Change a habit — avoid diabetes!

Tuesday, March 26, is American Diabetes Association (ADA) Alert Day®, and the YMCA of Central Texas wants residents of McLennan County to know their risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, as well as preventive steps they can take today to reduce the chances of developing the disease.

In the United States alone, diabetes affects over 30 million people; another 84.1 million Americans have prediabetes, yet only about 10 percent are aware of it. These statistics are alarming, and the impact on the cost of health care (in 2012 alone, the ADA estimates that diabetes cost the health care system $245 billion) makes preventing the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes more important than ever before.

The nation’s struggle with obesity and type 2 diabetes is no surprise but the number of people with prediabetes is a growing issue, especially when so few people realize they have the condition. Prediabetes is a condition in which individuals have blood glucose levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. Often preventable, people with prediabetes can reduce their risk for developing type 2 diabetes by adopting behavior changes that include eating healthier and increasing physical activity. People with prediabetes are at risk for not only developing type 2 diabetes, but also cardiovascular disease, stroke and other conditions.

As the leading community-based network committed to improving the nation’s health the YMCA of Central Texas encourages all adults to take a diabetes risk test at Several factors that could put a person at risk for type 2 diabetes include family history, age, weight and activity level, among others.

“Diabetes Alert Day is the perfect time to not only determine our own risk for prediabetes, but also encourage our family and friends to determine their chances of developing the disease,” said Crystal Hernandez, Program Manager for the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, Waco Family YMCA. “Studies show that people with prediabetes can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by making simple lifestyle changes that include eating healthier and increasing physical activity.”

The YMCA of Central Texas is helping people potentially reduce the risk of developing prediabetes or type 2 diabetes by offering The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program.

Some basic lifestyle changes that contribute to weight loss and an increased focus on healthy living can decrease the risk for type 2 diabetes. Among these are:

  • Reduce portion sizes of the foods you eat that may be high in fat or calories.
  • Keep a food diary to increase awareness of eating patterns and behaviors.
  • Be moderately active at least 30 minutes per day five days a week.
  • Choose water to drink instead of beverages with added sugar.

Incorporate more activity in your day, like taking the stairs or parking farther away from your destination.

Speak to your doctor about diabetes risk factors, especially if you have a family history of the disease or are overweight. 

To learn more about the YMCA of Central Texas’s Diabetes Prevention Program, please visit or contact Crystal Hernandez at 254-776-6612 or

5 more things to know about Family Health Center

By Rae Jefferson

Family Health Center has a long history of working to serve the primary care needs of low-income and uninsured patients in the Waco area. With 14 clinics across McLennan County, FHC is constantly expanding and working to improve the scope and quality of care offered to patients. Here are five programs and strategies we use to offer the best medical, dental, and behavioral health care we can to our community.

Reach Out and Read program supplies books to all patients aged 6 months to 5 years.

1. We address social problems that negatively affect the mind and body. Social determinants of health are conditions within a home, school, workplace, and community that influence health risks and outcomes. According the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, “unstable housing, low income, unsafe neighborhoods, or substandard education” can have a negative effect on a person’s health, both physical and mental.

While addressing these health concerns is often complicated, FHC has implemented a few programs to help find solutions. Low literacy levels are shown to increase “adverse health outcomes, including increased mortality, hospitalization, and in some cases poorer control of chronic health conditions.” Reach Out and Read is a national program that supplies free books to FHC patients aged 6 months to 5 years. The program, currently sponsored by the Junior League of Waco, helps doctors and parents ensure young patients have tools to develop literacy skills that can improve health outcomes later in life. Books are available in both Spanish and English for all age levels.

Additionally, FHC has formed a Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) with Greater Waco Legal Services, which helps medical providers understand and treat legal issues affecting the health of patients. The MLP allows medical professionals at FHC to refer patients to legal services, and for the legal team to have a physical presence in the medical clinic to consult with patients and providers about how to address health-harming legal needs. The partnership also educates medical staff on how to recognize health-harming legal needs during patient visits. Interactions between patients and medical staff or the legal team are confidential, and citizenship status is never shared with outside parties.

2. We offer unconventional approaches to managing health and promoting wellness. If you’re around FHC long enough, you’ll realize we care a lot about treating our patients in ways that will create lasting change in their lives. Through unique prescription programs, we give patients the tools to succeed in achieving a healthy and active lifestyle. Physicians can give patients a prescription for exercise, allowing them free access to the Wellness Center, located in our Madison Cooper Community Clinic. Fitness advisers work with each patient to evaluate exercise needs and abilities. Baylor University and individuals in the community have graciously donated all equipment in the workout facility.

Physicians also have the ability to give patients a Produce Prescription, which provides them with a free box of produce each week while the program is in season. Each box includes seasonal produce grown and provided by World Hunger Relief, Inc., as well as recipe cards to assist patients as they prepare meals.

3. We offer support groups that can improve health and well-being. Centering Pregnancy is a program that allows expectant mothers to find support and familiarity with one another. For some patients, familial support is limited or nonexistent. The groups allow them to find much needed community while decreasing chances of experiencing complications during pregnancy and delivery. Foster care groups are also available, and allow families with foster children to share their joys, challenges, and support for one another.

Herbs planted in the raised garden beds outside the Wellness Center.

4. We are developing a greenspace in a Waco neighborhood. The Community Gathering Space is under development at our main clinic at Colcord Avenue and N 16th Street. In the future, the plot of land, adjacent to the Wellness Center, will be a greenspace with sitting areas and a walkway. It will also feature a small garden mirroring vegetables in the Produce Prescription boxes, which will allow patients to see the produce at all stages of growth and encourage a foray into home gardening. We broke ground in January and have already built a few raised garden beds and a portion of the walkway.

5. We bring behavioral health care into the exam room. Physicians in the U.S. often report that their patients do not have access to adequate mental health services. Furthermore, mental health diagnoses made by primary care doctors are often incorrect. Integrated Health Management is a method of treating patients that brings more accurate mental health care into exam rooms and gives them more time with a team of healthcare professionals. During routine visits, patients who would benefit can choose to see a mental health professional, also called an Integrated Health Manager, during the same visit to quickly receive a diagnosis and discuss treatment options. This process allows patients to more easily access mental health resources without sacrificing quality of care.

Rae Jefferson is a creative, Netflix binger, and marketing professional, in that order. Originally from Houston, she stuck around Waco after graduating from Baylor University with a B.A. in Journalism, PR, & New Media and a minor in Film & Digital Media. Now she’s the Communications Director at Family Health Center, where she gets to spend each day serving Waco. When she’s not working, find her at home snuggled up with her dog-daughter, Charlie, watching “The Office” for the hundredth time.

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.

Baylor Scott and White – Hillcrest Seeking Bilingual Spiritual Care Volunteers!

By Matthew Hoffman, MA, BCC

We began, about three years ago, the “Good Friends Volunteer Spiritual Care Program” out of a conviction that within our city, there is a “community of healers,” who if given proper training, in some very basic spiritual care and visitation ministry, under the help and guidance of our professionally trained Staff Chaplains, could come into the hospital context and make a difference in the lives of people in need.  

Since we began this volunteer program, with now, visits numbering into the thousands, having taken place, this hypothesis has born itself out to be true, that there are everyday people, who can stand as “healers,” in sacred places, like that of a patient’s room, and by doing so, can make a profound, health giving difference in the trajectory of people’s lives.

Here in Waco, we are seeking to take the “Good Friends” program and pilot a new version of this to help mobilize volunteers from local bilingual/Spanish speaking congregations to the help advance the care of our Spanish only speaking patients.  Coming into a hospital can be a very anxiety producing experience.  How much more so if you speak a different language than the majority of your healthcare team?  By being a member of the Good Friends program as a bilingual volunteer you will be a welcomed presence offering prayer as desired, a listening ear and making people aware of the other spiritual care resources that would be available to them.  

  • Through the Good Friend Program you will be trained in areas of:
  • How to minister to the spiritual and emotional needs of the sick.
  • Discover the unique nature of hospital ministry.
  • How to care for people of diverse religious traditions and cultures.
  • Being a ministry of presence
  • The ministry of active listening

If you would like to be part of the Good Friends program as a bilingual volunteer, or if you just want to grow in your ability to care for sick within your own faith community (for pastors, who would like to send members to this training for added help in their congregation, please do so!), join us on Monday, March 25 from 1-430pm at the Allison Auditorium at Baylor Scott and White Health-Hillcrest Hospital. You can RSVP to Chaplain Matthew Hoffman @    

Chaplain Matthew Hoffman is a Board Certified Chaplain who serves at the system level as a Manager of Baylor Scott and White Health’s Faith In Action Initiatives (CTX).  He oversees the development of various spiritual care programs in many of BSWH’s hospitals within its Central Division, as well as its local and international humanitarian aid and medical missions programs. 

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.

Thanking the people who feed our leaders

By Craig Nash

When asked what her favorite part of the job is, Lakaisha Clark, the cafeteria manager at Parkdale Elementary School in Waco, gestures toward a room full of kids eating breakfast and replies, “This.”

“I don’t know what other people say about the kids here, but when I look out across this room, what I see are a lot of leaders,” she said. She loves speaking to kids individually and giving them encouragement to see in themselves what she sees in them.

That ability to see the potential in others is likely one of the reasons she is in her current position. When this school year began, she was hired as a cafeteria worker at Parkdale. The management with WISD Child Nutrition Services quickly saw her leadership abilities and promoted her to Cafeteria Manager. The school has seen a drastic increase in both attendance and breakfast participation this year, which has had Clark overseeing a lot of changes in her cafeteria service. New workers have been added and physical changes to the building were made to accommodate an extra line for students to enter in.

She is at the school by 6:00 am and by the time she leaves around 3:00, has served Parkdale students over 450 breakfasts, 600 lunches, as well as afternoon snacks. All of this while managing a team of workers, placing and receiving orders, and tending to regulations associated with operating a USDA program. According to Assistant Principal Wendy Moulds, Ms. Clark does all of this with a smile on her face and an infectious, upbeat personality that lifts the spirits of students, faculty and staff.

At the Texas Hunger Initiative, we are convinced that addressing poverty and food insecurity requires a multi-pronged approach that includes policy makers, business, community leaders and non-profit organizations. But the foot soldiers on the front lines of ending childhood hunger are the Child Nutrition departments at our public schools. Food Service directors of these departments, like Cliff Reece at Waco ISD and Dave Thiel at La Vega ISD, oversee massive, complicated programs that have one goal in mind: To feed children. They are often the unsung heroes in our community, working behind the scenes to provide nutrition assistance to tens of thousands of kids in the Heart of Texas Region.

Usually food insecurity in families means that meals are spread thin, or difficult decisions have to be made about purchasing choices. But occasionally it means that school breakfast will be the first meal a child has eaten since they left school the previous day. Cafeteria Managers and food service workers like Lakaisha Clark recognize this, which gives them a sense of mission and intentionality about the work they do.

The first full week of March every year is National School Breakfast week, which is set aside to recognize the importance school breakfasts have in all of our communities. This week in the Heart of Texas, student athletes from Baylor visited campuses in Waco and La Vega ISD’s to celebrate the role Child Nutrition Departments play in the health and wellness of our kids. You should consider joining them in this celebration by taking some time this month to speak a word of encouragement to the Child Nutrition staffs of our local schools. Their work is done with great care and a deep love for the children in our communities.

Craig Nash is the Regional Manager for Child Hunger Outreach at Baylor’s Texas Hunger Initiative. He enjoys talking and writing about Waco, Country Music, and Faith. He blogs 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.

East Waco Voices: Feeding the (Healthy!) Body and Soul at Carver Park Baptist Church – Part 1

(Carver Park Baptist Church is helping to lead a healthy food revolution in East Waco through their food related ministries.  They have so much going on that we couldn’t squeeze it into one post. This is Part 1 of the story.  Stay tuned for Part 2! – ALW)

By Khristian Howard

In the South, food is the social apex of our culture. In a region that is known for its hospitality and deep religious roots, food could not have a more important role. Nowhere else is this more apparent than in the church. At Carver Park Baptist Church, Evelyn Moore has been leading the Culinary Arts Ministry in healthy, innovative directions.

As the name suggests, the Culinary Arts Ministry is more than just a food and fellowship team. Under Mrs. Moore’s direction, this ministry is introducing the church and community to healthier ways to prepare and eat cuisine that they have enjoyed for generations.

Evelyn Moore has been a part of the Waco community for over seventy years and a part of Carver Park Baptist Church for over forty. After leaving Waco as a young adult, she returned with her husband to raise her children here. “When it came time to raise my children, my husband and I talked about it and we felt that Waco was a quiet, reasonably positioned place to raise children in,” she says.

Having been raised in church, Moore was no stranger to serving the community. As a young mother, she and other church members were involved with neighborhood improvements like advocating for paved streets, getting a local landfill closed, and school integration. Moore says, “Community situations have always been a part of what our life was…we were involved with everything political or that had to do with improving the community.”

In the Culinary Arts Ministry, Mrs. Moore and her team approach service with thoughtfulness and creativity. “We make sure that whenever we have a church function, we have a reasonably healthy meal,” she shared. This includes two Sunday breakfasts, a mid-morning snack for the children, bereavement meals, meetings, and other church events.

When asked how she classifies a meal as “reasonably healthy,” Mrs. Moore explained that the meal components consist of two to three vegetables, little to no fried foods, whole grains, and as many fresh greens and fruit as possible. She stated, “Whatever is in season and is reasonably priced is what we offer on the menu every Sunday.” She explained that improving your diet is all about making informed decisions about what ingredients, foods, and processes to substitute, for example baking instead of frying, having 2% rather than whole milk, and substituting agave for sugar.

In the past, due to kitchen limitations, nutrition was sometimes compromised for time and ease of preparation. The church would often send out for fried chicken when there was an event. Moore says this was one of the first things they opted to change, “We wanted to get away from that fried chicken because fried chicken is…fried chicken! It’s saturated in fat, and it’s not always good for us.”

So, how has this nutritional shift been received by the church members? Evelyn says, “People who never ate carrots before, eat our carrots. People who never ate beets before, eat our beets…They’re learning how to prepare things they’ve never made before.” The key is creating familiarity for people who are afraid to branch out. To help create this, the Culinary Arts Ministry implemented a tasting day, “We have even done a heart healthy menu…We wanted to show people on that particular day that you could have tasty food, without it being bland and it can still be healthy.”

The Culinary Arts Ministry makes it a point to educate the rest of the church staff as well. Every third Sunday, they host a class where they discuss foods from the Bible, give hospitality training, and share tips about what to expect when hosting guests.  More specifically, among Carver Park’s senior Bible study group, Moore is sharing more detailed information about health, nutrition, and exercise. “They’re lifestyle changes, not a diet. Our whole objective is to make us better, and to help others be made better by what we learn and do.”

For the community at large, Carver Park Baptist hosts an annual event titled, Feed My Sheep. Here, community members can join them for a healthy dinner and can receive food basket donations. Aside from this, people can come in to any service and eat there at any time.

The abundance of knowledge and resources within the Culinary Arts Ministry begs a pertinent question: Why doesn’t the community make healthier food choices? “I actually believe that people don’t eat healthy because of finances,” Moore shares. She began to reflect on previous attempts to connect the people in East Waco to healthy food. One of those early efforts was the “Veggie Van” organized by World Hunger Relief, Inc.  As the name implies, the organizers would bring a van full of fresh vegetables to East Waco on a regular basis and offer them for sale.  “I thought that the produce wagon that used to come through was pretty good,” Mrs. Moore says, “but they were a little bit expensive for the people in the neighborhood.”  To remedy this, Moore has high hopes of rebuilding the church garden which would provide fresh produce to the community each week – with no obligation to turning a profit.

Another key ingredient Moore says is needed to help the community eat healthier is education – not only for nutrition, but for buying fresh with a low budget. “We need to get people educated on what they can eat without it being so expensive. Everybody says eating well is so much more expensive, but if [they] knew how to eat and how to prepare it [they] wouldn’t spend as much money.”

Moore is a strong believer in making a plan and sticking to it. Her advice to those who are new to or struggling with eating healthier? “Go to the market with your budget and your menu and have what you buy be geared to that. Work within those parameters. The next week do the same thing, and you’re going to learn that the food is much more tasty and makes you feel much better.”              

Evelyn Moore continues to be a leading voice in improving the nutritional components of meals within her church and her community. However, she is just one of a team of individuals at Carver Park Baptist, and in East Waco, who are seeking to improve lives through better food. Another of these individuals is Helen Lewis, who manages Carver Park’s expansive food pantry. We will share that story in Part 2 of this series.

Khristian Howard is an Atlanta native and a recent graduate of Georgia State University where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. She has a passion for empowering communities through service, and seeks to connect advocacy to creativity. Currently, she is serving as the AmeriCorps VISTA for Texas Hunger Initiative Waco, where her work focuses on fostering collective impact to improve health and eating habits in East Waco. When she is not working, you may find her sharpening her culinary skills or exploring new poetic and artistic pathways.  

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.

The Business of Health Care: Cancer Care

By Glenn Robinson

Cancer is now the leading cause of death in the United States and globally.  Few among us have not already been touched by cancer in some way, whether it be ourselves, someone in our family or dear friends and colleagues.  With that in mind, the following are a few notes on cancer care that will hopefully be helpful if cancer becomes a part of your life.  


According to a study in The American Journal of Medicine, cancer forces 42 percent of patients to exhaust life savings in two years. It is expensive to treat, with patients facing potential surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments – in addition to expensive imaging tests. There are hospital stays, multiple doctor appointments each month, and many tests… not to mention the high cost of cancer-fighting medications, or income lost from missing work.

A recent study found that cancer patients, on average, are more than twice as likely to declare bankruptcy as those without cancer. Should you or a loved one face a cancer diagnosis, here are steps that may reduce some of the financial burden:

  1. Talk to your health insurance company and make sure you understand deductible and copay requirements.
  2. Take someone with you to doctors’ appointments who is not afraid to bring up the cost question on your behalf, if necessary.
  3. Tell care providers that cost is a potential issue.
  4. Discuss therapy options – and their cost – with your provider. Beyond choosing a lower cost therapy, avoiding low-value tests and procedures can save a lot of money.
  5. Consider hiring a financial counselor to help guide the family through this aspect of care.

Following these steps can help patients focus less on finances, and more on getting better.

Alternative Therapies

Nearly four in ten Americans believe that cancer can be cured solely through “alternative” therapies, such as oxygen therapy, diet, and herbs – according to a survey by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Many in the medical community were shocked by this finding and the danger it represents. A 2018 study underscores the danger, finding that patients with cancer using alternative medicine were more likely to decline potentially curative conventional cancer treatment, thereby increasing risk of death.

The National Institutes of Health has declared that no alternative health product or practice – such as acupuncture, chiropractic medicine and herbal medicine – has been proven to cure cancer. While these services may help patients manage cancer symptoms and side-effects from treatment, relieve stress, and improve quality of life, they are not a cure.

Patients facing cancer must keep in mind that delaying conventional cancer treatment can decrease the chances of remission or cure, and that using unproven products or practices to postpone or replace conventional medical treatment may be a costly mistake.

Even if they don’t delay conventional care, some alternative therapies may interfere with cancer treatments or be unsafe for cancer patients. Anyone diagnosed with cancer should consult their cancer care providers before using any alternative therapy for any purpose — regardless of whether it’s cancer-related.

Alternative therapies often do have a role in cancer care. As part of an ongoing discussion, patients and their physician can determine which therapies are safe and supported by evidence.

Advanced Treatment Options

For decades, when it comes to treating cancer, there have been three main options: surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. Often these treatments are used in concert with one another to rid patients of tumors and eradicate any traces of the disease.

While these will likely remain staples of cancer care for the foreseeable future, a host of new advanced treatment modalities are coming online and are expected to expand the cancer care toolbox.    

One is immunotherapy, which looks for ways to bolster the body’s immune system to prevent the spread of cancer. Some cancers take hold and spread throughout the body because they aren’t susceptible to the body’s immune response and even develop immunity to chemotherapy drugs and radiation. Immunotherapy attacks the cancer’s defenses, potentially allowing for effective treatment.

A related field of cancer study is therapeutic viruses and dendritic cell vaccines. These are biological agents, engineered in a lab, capable of seeking out and destroying cancer cells while leaving healthy tissue alone.

Another exciting development in cancer research involves nanoparticles. This advanced, microscopic technology can be used to more precisely target cancer cells in multiple ways without harming normal cells. For instance, nanoparticles can deliver heat to tumors to shrink them, or be loaded with medication and sent to hunt down cancer cells.

There may never be one silver bullet to cure cancer, but rapid progress on many fronts hopefully will someday lead to its demise.       

Glenn Robinson is the President of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest. He has over 30 years experience in hospital and health care management, and currently serves on several Boards associated with the Texas Hospital Association and the American Hospital Association. In addition, Glenn is Past-Chair and an active member of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Prosper Waco Board.

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.

East Waco Voices: Da Shack Farmer’s Market

By Khristian Howard

East Waco is a source of rich, proud history. Just a mention of revered figures like World War II hero Doris Miller or of Paul Quinn College, the oldest historically black college in Texas, reminds us of the national significance of this part of the Waco community.

What does East Waco have to offer now? There are several gems in the community that continue to sustain the residents, preserve its culture, inspire change, and fuel its heartbeat… but you may have to look for them. One such gem is Da Shack Farmer’s Market. Located in a quaint and quiet part of the neighborhood at 925 Houston Street, “Da Shack” (like the name implies) may not impress you from the outside. However, once you walk through the doors and enter the green oasis that is their garden, you realize it is a hub for nutritious food, education, beauty, and serenity.

Donna Nickerson, a licensed psychotherapist and owner of Da Shack, sat down for a brief interview.  She shared about how the farmer’s market began, and talked about her dreams for benefiting the community.

First, how did they come up with the name?  “I wanted something that was catchy, something that was different. As far as the name, ‘Da Shack’ is not a place where it’s fancy…it’s just simple.” she explained.  “We try to implement simple things – even with gardening. We try to utilize our resources and try to communicate that with the community as well. That way they know you can use what you have. You don’t have to be fancy with things, just use what’s available.”

What should a visitor expect from Da Shack?  For Donna, the most important thing is for customers to leave with an education, even if they do not buy anything. “When they come here, they are going to learn about healthy eating, organic growing, gardening. Our goal is not to just provide healthy organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs…but also to educate them on how to grow and start gardening.” Da Shack is a place where there is something for every potential gardener. For folks who do not want to grow their vegetables from the ground, Donna and the others at Da Shack can give advice and guidance on how to start with pots, vegetable cans, or even in water.

Donna’s passion for educating people on how to improve their health shares roots with her profession as a clinical social worker and psychotherapist. Da Shack provides an avenue for addressing both physical and mental health.  In fact, Da Shack is now offering mental health services to the community. Donna is registered with most insurance agencies and is also providing sliding scale and pro-bono sessions for visitors to learn about behavioral health, managing stress, and more. When asked about why she chose to connect therapy to the farmer’s market, she stated, “Behavioral health is a barrier for a lot of people. If it is not addressed, it creates walls for individuals. Healthy people understand stress and how to cope with it…If you are in good condition physically, you’ll be in good condition emotionally, and vice versa because they work hand-in-hand…not a lot of psychotherapy services are present [in East Waco] and it is a big need.” Furthermore, she wanted “people in the community to come to a place where there is serenity, relaxation, warmth, and resources.”

In recent years, Waco has been a hub for social and economic transformation. Businesses are seeing a new promising market, families are finding supportive communities for their children, and students continue to flood to one of the oldest, most respected universities in the South. The work that Da Shack does in the community could be done downtown or in Woodway or Hewitt, so…why East Waco? When approached with this question, Donna gives a nod to the importance of managing perceptions about the neighborhood. She sees promise in East Waco, she says, and wants Da Shack’s location to be a catalyst for collective impact around healthier living there. “…As long as people continue to develop, as long as people continue to have a positive outlook, there’s really a lot of potential here, it’s just going to take a lot of collaboration. A lot of the key people that are willing to do something really need to be connected.”

Da Shack is a special place for East Wacoans, and for the rest of the city as well. They offer organic products that range from houseplants and outdoor plants, to vegetables and herbs, to instructional sessions about plant benefits and growing.

Beginning February 2nd, they will be accepting SNAP as a way to eliminate any financial barriers for the community – though their products are already priced at a fair rate to ensure affordability. In addition to this, they will soon be implementing smoothies for those who would rather drink their veggies, greenhouse classes and tours for students and non-profits, and monthly donations to families in need in East Waco.

Da Shack Farmer’s Market has taken a creative approach to marrying hobbies with service, nutrition with mental health, and the public sphere with privately-owned business. Ventures like these build on the historic positive energy of East Waco and move the whole community of Waco toward a healthy future.

Khristian Howard is an Atlanta native and a recent graduate of Georgia State University where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. She has a passion for empowering communities through service, and seeks to connect advocacy to creativity. Currently, she is serving as the AmeriCorps VISTA for Texas Hunger Initiative Waco, where her work focuses on fostering collective impact to improve health and eating habits in East Waco. When she is not working, you may find her sharpening her culinary skills or exploring new poetic and artistic pathways.  

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.

5 things every Wacoan should know about Family Health Center

By Rae Jefferson

For nearly 50 years, Family Health Center has tended to the medical needs of Wacoans from every corner of our community. FHC is a nonprofit organization with a rich history rooted in high-quality, compassionate healthcare. We offer a number of full-scope medical services, some of which are an unexpected take on maintaining health. Here are five nuggets about FHC, the work we do, and why we are in the business of caring for Waco and McLennan County residents.

1. We believe everyone should have access to quality primary care. Regardless of background, financial status, or medical history, everyone deserves tools that will lead to the longest and healthiest life possible. FHC is dedicated to providing medical, dental, and behavioral health services to underserved communities across our region. Of the nearly 60,000 patients served in 2017:

  • 97% were at or below 200 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines
  • About 9,300 indicated they were homeless, and
  • 31% were uninsured.

Services at FHC are designed with patients in mind. We operate 14 clinical sites to maximize accessibility, as many of our patients have limited mobility or access to transportation. Additionally, some FHC clinics accommodate working patients’ schedules by staying open 55 hours per week, including most evenings and Saturday mornings. The main site (1600 Providence) features an in-house pharmacy that provides significant discounts to qualifying patients for brand-name prescriptions. FHC also works to maximize reach and impact through partnerships with groups like McLennan County Health Services, local hospitals, United Way, MCC, Baylor, and others.

2. We will celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2020. FHC was founded in early 1970 after local medical providers identified a gap in care for Wacoans without commercial health insurance, as well as a shortage of doctors in the Waco area. The center was developed by leaders in local business, politics, and medicine. Since that time, FHC has been committed to its mission of providing primary care to those for whom access to healthcare has been historically limited.

3. We are home to one of the most competitive residency programs in Texas. The Family Medicine Residency Program (FMRP) began when Family Health Center first opened. It helped address the shortage of doctors in the Waco area and was one of the first accredited family medicine training programs west of the Mississippi River. Today, FMRP is in the top three percent of all programs nationally. More than half of the family medicine doctors practicing in McLennan County are program graduates, and more than half of all program graduates practice in Texas. The program is widely recognized for innovation in electronic health records for patients, curricular design, and quality of graduates.

In 2019, FMRP is a finalist for the Baldwin Award, a national honor recognizing residency programs that teach compassion-based patient care and provide excellent treatment of residents – which has been historically problematic in medical education environments across the country. Only six out of more than 10,000 residency programs across the U.S. are being considered for the award.

4. We are a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). This means we qualify for special government funding, receive enhanced reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, serve underserved people in a comprehensive way (medical, dental, behavioral, etc.), and provide a sliding fee scale for uninsured patients (that’s #5). FHC has to meet several other requirements – like having a board of directors that is majority FHC patients – but each requirement ensures the center provides the best possible care to patients.

5. We have options for the uninsured. With registration for the Affordable Care Act falling 4 percent this past December, it’s reasonable to assume more Wacoans will be uninsured than in recent years. The Good Health Card is a sliding fee scale offered by FHC to low-income patients without health insurance. Patients qualify for one of four categories, labeled A through D. Each category determines appointment co-pay (up to $20) and the percent paid by the patient for any services rendered (up to 50%). This sliding scale payment system is required for FHC to maintain its FQHC status, but it also helps create a system where traditionally underserved members of the community have access to necessary medical, dental, and behavioral health services across McLennan County.

Rae Jefferson is a creative, Netflix binger, and marketing professional, in that order. Originally from Houston, she stuck around Waco after graduating from Baylor University with a B.A. in Journalism, PR, & New Media and a minor in Film & Digital Media. Now she’s the Communications Director at Family Health Center, where she gets to spend each day serving Waco. When she’s not working, find her at home snuggled up with her dog-daughter, Charlie, watching “The Office” for the hundredth time.

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.

Rising from Ashes: Yoga contributes to Holistic Healing from Trauma

By Jaja Chen & Bonnie Finch

Trauma can be debilitating for individuals, couples, families, and impacts our greater Waco community. We have seen from the #MeToo movement in our nation this past year ways that speaking one’s story can empower and remove stigma in confronting and talking about trauma and its impacts.

Trauma includes but is not limited to interpersonal trauma such as physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or spiritual trauma and is can be a shock to one’s body, mind, and spirit. When thinking of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) recovery, we may not always think of yoga. However, researchers in the field of trauma continue to find how our bodies physically remember trauma and how body-based approaches can play a pivotal role in holistic trauma recovery. 

When we become activated and triggered, our bodies go into a state of stress, also known as Fight/Flight/Freeze. We leave the present moment and may go back to when the traumatic event(s) occurred. We enter into a survivor mode – our blood pressure increases, our breathing becomes short and quick, and our heart begins to race, just to name a few of the stress responses. Once triggered, it can take our bodies nearly 8 hours to get back to optimal functioning level.

This physical body response impacts almost every system including our digestion, hormone outputs, cardiovascular system, muscles, and bones. The longer we are in the triggered response, the more physical impacts it can have on our bodies. By learning grounding and centering techniques and slowly adding mindfulness and meditation, we can teach our bodies to recover faster and move into the present moment.

Yoga also empowers us with choice.  

Many survivors of trauma may continue to feel shame regarding loss of power and choice in the midst of difficult situations. Through guided, easy movements, we can work on finding ways to bring positive choice back into lives. These seemingly simple movements begin to create a BRAVE space inside us. We use the word “brave” space instead of “safe” space because we do not want to assume that our students feel safe, or that they have to feel safe. We try to help establish courage within our students to let them know that whatever they are feeling is okay.

While yoga is about coming into the present moment, it is more about ACCEPTING that moment just as it is. When we show up with courage, we begin to develop compassion for ourselves. The physical movements of yoga inspire curiosity – to not only help the body feel good – but to bring back a sense of sacredness, peace, and self-love. Learning the skill of coming into stillness allows that peace to unfold into every aspect of our lives.

While not a quick fix, these skills are what we strive to practice every day for the rest of our lives. We are eager to share these tools with you and our Waco community as well. We invite you in joining us in our practice.

At Enrichment Training & Counseling Solutions, we love providing holistic trauma recovery. Our upcoming Phoenix Yoga series provides trauma-sensitive yoga, meditation, and trauma education to participants. We will be co-leading this 8-week yoga program in upcoming weeks this spring. For more information and to register see our website:

Jaja Chen, LCSW, CDWF is a private practice therapist in Waco through Enrichment Training & Counseling Solutions specializing in PTSD, maternal mental health, and compassion fatigue. As an EMDR Trained Therapist, Jaja loves providing holistic trauma recovery to the Greater Waco community. Jaja can be contacted via email at or via webpage at

Bonnie Finch, is a Licensed Massage Therapist MT #129813 and a 500 Hour Registered Yoga Teacher. She has almost 3 years of teaching experience and has trained with Warriors at Ease teacher training for trauma recovery. Bonnie specializes in helping people evoke the relaxation response, to foster healing from within. Bonnie can be contacted via email or via webpage

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.

The Business of Health: Understanding your Health Insurance Policy

By Glenn Robinson

One of the hallmarks of the information age economy is consumerism – in this instance, defined as businesses making their goods and services more convenient, affordable, or otherwise desirable to customers.

For years, virtually every segment of our economy has embraced this trend… except healthcare. At least until recently. Increasingly, healthcare consumers are expecting that their experience with healthcare providers mirror the experience they have with some of the world’s top brands.

This rise in healthcare consumerism will continue according to a recent brief by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. Not only have consumer expectations and experiences with other industries helped drive this trend, but so has the increasing popularity of high deductible health plans and incentives offered to those covered to make cost-effective choices.

In other words, as the financial burden of healthcare decision-making shifts to patients, patients are more apt to become more conscientious and expect more out of those rendering healthcare services.

This trend towards healthcare consumerism has already led to many noticeable changes in industry practices. The growing number of convenient walk-in clinics and the introduction of telemedicine are manifestations, as is the increasing focus healthcare providers put on patient experience surveys and online reviews. An entire cottage industry has grown up around healthcare design and construction to make the care environment more warm, welcoming, and comfortable.

However, one big obstacle still remains to true healthcare consumerism – pricing transparency.

It’s a complex issue, but one many organizations are working to solve

You know having a health insurance policy is important, but equally as important is understanding what is in the policy so you can plan accordingly. Unfortunately, much of the language used in health insurance plans isn’t part of the everyday vernacular.  With that in mind, here are some common terms and what they mean.

A premium is the amount of money you or your employer pays monthly or annually for your health insurance.

The deductible is how much you must pay out of pocket before your insurance starts to pay. Keep in mind, though, many preventive health services don’t require you to pay a deductible.

Co-insurance is how much you must pay out of pocket even after meeting your deductible. For instance, 80/20 co-insurance means you’re still responsible for paying 20 percent of charges.

This is different from a co-pay, which is a flat fee – for example 20 dollars – you might have to pay for a doctor’s visit. 

Maximum out-of-pocket expenses are the most amount of money you will be required to pay per year for deductibles and co-insurance.

The term covered expenses refers to what medical services or prescriptions are or aren’t paid for by a plan.

Beyond these terms, if you don’t understand something about your plan, how it works, and what it covers, you can call the toll-free number on the back of your health insurance card. Most reputable insurance companies have staff trained to explain the ins and outs of every policy.

Most Americans appear to believe: your health is your wealth. While wealth sometimes can create its own problems, health inevitably is a source of happiness… and the value of health increases with age, usually surpassing the importance of wealth.

If you had a choice, would you spend your time striving for health or wealth? A majority of Americans pick health, according to a survey by TD Bank. The company surveyed over 1,000 U.S. consumers who made a 2018 New Year’s resolution.

The top goal of respondents was to eat better, with 54 percent citing it as their priority. The top financial goal was to save more and spend less, with 39 percent selecting it as a priority. Millennials – young adults between ages 22 and 37 – said eating healthy and getting in shape or staying fit is more important than saving more and spending less money.

Health and wealth are not mutually exclusive. About 41 percent of those who indicated they were satisfied with their financial health are more likely to be satisfied with their physical health, emotional health, and family well-being.

People with good health are more likely to have the energy and stamina to excel in the workplace, and they are less likely to spend time and effort dealing with the debilitating effect of chronic health conditions and disabilities.

Although most respondents said they are less confident they will achieve their goals to get in shape, they are more likely to seek advice for financial issues. Health typically is something that you earn if you are persistent and disciplined – it cannot be bought.

 This report, and other episodes, are available at

Glenn Robinson is the President of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest. He has over 30 years of experience in hospital and health care management, and currently serves on several Boards associated with the Texas Hospital Association and the American Hospital Association. In addition, Glenn is Past-Chair and an active member of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Prosper Waco Board.

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.