Mental Health in the time of Corona Virus: Intense feelings are to be expected – know when to seek help

From your Heart of Texas Region MHMR (For more posts in this series, click here: Mental Health in the Time of Corona Virus)

Natural disasters – including pandemics like the current Coronavirus outbreak – can seriously affect emotional health. Fear and anxiety about contracting a disease may feel overwhelming and may cause strong emotions in adults and children alike. 

Intense Feelings Are Expected 

Over the years the residents of the Heart of Texas Region have demonstrated remarkable resilience. Individuals, families, and communities impacted by the Coronavirus are taking proactive steps to adjust and adapt to the situation. The reaction to personal and financial stress created by the Coronavirus is different for each person. Though some may not need additional help, many may find themselves in need of extra support to help them cope with the changes to everyday living. 

Talk About Feelings with Friends and Family 

Talking about the way you feel, and taking care of yourself by eating right, getting enough sleep, avoiding alcohol, and getting exercise can help to manage and alleviate stress. 

Take Care of Each Other 

Check-in with friends and family members to find out how they are doing. Feeling stressed, sad, or upset is a common reaction to life-changing events. Learn to recognize and pay attention to early warning signs of serious problems. 

Know When to Seek Help 

Depending on their situation, some people may develop depression, experience grief, and anger, turn to drugs and alcohol, and even contemplate suicide. The signs of serious problems include: 

  • Excessive worry. 
  • Frequent crying. 
  • An increase in irritability, anger, and frequent arguing. 
  • Wanting to be alone most of the time. 
  • Feeling anxious or fearful, overwhelmed by sadness, confused. 
  • Having trouble thinking clearly and concentrating and difficulty making decisions. 
  • Increased alcohol and/or substance use. 
  • Physical aches, pains, complaints. 

If these signs and symptoms persist and interfere with daily functioning, it is important to seek help for yourself or a loved one.

During this time, the Heart of Texas Region MHMR will continue to provide services to our customers and the community.

The safety of our community and our customers remain our top priority. If you are experiencing emotional distress related to the COVID-19 emergency, or for any other help, please contact the Heart of Texas Region MHMR Center 24/7 by phone or text at 1-866-752-3451

Additional Helpline: 

The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, can provide immediate counseling to anyone who is seeking help in coping with the mental or emotional effects caused by developments related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Helpline is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week and free resource that responds to people who need crisis counseling and support in dealing with the traumatic effects of a natural or human-caused disaster. The Helpline is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Helpline specialists are trained to assist callers who have a range of symptoms.

“People who have been through a traumatic event can experience anxiety, worry or insomnia,” said Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz, MD, Ph.D., who is the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and who is the head of SAMHSA. “People seeking emotional help during an ongoing disaster such as a pandemic can call 1-800-985-5990 or can text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746 – and can find recovery and coping strategies.”

The Helpline immediately connects callers to trained and caring professionals from the closest crisis counseling centers in the nationwide network of centers. The Helpline staff will provide confidential counseling, referrals, and other needed support services. More on the Helpline is at

Better Living for Texans: Mandarin Oranges

Welcome back to the Better Living for Texans blog post! I hope everyone has been staying safe and healthy during this hectic time. This month I want to highlight a fruit that is helpful in improving the maintenance of your immune system because of its Vitamin A and C components. Can anyone guess what this fruit could be? If you guessed oranges, you are correct! We are however, going to be focusing on a certain type of oranges this month – mandarin oranges!

Mandarin oranges grow on trees in many climates, but thrive in sunnier climates. They are harvested in the late winter, which makes them a great spring fruit. If you have been to the grocery store lately, they are stocked in a few different places. You can find raw mandarins, usually in bags, in the fresh produce area of your local grocery store. Other places that you might find mandarins include, canned good aisle and the frozen fruit section.

When looking for these delicious mandarins, I have a few helpful tips! When choosing mandarins to bring home to your family look for a glossy skin and avoid bruising or other visible damages. In the canned good isle look for mandarins with no sugar added labels because mandarins already have natural sugars in them. Some grocery stores don’t carry frozen mandarins on the regular so if you would like to add this in a smoothie, a great alternative to this is to freeze your own mandarins. They can be frozen whole or peeled but the best results for taste and texture after being thawed is keeping the mandarins whole. Mandarins can last up to 10 months while being frozen.

It is recommended by the USDA that adults should consume 1 ½ – 2 cups of fruits daily. According to , two small mandarins or one large mandarin is equivalent to one half cup serving of fruit. This can be a fun and easy way to incorporate more fruits into your diet by grabbing a mandarin on the go! This peel and eat fruit is great for all ages! Want to add more mandarins into your diet? Below are a few recipes to try!


Sierra French is a senior Public Health major at Baylor University. She is from Burnet, Texas. She loves to spend time on the lake or hiking around the Hill Country with my Australian Shepherd pup, Levi. After graduation she hopes to find herself working in a career that helps people better understand how to enjoy a healthy lifestyle.

What to Do During a Shelter-in-Place Order (SIPO)

By Dr. Peaches Henry

After we finish working from home, are done with homeschooling each day, or have been sheltering in place, what do we do with ourselves and our families?  The SIPO has reminded me that humans are social creatures.  Friends have told me that they miss their colleagues at work.    Students are missing their classmates and teachers.  Families are wondering how they replace Boy Scouts, dance class, soccer, baseball, youth church, performance groups, debate team, History Fair, Science Fair, etc.  Adults no longer have book clubs, yoga class, gym workouts, volunteer groups, social clubs, church meetings, and more. We have gone from days and evenings filled with social activities to social distancing. 

During the SIPO, it is crucial that we remember this:  Social distancing should not mean social isolation.  Everyone should feel she belongs to someone.  It is up to each of us to make sure that we reach out and take care of each other.  I’ve been mulling over how we can take care of each other during this enforced down time and came up with some ideas.  These are not the only (or even the best) ideas.  They are merely my ideas for how to survive the SIPO with peace, patience, camaraderie, and love.


You know those airplane safety instructions that tell you to “put your own oxygen mask on before you help others?”  The same rule applies during the SIPO.  Take care of yourself first.  This is the time to pamper yourself.  You will be taking care of others, especially those of us who are in the sandwich generation, so you need to be healthy.  Sandwich generation?  That’s those folks who are simultaneously raising children and caring for parents.  Here we go.

  1. Write a blog.  That’s what this is.  According to my son, if you email it, it’s just an email.  For it to be a blog, you have to post it on a site.  That’s why I am posting it via ActLocallyWaco.
  2. Now is the time to get social media literate.  Join Facebook and send out friend requests and accept friend requests.  My 67-year-old aunt sent me a friend request last week.  I accepted with alacrity.  Twitter is a great place to put in your two-cents worth on all manner of issues, and now you have the time to do it.  Also, learn video conferencing platforms like Zoom.  Even if we can’t touch each other, we need to see each other.  Make-up isn’t necessary, but you might consider combing your hair before joining a meeting.
  3. When you go on a grocery run, grab a bunch of flowers to brighten up your house.  You’re going to be there a while.
  4. Do your own mani-pedi.  As much as I would like it to be so, a mani-pedi is not an essential function. For the foreseeable future, we are not heading to the salon or the barbershop.  If you are really brave, cut your own hair or have your partner do it.  Or you can let your hair grow uncut for as long as the SIPO lasts (men can let their beards grow too like superstitious baseball players do).  Come on; it’s a pandemic.  We’re already living dangerously.
  5. Take a bubble bath.  First, put the dog out and tell your children (and partner) they can only bother you if doing so involves fire or bleeding that won’t stop.  For bleeding, tell them to try a tourniquet before knocking on the bathroom door (remember to lock it).
  6. Organize your old photos (paper ones not virtual ones).  If you don’t have actual photos, download the FreePrints app and print photos from your phone.  They will arrive in your mailbox within a week.
  7. Stream a television series from your childhood.  Mission Impossible is still an incredible show—much more intelligent, intriguing, and suspenseful than the Tom Cruise film versions.  Gunsmoke, Law and Order, and The Simpsons tie for the longest running television series (20 years).  That’s a lot of binging time.
  8. Check in with friends and family to let them know how you are doing.  Call a friend and have a long talk.  Call an empty-nester (though the SIPO may have reversed his status).
  9. Make a summer playlist, because summer will come.  For that matter, make a Christmas playlist.  I made a Motown playlist.  It was like choosing between your children—Marvin Gaye or Smokey Robinson.
  10. Take advantage of the library’s pandemic curbside service.  I consider it an absolute luxury to order the books I want and then drive by the library to have them delivered to me curbside.  Add some chocolate cake, and I’m in heaven!
  11. Read a book and then watch the film adaptation of it.  If you enjoy historical fiction, Hilary Mantel’s trilogy about Thomas Cromwell is a nice long read.  In the words of an NPR reporter, the volumes are doorstops.  For a scholar of nineteenth-century literature, that’s a compliment.  PBS’s Masterpiece Theater has adapted the first and second books, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, into a series.  The third novel, The Mirror and the Light, is newly released.  I snagged a copy from the library before the SIPO (Thank you, NPR!); I’m rationing it to myself (you would be surprised how quickly 754 pages can go).  The best mystery I have read is Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver who based the novel on a 1952 murder case in which he was the defense attorney.  The book was a lucky find in a dusty Manhattan bookshop where the owner was surly, the books dusty and arranged in no particular order, and no one bothered you for hours.  The 1959 film version was directed by Otto Preminger and stars Jimmy Stewart.  Fun fact:  The actor who played the judge in the film, Joseph Nye Welch, was actually the lawyer who famously confronted Joseph McCarthy during one of the senator’s communist activities subcommittee meetings, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”  Another fun fact:  Duke Ellington composed the music for the film. Play with your pets, preferably a puppy.  They have an infinite capacity for joy.  It will rub off on you.
  12. Pack your emergency go-bag for a different type of disaster and place it near an exit.  A friend convinced me to pack mine.  It’s a surprisingly reassuring task to accomplish.
  13. Take the Census.  For each person (baby, child, teenager, young adult, adult, senior) who goes uncounted, McLennan County will lose thousands of dollars per person per year for the next 10 years!  The Census supports: voting access, income security, medicare/Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), & Headstart.  Go to  The deadline to take it has been extended.

Your Family

The SIPO has you sequestered at home with your family.  Now that you are homeschooling your children, you have new-found respect for teachers, right?  One friend of mine had to video her son practicing his music homework and then post it via an app.  She said that figuring out how to post that assignment nearly drove her to drink.  Even children who had flown the nest are back at home living in their childhood bedrooms.  And let’s not talk about what it’s like for both you and your partner to be working from home.  At the end of the day, all family members could just retreat to their corners and huddle with their phones.  However, we can use this moment to connect meaningfully with our families, deepen our relationships with our partners, redefine our relationships with our college-aged children (they are adults now), learn together, and just have a good time.

  1. Have at least one meal a day with the whole family.  Play the phone game during dinner (rules below).  While you are playing the phone game, talk to each other.  Set a topic for discussion.  Start with something interesting and fun:  What music are you listening to these days?  Rules:  All phones go in a basket in the center of the table within everybody’s reach.  Each person gets 5 dimes, nickels, or quarters (you decide what you want the stakes to be).  Throughout the meal, each time a person reaches for his phone, he must toss a coin in the basket.  Whoever has the most coins left at the end of dinner wins. This is a light-hearted way to keep the family away from phones during meals. 
  2. Put a jigsaw puzzle together as a family.  Remember those?  Don’t have any at home?  Drug Emporium has some delightful animal puzzles.  The Dollar Stores have a variety of puzzles.  Dash in and out quickly.
  3. Play a boardgame.  Now you have enough time to play a never-ending Monopoly game.  Zathura forces players to collaborate to win—great for squabbling siblings.  You only have to know your colors and numbers to play Uno.
  4. Use Zoom to get together with your family.  There are other video conferencing platforms; use the one that works for you.  My family had a Zoom birthday party for my nephew who was turning 30.  My son and I made cookies for him and mailed them to him.  The whole family attended a Zoom meeting to wish him well and watch him open his cards and presents.  He loved it and we were all “there” on his milestone birthday.
  5. Call extended family members to check on them.  Your great-aunt would love to hear from you.
  6. Have each family member write a letter to herself to be opened on New Year’s Day 2021.  Setting a later date will be hard for young ones to conceive.  Seal them and put them in a special canister.  Craft idea:  Decorate a shoe box or oatmeal canister to use to place the letters in.  There; I’ve included crafts.  Personal note:  crafts make me anxious.  Since this is the twenty-first century, each family member could create a video addressed to himself and save it to the Cloud for later viewing.
  7. Have each family member make a top-ten favorite movies list (one each for best sports film, drama, mystery, buddy cop movie, western, animal movie, animated/children’s movie, horror flick, science-fiction film, comedy).  Share the list with each other; a great conversation will ensue.
  8. Create a family book club.  As a family, read a book and then watch the film of the book.  Then discuss both.  The Call of the Wild comes to mind—short enough for everyone to get through, exciting enough to hold everyone’s attention, and easily understood by all.  This is a great book to read to young ones who can’t read yet.  You can get a free full-text copy of The Call of the Wild and other books at
  9. Teach your teenager to caramelize onions.  Learning to do so will teach him patience and provide him with a skill to impress a date when he’s in his twenties.
  10. Organize your recipe box.  Identify family recipes and write an explanation about who gave you the recipe, when it is made, and why it’s a favorite.  In my family, I make bacon and cheese quick bread only for Christmas morning breakfast and dressing quiche the day after Thanksgiving.  Use the family recipes to plan a week of meals.  Get each family member to help prep the meals.  Chopping vegetables in the correct portions can teach fractions.  Why is a fourth of a cup smaller than a third of a cup?
  11. Make and send greeting cards for people who have lost loved ones.  People are dying from COVID-19 and other ailments.  All are unable to funeralize their loved ones with cherished rituals.  A note from someone acknowledging their loss can help ease their grief.

Your Community

We miss our friends, church members, work colleagues, yoga class, team members, club members, our children’s teachers, the daycare staff, the lady at the gas station, the department secretary, the custodians, and so many others.  Again, social distancing should not mean social isolation.  We can reach out to our community to let them know we are thinking of them.  We can also perform real acts of support for each other.

  1. Write an old-fashioned letter to friends, relatives, seniors and isolated individuals.  At first, they will be puzzled (what is this thing in my mailbox that’s not a bill?); then they will be delighted.  Don’t want to write a letter; send a postcard.  Not into snail mail.  Pay twenty bucks and send a digital card.
  2. Make homemade greeting cards.  Use anything to make them—magazines, coloring book pages, canned good wrappings, pretty recipe cards.  Mail them to church members on the shut-in list, a local nursing home, or assisted living facility.
  3. Check on your neighbors.  If you are young, let elderly neighbors know that you will pick up items from the grocery or pharmacy for them.  Have a chat outside your house.  I chatted with a widow down the street from me; she stood in her yard, I stood on the street. 
  4. Take a walk in your neighborhood.  You will meet neighbors you never knew you had—at six feet apart.  Everyone will be out walking to alleviate cabin fever, and everyone will greet you with gusto and a smile.  They will be happy to see someone besides their family members.
  5. Write a thank-you note to essential workers (a grocery store stocker, clerk, pharmacist, nurse, doctor, respiratory therapist, prison guard).  Put them in a large envelop and mail them to a local hospital (identify them on the outside as thank-you notes).  Give one to the cashier when you check out at Walmart, HEB, or Aldi’s.
  6. Food pantries across the county are seeing much greater numbers of people needing help.  The next time you make a grocery run, pick up extra groceries and drop them off at a food pantry or center for the homeless.  Frequented needed items:  canned meat, canned fruit, bottled water, condiments, pasta, peanut butter, toilet paper, and toiletries (I collect miniature toiletries from hotels to donate.). 
  7. Much needed items at homeless shelters, domestic abuse centers, pantries, and charities are feminine hygiene products.  Many girls get feminine hygiene products from school nurses; with schools closed, there is a real need.  Compounding the problem is the fact that women and girls are embarrassed to ask for these products. 
  8. Since we are sheltering in place, it might be easier to make a monetary donation.  There are numerous places in Waco that you can donate to online:  Shepherd’s Heart, Carver Park Pantry, Caritas, the Salvation Army, Paulanne’s Pantry and many others. 
  9. Did I say TAKE THE CENSUS?  For each person (baby, child, teenager, young adult, adult, senior) who goes uncounted, McLennan County will lose thousands of dollars per person per year for the next 10 years!  The Census supports: voting access, income security, medicare/Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), & Headstart.  Go to  The deadline to take it has been extended.

Each day of the coronavirus pandemic confirms what poet John Donne wrote nearly 400 years ago: “No man is an island entire of itself / every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”  Let us remember Donne’s words and embrace this opportunity to care for one another.

Peaches Henry is an English professor at McLennan Community College.  She is currently teaching online and sheltering in place with her eight-month old black Labrador puppy and her son who has returned home from law school.

Scam Alert: Beware of Stimulus Check Scams

By Jennifer Salazar, Program Director of the Texas Senior Medicare Patrol, The Better Business Bureau Education Foundation

Scammers use public health emergencies as opportunities for new fraud schemes. In fact, The Federal Trade Commission has already received complaints about stimulus checks scams.

As you may know, the government is preparing to distribute stimulus checks to help provide relief to households due to the COVID 19 crises. Things you need to know:

  • Individuals with adjusted gross incomes of less than $75,000 should expect to receive $1200 with couples receiving $2400, and $500 per child.
  • The rate is adjusted if the gross income is more than $75,000. This will be based on your 2019 tax return, or 2018 if you haven’t filed yet for 2019. Please keep in mind that it is estimated to take weeks for these checks to be distributed.
  • Your stimulus check will be directly deposited into your bank account if funds you received from your 2018 tax return were directly deposited. Otherwise your paper check will arrive by mail.
  • Social security beneficiaries will automatically receive a stimulus check via direct deposit. There is no need to complete any tax information. The IRS will automatically use what the Social Security Administration has on file.

Scammers are already using this opportunity to steal the money coming your way or your identity by getting access to your personal information. Keep in mind; no one has early access to these funds! Beware of the following scams:

  • Fake Stimulus Checks. There are fake checks circulating right now. It will take at least three weeks for direct deposits to land and up to 10 weeks for paper checks to arrive by mail. If you receive any checks now, it is a fraud. Telltale signs are checks written in odd amounts or include cents, or a check that requires you to verify receipt online or by calling a number.
  • Social media, phone calls, or text messages claiming to get in touch with you. Scammers are reaching out to people online on social media platforms or by sending text messages with claims they are from the IRS or other government agency and are trying to get in touch with you regarding your stimulus check. Ignore/Delete these messages. The U.S. Government will never reach out to you via any social media platform or by text.
  • Scammers pose as a government agency and will send a link to this website or something similar for you to verify personal information. The government does not do this. The government already has the information they need and will not reach out to you for verification of your social security number or other personal identification.
  • Processing Fee. Scammers pose as the IRS or other government agency claiming you can receive your stimulus check faster if you pay a processing fee. There is no such thing and there is no way to speed up the IRS payment process.

The IRS will never call or email you to verify any personal information. This includes your social security number, bank account number, or anything that allows access to your identity.

As soon as you receive a call or email saying they are from the IRS or U.S. Treasury, hang up or delete it. These scammers are professional criminals and will use a variety of methods to steal your personal identification and your money.

Texas Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) is ready to provide you with the information you need to PROTECT yourself from Medicare fraud, errors, and abuse; DETECT potential fraud, errors, and abuse; and REPORT your concerns.

Your SMP can help with your questions, concerns, or complaints about potential fraud and abuse issues. It also can provide information and educational presentations.

Texas Senior Medicare Patrol 1-888-341-6187

New to Waco: East? Or Waco East?

What does it feel like to be new to Waco?  What would a new person notice about our town?  What’s it like to try to find your place in our community?  Ferrell Foster is moving to Waco from Georgetown to become a part of the Prosper Waco team.  In this blog series he will share some of his experiences as a Waco newbie.  What will we see when we look at Waco through his fresh eyes?  Read along to find out!  To see all the posts in this series, click here: New to Waco. – ALW

By Ferrell Foster

The late, great Albert Einstein and I have one thing in common — a fascination with compasses. Waco presents a problem for this handy device — compasses don’t seem to work exactly right here.

Let me clarify. Compasses work; they can just mislead you. North is not north; east is not east. It’s one of the first lessons I had to learn in moving to Waco.

I bought a house in what I would have called South Waco. But when I explained where it was to a friend, he said, “Oh, that’s Hewitt.”  Turns out that even though I have a Waco address, in Waco lingo I’m essentially in Hewitt.

Bryan, a coworker, explained that directions in Waco are best understood in relation to the Brazos: up river is north and down river is south. So, what I might have called North Waco or Northeast Waco, is, in Waco terms, East Waco, I think.

I even hesitate writing this for fear I will say something distinctly Waco-stupid, but I continue on despite my hesitation.

True to Waco directions, North Waco is to the west and northwest of downtown. Right?

Before I moved to Waco I introduced my friend, Jimmy Dorrell, at a luncheon as he received yet another big-deal honor. (He’s a big deal guy in the best way. If I have an unknown brother somewhere, I hope it turns out to be Jimmy.) Anyway, even though I know Jimmy pretty well, I read his official bio before giving the introduction. It spoke of years ago when he and his wife bought a house in North Waco. I now understand where that house is — it’s west of downtown. I think.

I may have to get counseling after writing this. Writing always helps me understand better what I know and don’t know. The more I write this, the more fear rises inside me that I am committing some Waco faux pas from which I will never recover.

I can see it now. I walk into some nice fundraising dinner and introduce myself. They “reply” with a look of recognition and a little grin. “It’s good to meet you, Ferrell,” is what they say, but what they’re thinking is, You’re the idiot who is clueless about Waco directions.

Writing this has kicked me out of the directional closet, and I need your love and acceptance. Everything I know about this place tells me you are loving and kind and care a lot about education (witness the green and gold bubble). So I appeal to my new neighbors — love me, accept me, and educate me.

Gosh, I love Waco. A city that has the gumption to throw away its compasses and say north, south, east and west are wherever we dang well want them to be, is my kind of town.

Ferrell Foster is content specialist for care and communications at Prosper Waco. He and his wife, Trese, have five adult children and five grandchildren. He is a native Texan, having grown up in Dallas.

Classes, Food Pantry, Success Coaches and more still available for MCC students

By Phillip Ericksen

The spread of the COVID-19 virus into a pandemic has caused mass disruption to the world, and McLennan Community College is responding.

Here are a few of the major changes MCC has made to protect the well-being of students and keep them on their academic journeys.

  • Spring Break was extended for students for the week of March 16-20.
  • All courses are being conducted online for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester.
  • All resources that students would normally access on campus are now available in an online format.

These difficult decisions have been made with a top focus on students’ health and academic progress. While this semester is not ending according to the original plans, MCC is adapting to these circumstances behind the work of students, faculty, and staff.

For example, students may access free groceries from Paulanne’s Pantry through a curbside pickup system.

Success Coaches, which work directly with MCC students to help connect them with resources, are also still working and accepting new students.

All faculty and staff members are working to keep students on their academic paths. Most employees are working from home, in accordance with social distancing guidance. Professors have restructured courses into an online format, with many using the video conferencing software, Zoom. Bonnie Sneed, director of choirs at MCC, recorded a video of one of her classes onto the Sing at MCC Facebook page. Her students are remaining optimistic and encourage new students to enroll at MCC.

Students in need of WiFi access may go to Parking Lot E in front of the Highlands gym on campus between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. for free access. Users must remain in their cars or at least six feet away from other individuals. Campus Police are patrolling the area and are available by phone any time of the day or night at 254-299-8911. 

The City of Waco has also announced free WiFi opportunities in the parking lots of the Waco Convention Center and the four library branches.

MCC officials once again remind the entire Waco community to frequently wash their hands and practice social distancing. Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is of vital importance for the United States and the entire world. Implementing basic health and safety tips is the best way to stop the spread.

For all campus updates, visit This site contains campus messages from President Johnette McKown, student resource updates, tips for online courses, and much more.

Phillip Ericksen is the marketing and communications specialist at McLennan Community College. For about four years, he was a journalist at the Waco Tribune-Herald covering higher education and local government. He enjoys following the news, reading books and drinking coffee. As a San Antonio native, he is an avid fan of Mexican food and the Spurs basketball team. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University.  He can be reached at

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.

Trash in the time of Corona: Tips for spring cleaning

By Anna Dunbar

Please Note: The Solid Waste offices, Cobbs Recycling Center, and the landfill will be closed on Friday, April 10th.  Friday’s trash will be picked up EARLY on Wednesday, April 8.

An unexpected outcome of many folks remaining at home is an increase in need for trash services. Some folks are busily raking and bagging leaves and cleaning out their garages. I thought I’d provide a little information about how to meet the challenge of getting rid of stuff while meeting your desire to do so sustainably.

As you know, City of Waco Solid Waste Services is on the job collecting trash, recycling or yard waste at curbside. We ask that you leave those carts at the curb a little longer than usual. Due to long lines and a high number of customers being experienced at the city landfill, regular trash collection services could be delayed. Crews will be working late to catch up on curbside pick-up.

Should we miss your cart, we’ll make sure to implement an alternate pick-up day. If you’re a Monday route and we miss you, please leave your cans at the curb until Wednesday and we’ll make sure to get them.

Leaves and grass clippings should go into Paper Yard Bags purchased at grocery stores, hardware and garden stores. In Waco, please place a maximum of 20 yard waste paper bags at your curb during green weeks. There is a 40-pound limit for each yard waste bag. Paper yard bags are available at HEB, Ace Hardware, Sam’s Club, Target, Lowe’s and Home Depot. You can also buy the bags on-line at many of those stores as well as Amazon.

Don’t want to venture out to the store? Another option is to use one or two green yard carts. 95-gallon green yard carts are available at no extra charge by calling the city’s solid waste customer service center (254-299-2612). The carts can be delivered to your curbside. One or two green yard carts can be set at curbside during green weeks. Yard trimmings and leaves in the green cart should not be bagged.

OK, now what about that pile of brush trimmings? One brush pile will be collected during green weeks. The pile must be no bigger than four (4) feet long and four (4) feet high and four (4) feet wide.  Limbs must be no longer than four (4) feet and no larger than three (3) inches in diameter. 

Limbs should not be tied. Logs and Tree stumps will not be collected. Companies for hire must remove residential brush from the property and haul to a registered or permitted site for disposal or composting/mulching.

So, now let’s venture inside the house or garage and tackle that “junk area”! Everyone has the stash of stuff they’ve been meaning to get to. Here are some options:

The couch you’ve been meaning to get rid of? Some Waco non-profit organizations will accept furniture, including those with cloth. Some will not so it’s best to check. If the couch is not usable, Waco households are allowed bulky waste collection at curbside once per month. One couch is about the limit (one small pick-up truckload). So, you can set it at the curb for collection as trash.  Waco residents can also self-haul the couch to the Cobbs Citizen Convenience Center or Waco Landfill with proof of residency.

The now vintage television you used to watch Mad Men on is no longer working. If you are a Waco resident you can take it to the Cobbs Citizen Convenience Center (Recycling Center) for recycling with proof of residency. The Cobbs Center is operating during this time at its usual schedule of Tuesday through Saturday from 8 AM until 5 PM. As I said, a lot of folks are cleaning up, so please be prepared for a longer wait that usual.  If you are not a Waco resident, you can check with Best Buy about recycling options.

The Waco City Council District 1 clean-up is Saturday, April 25. Curbside bulky waste and brush collection will start at 7 AM on that day. Some things to remember – please call Keep Waco Beautiful at (254) 339-1077 in advance to register to participate in this district clean-up. You must live in City Council District 1. Then, move your unwanted items to the curb just prior to April 25 and it will get collected on that day. Some items to avoid – tires, concrete, dirt, liquids, and household hazardous waste such as paint.

Want to get out of your house and practice social distancing? WALK YOUR BLOCK! Grab a bag and some gloves and clean up litter while you walk your block! It’s fun and an easy activity that you can do to help keep our city clean! If you need materials, give Keep Waco Beautiful a call to pick up materials. Call Executive Director Ashley Millerd at (254)723-5714 to arrange for clean-up material pick-up.

Show your appreciation to solid waste collection workers with a socially distant “air high five” and a thumbs up. Our crews will get a kick out of the extra encouragement.

If you still have questions, please call Waco Solid Waste Services at (254) 299-2612. Due to a reduced staff and high call volume, there may be a wait so we ask for your patience. You can also email me at and I will do my best to help find an answer to your question.

Thank you, Waco!

Anna Dunbar is the Solid Waste Administrator for the City of Waco Solid Waste Services. She is responsible for informing Waco residents and businesses about recycling and waste reduction opportunities as well as solid waste services in Waco. Her husband is a Baylor professor and her daughter is a Baylor University alum who works at Horizon Environmental Services, Inc. Anna is an active member of Keep Waco Beautiful and The Central Texas Audubon Society.

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.