Alongside: Ministry, Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Creativity!

By Jo Ann Sharkey Reinowski

On Friday and Saturday, January 24-25, Truett Seminary is welcoming 20 leaders in innovation, entrepreneurship, non-profit, co-vocational, and creative ministry to share their experiences at the Alongside: Ministry Innovation Conference. 

The conference was born out of a need to celebrate and explore creative and non-traditional approaches to ministry. The mission of Baylor’s Truett Seminary is to equip ministers for service in and alongside Christ’s Church, and the Alongside Conference will focus specifically on inspiring, encouraging, and equipping those who have been called to Kingdom-work alongside and beyond the church.  

The conference is hosted by Truett’s Financial Wellness for Ministry, a program dedicated to helping seminary students and graduates to make healthy and sustainable financial decisions, and is funded through the Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers Lilly Endowment grant awarded to Truett Seminary.

The Alongside Conference begins at 1:00pm on Friday with a keynote presentation from Shannon Hopkins, the Founder and Creative Director of Matryoshka Haus.  The Matryoshka Haus is a collective of entrepreneurs, freelancers, creatives, and friends all working to see hope, justice, and restoration transform our world. An extreme networker and social entrepreneur, Shannon lives in East London but is a Texas native. Her passion for community and individual transformation has launched or influenced the formation of 15 campaigns, projects, and organizations.

On Friday night at 6:00pm, Jeremy Courtney, a graduate of Baylor’s Truett Seminary and founder/CEO of Preemptive Love, will discuss how he created a leading non-profit dedicated to providing emergency relief to war-torn countries and staying to support small business start-ups.  Jeremy is the author of a new book called Love Anyway, and he speaks globally on the integration of activism, spirituality, leadership, and service. His work has been covered by CNN, the BBC, Al-Jazeera, and the New York Times. He lives in Iraq with his family.

In addition, several notable Wacoans will share how they founded their own innovative nonprofits and organizations dedicated to helping the marginalized and those in need.  Presenters include Emily Mills, founder and Chief Ideation Officer of Jesus Said Love, and Kent McKeever, Managing Attorney Partner of Greater Waco Legal Services. 

Other local leaders presenting at the conference include Ahmad Washington, Lead Advisor to the President of the Methodist Children’s Home, CEO of MovementUP, and Worship Arts Director for the Hip Hop Worship Service at FUMC Waco and Kerry Burkley, Pastor of Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church of Waco and Children’s Advocacy Center Program Director of the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children. 

The Saturday portion of the Alongside Conference will feature practitioners in the areas of co-vocational and bi-vocational ministry, entrepreneurship, non-profits, church planting, and supplemental income or side hustles.  Interviews between practitioners and experts in these areas will occur in the style of Guy Raz’s popular podcast, “How I Built This.”  Music will be provided throughout the conference by Ryan Richardson, Director of Worship & Chapel in the Office of Spiritual Life at Baylor University. 

Registration is open to the public and free unless you would like to include meals with your registration.  To register or learn more, visit

Jo Ann Sharkey Reinowski is a native of Houston, Texas but who has lived in Waco for nearly nineteen years.   Jo Ann enjoys working with students and she spends her days at Truett Seminary at Baylor University where she serves as the Director of Academic Services. Jo Ann is married to Brian Reinowski, a financial advisor, and they have one daughter

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 ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

Thank you, Buddy Edwards! Caritas of Waco Executive Director Retiring

Thank you for your service to Waco, Buddy!

The Board of Directors of Caritas of Waco is announcing that the organization’s Executive Director, Buddy Edwards, will retire effective May 31, 2020.  Edwards’ retirement comes after over twelve years of service with Caritas—first as Assistant Executive Director and then as Executive Director since December 1, 2008.  The Board will undertake a search for Edwards’ replacement.

“It has been the highest of honors to have served with Caritas of Waco and to have played a part in helping to meet the needs of people who face the difficulties of poverty and homelessness,” said Edwards.  “It has been a pleasure to work with an exceptional board of directors, an outstanding staff and many committed volunteers all of whom believe in the mission of Caritas,” Edwards added.

Among the enhancements to Caritas that took place during Edwards’ tenure include a major capital campaign resulting in a significant upgrade to the agency’s facilities; creation of the organization’s Case Management Program that provides pathways out of poverty for Caritas’ clients; implementation of a “Healthy Pantry Initiative” that offers an array of nutritional food items in the Caritas Pantry and a dietitian to provide guidance on healthy eating; and provision to Caritas clients of a variety of educational programs such as GED classes, financial literacy classes and nutritional education classes.

“On behalf of the Caritas Board of Directors, we congratulate Buddy on his well-deserved and earned retirement,” said Colin O’Neill, Immediate Past President of the Caritas Board of Directors. “Caritas has benefitted mightily from his steadfast leadership and compassion for the vulnerable of our community,” O’Neill added.

Caritas of Waco is a non-profit, 501(c) (3) organization that serves McLennan County and the surrounding area by providing individuals and families with urgent support and long-term solutions to poverty. 

Uniting the Community to Curb Binge Drinking

By Jessica Wheeler-Macias

Over the last 6 years, a group of concerned community members has been striving to reduce substance use and misuse in Waco and surrounding communities. The Voices Against Substance Abuse, or VASA, community coalition consists of representatives from various community sectors, such as education, law enforcement, faith-based organizations, community services, substance abuse prevention programs, businesses, local government, volunteers, parents and youth, all working to reduce the use and misuse of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs among youth and young adults. The coalition’s efforts in addressing these issues target the communities as a whole through the use of environmental strategies such as media campaigns, presentations and policy development.

 The coalition is currently conducting a media campaign targeting a specific method of alcohol misuse: binge drinking. For clarification, we’ve provided answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding binge drinking and its effects.  

What is binge drinking?

The simplest answer to this question is that binge drinking is the consumption of an excessive amount of alcohol in short period of time. However, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines binge drinking as the consumption of 5 or more standard drinks for men and 4 or more standard drinks for women in a single setting at least 1 day in the past 30 days. A standard drink would be 12 ounces of beer, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits of liquor.

 How dangerous is binge drinking?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has identified binge drinking as the most common, costly and deadly pattern of alcohol misuse. Alcohol affects many of a person’s vital functions, leading to slurred speech, unsteadiness, altered perceptions and slow reactivity. For a young person, alcohol can alter the development of their brain, causing lasting damage to memory, motor skills and coordination. The amount of alcohol consumed and how quickly it is consumed, amplifies the amount and onset of the effects of the alcohol. Binge drinking is associated with many health problems, such as accidental injuries, violence, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, chronic diseases, cancer, memory and learning problems and alcohol dependence. Binge drinking is a serious problem, but it is preventable.

 Who is binge drinking?

According to the CDC, 1 in 6 US adults, most commonly between the ages of 18 and 34, binge drinks about four times per month, consuming about 7 drinks per binge. That’s 17 billion total binge drinks consumed by adults annually. However, it’s not just adults that are binge drinking. The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey-2017 states that, nationwide, 13.5% of high school students were binge drinking.

 Is binge drinking the same as alcoholism?

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence, is a chronic disease that affects all aspects of a person’s life and continues despite serious health, legal and family problems. Binge drinking is a harmful pattern of alcohol misuse that can contribute to alcohol dependence but can be stopped.  

How can binge drinking be prevented?

There are several environmental strategies that can help prevent the excessive use of alcohol, including:

  • Pricing strategies, such as increased alcohol taxes;
  • Limiting the number of alcohol retailers and the days and hours of alcohol sales;
  • Consistently enforcing laws against underage drinking and impaired driving; and,
  • Screening and counseling for alcohol misuse.

However, the first step is educating individuals and communities about the dangers of alcohol use and misuse through presentations, media and substance abuse prevention programs.

Jessica Wheeler-Macias is the Voices Against Substance Abuse Community (VASA) Coalition Coordinator a program of VOICE.

Jessica has worked in the field of drug prevention education for the past five years and has a decade of experience working as a certified elementary school teacher in the State of Texas. She is the mother of 9- year-old Max Macias and 8-year-old Will Macias. Drug Prevention and community partnerships are her passion and she is happy to assist in providing your groups with presentations, booth events, as well as collaborate with your organization to create fun drug-free community events.

 For more information, resources, to schedule a presentation or if you are interested in joining the Voices Against Substance Abuse (VASA) coalition please contact VOICE at 254-741-9222 or

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 ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.