specialist certificate is part of the goal of MCC’s Adult Education & Literacy Department to boost the academic and career skills that low-income adults need to get ahead.

Please help us get the word out about this opportunity. To learn more, feel free to contact me.  My email is Or, you can call 254-299-8760 or come to an informational session on Thursdays at 9:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m. on MCC campus.



Computer Support Specialist Certificate Career Pathway

May – December 2016

Career Pathway Informational Sessions

Thursdays at 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Room E224, Community Services Center

McLennan Community College

For more information Contact Janet Phelps:

Janet PhelpsJanet Phelps is the Transition Specialist for Adult Education and Literacy for the Heart of Texas at McLennan Community College. She loves helping students, reading, and running at Cameron Park.  

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.

*Patty is not the student’s real name. We used a pseudonym to protect this student’s privacy.




Hope Through Concrete

By David Saucedo

brothersMy brother, Robert Saucedo, and I have always had a desire to impact today’s culture.  Between us, we have been blessed to work on many exciting projects that we believe are having a significant positive influence on the public, private and non-profit sectors in the Waco area.  We didn’t know it, but we have been preparing for our newest project our whole lives.  It’s called “Hope through Concrete.”

You might not immediately associate the words “Hope” and “Concrete,” but for my brother and I those two words fit together perfectly.  Robert and I grew up working in concrete.  We come from a family that has been involved in the concrete industry for over 40 years.  Eventually we both landed careers in the precast concrete industry. Robert is a certified concrete technician and quality control supervisor; and I am a Safety Coordinator and training developer, also with industry certification.  Now we are working to combine the skills and expertise we have developed working in the concrete industry with our desire to be a positive influence in the community.

We have started a concrete company, Saucedo Brothers, and are partnering with Life Church Waco, Pastor Gabriel Dominguez (Pastor Gabe), and the job creation/discipleship efforts of Hope Through Everything, a 501c3 Non-Profit here in Waco.  The tagline of Hope Through Everything is “Moving Forward Despite our Struggles.”  Here’s a part of the description from the website of what Hope Through Everything is working to do:

Hope Through Everything exists to disciple and provide jobs to those who are committed to God, are going through the systems established at “Life Church Waco,” and who are below the poverty line and/or who once were incarcerated or living the “street life” and are now choosing life change…

Our goal is to create jobs where this population can learn how to show up consistently and on time, handle responsibility, and gain employable skills in a safe and loving environment…

We do not want to provide jobs to just anyone because they need a job, but rather because they truly want one. We have healthy accountability systems already in place to ensure everyone we accept into our program is there because they want to be…

Robert and I agree with Pastor Gabe that people, especially young people, need an opportunity to learn fundamental work ethic and basic work skills.  We vow to use our business to finance “Hope Through Concrete,” where young men and women seeking life change can find the guidance, training, spiritual growth and WORK they need to move forward despite their struggles.  Our vision for “Hope Through Concrete” is a company that disciples young men and women as they learn the trade.

This approach is not only good for the young people who work for us, we think it makes good business sense. We call this concept “Foundational Employment.” Employers are in a good position to invest in employees in a way that helps employees build a solid foundation for their lives. Employers who are willing to make that investment will reap the benefit of high quality, loyal employees.   We intend to run our company on that principle. As Robert says, “We believe companies would benefit by investing in the lives of their employees … sometimes it’s easier to show possibilities rather than preach them. The vision we have for our company is one of transparency and purpose, all employees at Saucedo Brothers will be invested in.”

worksiteWe are currently constructing a 6500 square foot parking lot and custom design retainer wall for the Masonic Temple at 724 Washington Avenue.  Jon S. Spann, President of the board for the York Rite Library and Museum that owns the Masonic Temple, understands our vision, “The York Rite Library and Museum of Texas is dedicated to the preservation of the history of the York Rite, this includes The Masonic Temple building itself.  We also seek out the opportunity to support local programs that benefit our community in and around the Waco area. Our faith is our guiding light in all that we do.”

We are also already working with Cory and Kate Duncan. In a December 2015 article, the Waco Tribune said “Cory and Kate Duncan have been praised as the type of young, aggressive business owners that downtown Waco needs.” Cory, a real estate developer and Waco native, recently acquired nearly 14,000 square feet of space in the 700 block of Washington Avenue. Approximately 4,000 square feet of the development has been set-aside for Wildland Supply Co., a business founded and operated by his wife, Kate.

The Duncan’s admire the vision for Hope Through Everything and will be calling upon us for all of their concrete needs, including work on the renovation of their 1926 Cameron Park estate. As Cory says, “When exploring your options of contractors to use, you must look for the perfect balance of skill, experience, and price. The ability to support a good cause is icing on the cake. These guys are very transparent, very professional, and passionate about serving our community, we are excited about working with them on future projects.”

As Saucedo Brothers and Hope Through Concrete continue to work with developers and entrepreneurs like The Duncan’s, our vision is that the company’s reach will continue to spread Hope throughout the Waco area.

We need your help to grow! We can handle house foundations, building foundations, parking lots, custom designed retainer walls, sidewalks, patios, we love what we do and no job is too big or too small! Our business model is transparency.  We will show you what it takes to get the job done, and explain what our aim is for a reasonable profit.  We will provide testimonials about the lives impacted by your project. Visit and let us provide your concrete needs!

brothersThis Act Locally Waco blog post was written by David Saucedo. David is a local minister with Life Church Waco and has committed the last 8 years of his life to impacting his community in a positive way. David has a loving wife, Michelle and three beautiful children, Lianna (7), Isaiah (4) and Isaac (10 Months).

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.