Towny Waco: What Makes Baked Bliss Best for Everyone?

(Welcome to the Act Locally Waco/Towny blog series. Towny is an app that exists to connect consumers with local businesses. It’s fairly new to Waco and is loaded with answers to the question, “Why local?” Through this blog series, the folks at Towny will be sharing the stories behind some of our high-quality, local products and helping you get to know some of our energetic local entrepreneurs. We hope you enjoy it! Supporting local business is a terrific way to support the Waco economy! Plus, it’s just fun to get to know your neighbors. For more posts in this blog series, click here: Towny Waco.– ALW)

By Beth Whittington

“For 12 years, I saw this. Tutoring and mentoring North Waco students, we built real relationship, connection – and then we’d lose them to getting a job because they were needed to help support their families.

I observed that our kids were ill-prepared for real-life jobs – basic job skills like showing up on time, making sure you get a ride, getting along with your co-workers were a big challenge for our students, so a lot of kids lost their jobs as fast as they got them.

It put a seed inside of me. I thought, ‘What is it that I can do, practically, to put us in a position where we would have something, a real-life place, for kids to come and learn those skills?”

Kim Cutler, Waco resident of 32 years, has (obviously) spent years developing her “part” in caring for unsupported youth through the business of baking.

“I began to roll the idea around in my heart and saw that I practically enjoyed cooking and had already been baking with a lot of our kiddos. I thought it was a role the kids could handle.”

She wanted to have something that wasn’t a church program but a real-life pressure, where, the kids knew – this is really a job and you really have to be on time, have to do the job well.

Baking was something she knew she could bring to the table with excellence, so Kim began inching in that direction, a little at a time.

Where she inched:

  • Kim graduated from Baylor University – 1990
  • Antioch Training School – 1991-1992
  • Worked among Waco’s unsupported youth – 1992-2007
  • Employed at Starbucks to prepare for running her own bakery – 2007-2014
  • Went part-time at Starbucks to push Baked Bliss, working out of her house – 2012-2014
  • Left Starbucks to bake full-time, out of her house, received an offer to bake wholesale goods for a large-scale company, giving her the opportunity to leave the house and get into a commercial kitchen – 2014
  • Ended the contract with the wholesaler – February 2018
  • Opened Baked Bliss (1114 N 15th St), Kim’s walk-up with outdoor seating + misters, to the public – May 2017 to today!

What’s something most folks wouldn’t even know that’s special about this place?

“A majority of our things are from scratch. Premium baked goods sometimes take extra steps. My goal is: let’s do whatever it takes to make this the best product we can and put in people’s hands. It might require more in labor, but it’s going to be worth it.

I think that stems from growing up in a household where, what comes out of the kitchen from my mom, my grandmothers, whenever we had family coming over, you just always did what needed to get done to make this a dish or a meal that was going to be a real blessing for everyone.

What’s it take to make a quality product? If i’m treating my customers like family, then it’s not going to be, ‘Yeah, that’s good enough.’ We just don’t put it out there if it’s not going to be exceptional for people.”

So, what’s on the menu?

“We offer limited, breakfast menu items like quiche; our breakfast empanadas kind of have a Mexican flair to them. They’re made with a lean chorizo with peppers, those are really good. Pastries. We’re really well-known for our cinnamon rolls and our bacon cheddar scones. We always have some kind of pie on hand – and some cake. Like a good southern woman, so you have something on hand to offer your guest. A well-rounded sweet and savory menu.

You can order from us, too. Baked Bliss’ tag line is ‘Baked Bliss is a celebration of all things baked.’

We use food to celebrate life.

Someone gets a cookie for making a good grade on a test, we bring breakfast items over for having a baby, got engaged – we use a cake to celebrate. We use food to celebrate – I’d like to be a place where people think, ‘Oh! We have a little celebration in our life. Let’s head to Baked Bliss and get a little something to celebrate with.’ Whether that’s a wedding cake, neighbor that just moved in, cookies, there’s always room to celebrate with a baked good.”

What’s after breakfast…dessert? 

“Haaa, YES. Our chocolate chip cookies do really well. Lemon shortbread and pecan shortbread.”

(I catch a practiced-to-perfection gleam in her eye as she describes.)

“It’s a rotating cupcake offering – we try to offer at least three or four different flavors a day: two, featured specialty cupcakes and then a couple more standard flavors like chocolate, vanilla, maybe a red velvet. So, there are options. Those are Strawberry Lemonade cupcakes (which is amazing) and a ganache-filled S’more cupcake.”

(I tasted these two offerings. If I were a dead woman, this cupcake made me alive. YES. That is a S’MORE. CUPCAKE. With a marshmallow-meringue topping. If I were you, I might think, “S’more cupcake? That’s tooooo much.” And then I ate it. And wanted five more. Sorry not sorry. True story. YOLO. Etc.)

“People are spending their hard-earned money, and yeah, it’s a cookie, it’s a cupcake, but we live in a day and age where when people eat sweets, it’s a treat. You just hope it’s going to be something really delicious. That’s what motivates me. My prayer is that, what we offer people is the very best that we can give. It just can’t be about it just being good enough. It needs to have excellence on it.”

When people buy local, What does it mean for the community? 

“I think with buying local, it’s so significant to keep the money flowing here, local. That’s what I love about Towny, because there’s such a strong sense of community in our town to support local businesses. And it really does keep that going. Like when you think of going and getting some pastries from somewhere. Coming to our place … you are definitely keeping the funding IN your community. You’re keeping that money flowing to support your community. Our mission at Baked Bliss is to serve the community quality baked goods and to serve peoples’ lives. Being able to do that allows us to reach INTO the community, not just food, but to serve them emotionally and being IN the community and being PART of the community. I don’t know, that’s just a big part of me.”

What’s the next big thing for Baked Bliss?

Next-step thinking for Baked Bliss would be solidifying and growing the Baked Bliss name. Longer term goals include taking Baked Bliss to other cities, both in the States and other parts of the world, where we see opportunities to serve. For now, we are still introducing people to the joys of Baked Bliss deliciousness. And learning how to bring our best to the table.

‘Bliss’ means ‘heavenly joy’ or ‘complete happiness.’  We hope we can create a little piece of Heaven on Earth both in our food, but also in the experience our customers have when they come to visit.”

If bliss is what you’re after, head over to Towny – don’t miss the local perks you + your loved ones can find when you download the app (for FREE). Once you’ve done that, check out what Kim is whipping up for you at Baked Bliss + change YOUR community, one meaningful purchase at a time.

Baked Bliss welcomes you! Enjoy their mist-ers when there’s a line and while you eat your goodies on the porch! (Baked Bliss is located at 1114 N 15th St, open 7AM – 2PM most days.  Closed Tuesdays.  Saturday, 8AM – 1PM. Sunday, 8 AM – 11 AM.)


Beth Whittington remembers sitting on the Waco suspension bridge as a girl, visiting family friends. Legs dangling off, watching the Fourth of July fireworks spark the sky. Been a Waco local for the better part of 19 years.  Gaps explainable by the awkwardly untrue term of “ex-missionary”  Beth thrives on: generating ideas + copywriting. Can’t wait to: visit South Africa. Favorite part of Waco: Bangkok Royale + the HOTHTC. Wants: everyone in Waco to get Towny because it’ll make life better for us all if we let it. 

Take your local support up a notch – pop in Towny + have a look around.

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.org for more information.

 

 

 

Arts & Culture: Waco ISD Students Bring New Mural to Life

By Magen Davis

By the end of this summer, downtown Waco will be home to a new mural.  But unlike existing pieces in the area, this work of art will be crafted by an unlikely group of creatives: 10 Waco ISD high school students working alongside a team of professional artist mentors.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • ArtPrenticeship is an internship program organized by Creative Waco, Prosper Waco and Waco ISD that will teach a group of 10 Waco ISD high school students, or apprentices, the ins and outs of managing a creative project.
  • Four artist mentors will guide the apprentices from concept to completion, designing and painting a mural on the side of a newly completed building in downtown Waco.
  • We’re in search of wage sponsors to serve as an accountability partner for performance throughout the summer and help provide compensation for each apprentice at the end of the program.

ArtPrenticeship has roots in the Cincinnati ArtWorks program that Waco leaders learned about on a Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce intercity visit in September 2017. ArtWorks employs professional artists and apprentices ranging from ages 14 to 21 to complete public art projects across Cincinnati, including hundreds of murals on the sides of buildings that are several stories tall.

Creative Waco has borrowed this model and shaped it to fit our own community. ArtPrenticeship is a unique opportunity for creative students to hone their artistic abilities while also learning professional skills necessary to thrive as an independent artist. Emphasis will be placed on safety while working on a mural jobsite, calculating costs, ordering materials, and the importance of collaboration and communication between artist, client and community.

The students will work between several sites across downtown Waco, with most time spent at the mural site at 315 University Parks Drive, the shopping strip next to Bicycle World.

For our program’s pilot year, the students were selected from a diverse pool of applicants through Prosper Waco and Waco ISD’s summer internship program. Two teaching artists and two assistant artists will guide the apprentices through the mural process. Between them are several years of teaching experience, as well as expertise in a wide range of artistic media, including mural installation and painting.

One goal of ArtPrenticeship is to pay all participating students a meaningful wage. Creative Waco has successfully secured wage sponsors for each apprentice at $600 per student. Sponsorships not only provide a financial reward for program completion, but also ensure accountability for their productivity throughout the program.

Creative Waco would like to extend a special thanks to our sponsors: Baylor Philanthropy, Cooper Foundation, Magnolia Foundation, Waco Public Improvement District (beautification grant), Mitchell Construction, Turner Behringer Development, Terry and Elaine Stevens, 1519LLC, and Langerman Foster Engineering. ArtPrenticeship would not be possible without the enthusiastic support and resources we’ve received from these businesses and community leaders.


Magen Davis is a Texas-born, graphic designer and “multimedia person.” Magen graduated from Baylor Journalism in Fall of 2015 from the New Media concentration and with a minor in History. Magen is in her first year as a student of Baylor University’s journalism graduate program. Her research interests include new media implementation for organizations, apologies in image repair, and user-generated content. Currently, she also works with Midway Independent School District as a Multimedia Specialist creating videos, taking pictures, and designing district communications.

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.org for more information.

 

 

Mental Health: It’s Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

By Laura Greenstein

Mental health conditions do not discriminate based on race, color, gender or identity. Anyone can experience the challenges of mental illness regardless of their background. However, background and identity can make access to mental health treatment much more difficult. National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was established in 2008 to start changing this.

Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition.

Taking on the challenges of mental health conditions, health coverage and the stigma of mental illness requires all of us. In many communities, these problems are increased by less access to care, cultural stigma and lower quality care.

America’s entire mental health system needs improvement, including when it comes to serving marginalized communities. When trying to access treatment, these communities have to contend with:

  • Language barriers
  • A culturally insensitive system
  • Racism, bias and discrimination in treatment settings
  • Lower quality care
  • Lower chance of health care coverage
  • Stigma from several angles (for being a minority and for having mental illness)

These are all in addition to the usual road blocks. Many cultures also view mental health treatment as a luxury, considering symptoms a “phase” that will eventually pass. These harmful perceptions of mental illness can further isolate individuals who desperately need help.

We can all help ignite change against these disparities and fight stigma this Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. It starts with learning more about mental health and informing your community.

Consider Giving A Presentation

Starting conversations about mental health in your community may feel intimidating—especially if your community views mental illness as a personal fault or weakness. But the more we talk about mental illness, the more normalized it will become. And NAMI is here to help!

Consider giving NAMI presentations to your community, like Sharing Hope for the African American community and Compartiendo Esperanza for the Hispanic and Latino communities. These presentations go over the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions as well as how and where to find help. If neither of these presentations fit your background, feel free to use them as models to create your own presentation tailored to your community’s needs.

Emphasize Treatment

Make sure to stress the importance of a culturally competent provider. These mental health professionals integrate your beliefs and values into treatment. To find a provider that does this, you may have to do a significant amount of research. In addition to searching online, you can also ask trusted friends and family for recommendations or ask for referrals from cultural organizations in your community (like your local AKA Chapter).

In your first session, make sure to ask any questions you may have about the professional’s cultural competence. For example:

  • Do you have any experience treating someone from my background?
  • Have you had any cultural competence training?
  • How would you include aspects of my identity into my care?

Be confident when disclosing relevant information about your beliefs, culture, sexual orientation and/or gender identity that could potentially affect your care. Your provider will play a vital role in your treatment, so make sure you feel comfortable and can communicate well with them before committing to them. Remember: If you feel like your provider doesn’t understand you, it’s okay to leave. Cultural competency is very beneficial to effective treatment. It might take a bit of effort to find the right fit, but recovery is worth it.

Share Your Story

When a person experiences symptoms of mental illness, one of the most helpful and comforting feelings is knowing that they’re not alone. It can be incredibly reassuring to know in this moment right now, someone else is going through similar struggles as you are—regardless of where they are, who they are, or how they identify.

If you’re ever feeling isolated or that your community doesn’t understand mental illness, explore story-sharing platforms like Ok2Talkand You Are Not Alone. On these platforms, everyday people write about their deepest struggles with mental illness and their hopes for recovery. If you feel comfortable, post your thoughts and feelings about or experiences with mental illness—it’s rewarding to know you are helping others feel less isolated.

Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportunity to raise awareness and stop stigma in diverse communities. It’s time to improve the harsh realities minority communities face when it comes to mental illness treatment. In fact, it’s long overdue.


Laura Greenstein is a passionate writer with a personal mission of raising mental health awareness. In her current role, she writes for the blog and Advocate, assists the editorial process and provides any needed support to the Marketing & Communications team. A travel enthusiast, Laura has been to six continents and previously worked with Traveler’s Today magazine. She holds a B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing and a minor in journalism from North Carolina State University.

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.org for more information.

Group W Bench Litter Patrol: I’m Wild About Waco!

By Bruce Huff

There was so much trash on our streets, something had to be done! On November 25, 2016, GROUP W BENCH LITTER PATROL was formed, and to date, volunteers have picked up almost 90,000 pounds from Waco streets, alleys, highways, lake and rivers.  Our accomplishments include:  25 organized cleanups throughout Waco, 1056 Facebook members in 29 countries following what we do, being granted an Adopt-A-Highway section, helping initiate and get Texas House Bill 1884 on litter passed, and receiving awards from Global Revive and Keep Waco Beautiful.  We have also been fortunate to partner with Waco River Safari and Waco Paddleboard Company, who provide transportation for our river clean-ups.

After speaking before Waco City Council numerous times and pleading for help with the litter problem, we wanted to extend our message. We decided to elect a board, cement our goals, and become a non-profit.  In the meantime, we fast-tracked a partnership with the McLennan County Probation Department by taking their seminar and signing a contract of expectations. Two months into this program, we have signed off on 6 probation volunteers and are working with 14 more who have helped us pick up 9000 pounds of litter, tires, TV’s and garbage all over Waco and Mart.

On June 12, after board member Randy Truett presented our progress report to city council, Waco City Manager Wiley Stem asked if we would be interested in talking further.  On June 22, Randy and I met with Mr. Stem, Anna Dunbar of Solid Waste, and Chuck Dowdell from Public Works. They gave us insights to what is happening now and what is planned for the very near future for river trash and debris cleanup with updated equipment, as well as how the new Big Belly solar-powered litter compactors were being used in the downtown area.   Also discussed was a partnership with Keep Waco Beautiful and how our two organizations could benefit from each other. Randy and I left the meeting feeling like we won the lottery!

Next, on July 2, Randy met with Ashley Millard, Executive Director of Keep Waco Beautiful, to combine calendars and plan for our alliance.  Randy will apply for a board position with KWB and attend their yearly business meeting.

Come and join our next effort!  Waco River Safari V Brazos River Cleanup will be August 12th, 8:00 A.M.—11:00 A.M. at Waco Suspension Bridge.  Fourteen very lucky people will ride up river on the boat!  They will be the first 14 new members who join our Facebook page GROUP W BENCH LITTER PATROL after this article appears and write, “I want on!” Also a limited number of kayaks and canoes will be available for the first who reserve them.

Waco is on track to becoming America’s Cleanest City!  We just have to create more awareness and get the community involved in not throwing out litter, using less plastic, and caring about the environment.  Thanks especially Anna Dunbar for her professionalism, Mr. Stem for his commitment, and Chuck Dowdell for not giving up on GROUP W BENCH LITTER PATROL.`


Bruce Huff has Multiple Sclerosis, is semi-retired and now an activist in Waco, Texas

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.org for more information.