Please Do Not Give to Pan Handlers Out of Guilt

By Major Anita Caldwell

Dear Waco,

Over the past twenty-seven years as a Salvation Army Officer, I have learned the many journeys of those in poverty.  There are those who seek lasting change in their lives.  There are those who manipulate with great skill.  This blog is written to consider the pan handler.  There are generally three or four types:

The desperate pan handler is that person who is desperate for alcohol or drugs.  My first experience was in El Dorado, Arkansas, on a cold Christmas Eve with a drunken man, his sign and his little dog, Joshie.  When we got him to the local hospital, he had $300 in his pockets.  In that small, Christian community everyone was giving him money.  He then took it a few steps to a nearby wine store, purchased his drink of choice, slept under a nearby tree and returned the next day to the same corner.

The professional pan handler is that person who is skilled to the point that he or she can make as much as $300 or $400 per day.  This person will use any and all types of “crutches.”  Locally, we have a man who pan-handles using a wheel chair.  At the end of the day, he wheels to his vehicle, stands up, folds up his wheelchair, gets into his car and drives home.

The syndicate pan handler gathers a group of people and uses them to collect money.  These people are much like traffickers because they only give their pan handlers food and shelter but gather the remaining income for their own purpose.  In Moscow, Russia, where we lived for six years, pamphlets were placed in all expat locations such as clinics with a clear warning to not give to any person begging because they were all part of a crime syndicate.   They would place an elderly person in the metro and pick her up at the end of the day, take her money and continue the same routine day after day.  These organized groups are here in Waco as well.

Finally, only on very rare occasions, will there be a truly needy person asking for money.  However, they generally go to the many social service locations in town and seek the help needed.

Pan handlers prey on giving people.  They will find a giving community and gather in that giving city.  Waco is a Christian community with Christian people traveling here to visit our fair city.  The pan handler has the best of both worlds in Waco:  new people and giving, caring people.

SA hoursThe Salvation Army has developed a small card you can give to the pan handler so they can have a free meal and you can be guilt free.  We don’t fear that too many people will come; the pan handler typically wants money, not food, not gas for their car.  Please send them to one of the many local agencies who can help them.  Our commitment is to build a relationship with those who are willing to overcome their needs and to seek how we can best support their pathway to hope.

Should God speak to you and ask you to give, follow His guidance and give, but please do not give purely out of guilt.  Such guilt does not guarantee that you will assist a genuine need.

May God bless you and bless those in need.

Major Anita Caldwell

Anita Caldwell Major Anita Caldwell was born in Olean, NY, to a family of ministers.   She attended and graduated from Kentucky Mountain Bible Institute with a BA in Religion.  Her MA is in Pastoral Leadership from Olivet Nazarene University.  She and her husband, Bradley Caldwell are Majors in The Salvation Army and are Regional Coordinators for this area.  They have served as ministers of the gospel in The Salvation Army for 23 years.  After serving in three USA appointments, they were transferred as Regional Leaders in Moldova, Romania, Russia and the country of Georgia over a twelve-year period.  They received their Waco assignment after serving at International Headquarters in London, UK.

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.


Vocabulary word for the day: “Access”

By Craig Nash

I had to learn a new lingo when beginning my work at the Texas Hunger Initiative, and it was challenging. (The very use of the word “challenging” in the previous sentence is an example, and proof that I have begun to absorb the lingo, choosing a more tame term over a collection of other, more colorful, words that I would have chosen before.) And it wasn’t just the acronyms connected to social services that were, uh, challenging. It was a whole new lexicon full of words meant to convey how we are doing our work, but words that are usually used with different meaning outside the non-profity world in which we exist. Words and phrases like “value-add,” “capacity,” and, my personal favorite, “bandwidth,” would often leave me looking around the room wondering if I am the only other person suffering from a mental condition that prohibits me from understanding. I eventually picked up the pace and figured the new language out, although I am still much slower at translation that most of my colleagues.

One word, though, that resonated with me early on is the term “access,” often used when describing how easy or difficult it is for a particular person or group to receive basic human needs. In other fields of conversation we may say that someone can or can’t afford a particular need, or someone is or isn’t able to provide for themselves or their families. But access opens up a different line of thought altogether. It guides us into a more compassionate mode of thinking  for those without it, as well as for those who have it.  It equals the playing field, if you will.

With regards to access to food, there are a number of reasons someone may or may not have it. Money is one, but so is availability, location and safety. I’ve witnessed an army of people in our city whose very job and mission is to make access more widespread.

summer_food_busOne way that Waco and La Vega ISD’s Child Nutrition departments have been making access to food more widespread to our local children is through their mobile meal-bus programs. If location is a barrier (there’s another one) to access, then they are working to remove that barrier. Rather than requiring children to come to one of the dozens of stationary Summer Food sites around town, they are bringing Summer Food sites to neighborhoods, parks and clinics all around the area. Like the other sites, food on the buses are free to children under 18, and require no id to, um, access.

One way you can help increase access is to spread the word. All summer sites can be found by visiting Below is a list of Waco and La Vega ISD Meals on the Bus location stops and times.

Waco ISD “Meals on the Bus” – Monday through Friday

 Bus #1

Waco Apartments, 2724 Robinson Drive                                       10:40-11:00am

South 18th Street Community Center, 1800 Gurley Lane              11:10-11:30am

Elm Street Community Center, 609 Elm                                         11:45am-12:05pm

Waco Central Library, 1717 Austin Avenue                                   12:20-12:40

UBC, 1701 Dutton Avenue                                                                12:50-1:10

East Waco Library                                                                            1:25-1:45

Bus #2

Scott & White Macarthur Center, 2201 Macarthur Dr.                  10:40-11:00am

Family Health Center, 1000 Delano Street                                     11:15-11:35

Barron’s Branch Apartments, 819 Colcord                                    11:45am-12:05pm

Estella Maxey Apartments, 1000 Delano                                        12:15-12:35

Guthrie Park, 7400 Brookview Drive                                              12:50-1:10


La Vega ISD “Lunch Bus Express” – Monday through Thursday

 JMJ Wrecking, Corner of Campground Road and Harrison St.      10:10-10:30am

Maranatha Church, Ashleman and Latimer Streets                       10:40-11:00am

La Vega High School Tennis Courts                                                 11:10-11:30

Brazos Village Apartments, Lakeshore and Gholson Rd.              11:40am-12:20pm

Brame Park, Hogan St. and Briarwood                                           12:30-1:10

craig Nash.pngCraig Nash has lived in Waco since 2000. Since then he has worked at Baylor, been a seminary student, managed a hotel restaurant, been the “Barnes and Noble guy,” pastored a church and once again works for Baylor through the Texas Hunger Initiative. He lives with his dog Jane, religiously re-watches the same 4 series on Netflix over and over again, and considers himself an amateur country music historian.

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 importance of your daily dose of Vitamin T.

By Dr. Emma Wood

Humans need touch. I was reminded of this recently while listening to a podcast in which a woman shared about her partners’ struggle with cancer treatment. The treatment caused touch to be unbearable for her partner, and in turn caused her a different kind of pain- the absence of touch. She shared that she would often leave the hospital and get a manicure just so that she could be touched by someone.

This story, poignant in many ways, reminded me of the necessity of touch. Most people fall on a spectrum of interacting with touch. Some people are “touchy feely” types who hug everyone they meet. This does not describe me, but I do enjoy being friends with those sorts of people. You can always expect a warm embrace when meeting at common grounds or Cameron Park. Other people only like touch when it is offered by a loved one, or a partner, and a handshake or high five is sufficient for their day to day interactions. Most of us probably fall somewhere on a spectrum between these two people. But all of us have in our human DNA the need for physical touch.

I remember during my first semester at college feeling starved for physical touch. I was 7 hours away from home and knew no one. Relationships take time to build and discovering how touch will be received by a new friend is always a bit of a risk. Eventually I found my friend group, some of whom were compatible with me in terms of physical affection, but it wasn’t until my sister joined me at college that I really felt a secure sense of physical comfort.

The touch I am talking about is clearly non-sexual in nature. It is about nurturing, sensing, conveying compassion and acknowledging our physical selves. The mind-body connection is a significant pathway. If you have taken Psychology 101 you might have heard about Harry Harlow’s Monkeys, who chose a fake furry mother to get comfort over a wire mother that provided milk. The monkeys chose physical connection over sustenance; Harlow concluded that “contact comfort” was essential to the psychological development and health of infant monkeys. There have also been studies that show infants that are not touched often display developmental delays and often develop life-long relational deficits that prevent them from feeling intimacy in relationships. Other studies have shown that absence of touch in infants may account for failure to thrive and even death.

The importance of touch to emotional health and wellness has also been well established with research showing that touch triggers the release of oxytocin, a hormone that decreases stress-related responses. Additionally stimulating touch receptors under the skin can lower blood pressure and cortisol levels, effectively reducing stress.

Being mindful of your need for touch can be an important piece in your mental health repertoire. It can come free in the form of hand holding, pats on the back, hugs, and casual touch in our relationships. Another wonderful tool, as mentioned at the beginning of this blog is a professional service.

Massage is one of the healthiest things an individuals can do to improve the wellness of their mind-body connection. I know that often massage is a luxury one may struggle to afford, but what differentiates the expense from other ways we spend money is that it has lasting effects for our physical and emotional wellness. Getting a massage causes muscles to unclench, a racing heart rate to slow, heightened blood pressure to fall, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol to drop. In that relaxed state, your body is able to regroup and recharge. Additionally massage can help to create a more robust immune system. Knowing what the research shows it is clear that massage is not just good for our muscles; it’s good for our entire physical and mental health.

Michelangelo said “To touch can be to give life.” Act Locally Waco and LaBella Visage want to help you reduce your stress and increase your mind-body health by offering readers 20% off massage services for the month of July. When you book use coupon code ACTLOCALLYWACO20.

Whether through massage or the hug of a dear friend, make sure you get your vitamin T this summer.

Emma WoodDr. Emma Wood is a licensed clinical psychologist, public speaker, trainer, consultant and blogger in Waco. You can see more of her work and get more information about the services she provides 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.





Entrepreneurs of Waco: Maker’s Edge

(Note: This post is part of a series called “Entrepreneurs of Waco.”  The series is collaboration between the McLennan Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the Professional Writing program at Baylor University, and Act Locally Waco.  The McLennan Small Business Development Center offers technical assistance, business mentoring, training, and resources for all stages of small business. For more information, visit their website:   To see all the posts in this series, click here: Entrepreneurs of Waco.  – ABT)

By Allison Le Grice

“I love owning a business where I only succeed if my clients succeed,” Melissa Pardun explains as her dog Josie leaps onto her desk to lick the palm of her hand. Along with her husband Rick Pardun, Melissa owns Maker’s Edge. Maker’s Edge is a “maker space,” a full-featured do-it-yourself studio for anyone from teens to hobbyists to high-tech entrepreneurs who want to make things.  According to the website, Maker’s Edge is a “…a space that brings together a community of DIY people with wonderful fabrication equipment in a way that supports collaboration, creativity, ingenuity and personal development.”

Melissa, with her thick royal blue rimmed eyeglasses and zebra print nails, sits in her office conveniently at the front of the maker space.  This allows her to shout a greeting to every member who walks in. “Community is our number one emphasis,” Melissa says, pointing to a banner in shop that reads “Look around you, here are your fellow doers. Here is your creative team.”

Upon walking into Maker’s Edge, you see a huge open workspace with tables and stools where members work on their projects in the presence of other members. Surrounding this open space is a collection of private working spaces — Wood Shop, Metal Shop, Welding Shop, and Electronics Shop, to name a few — that are available to members upon completing proper training.

“Once we finally got started, our biggest battle was having to define what a maker space was. No one knew what the heck we were,” Melissa chuckles. Even among the engineer and maker community, it was rare that people in Waco had heard of, much less been to, a maker space. Small town curiosity helped. People were constantly wandering in to ask about Maker’s Edge; some of those curious visitors stuck around to become members. Now some of those members are making products that are being sold at Magnolia Market.

Maker's Edge workspaceMaker’s Edge is one of the largest maker spaces around that isn’t a part of a franchise. This is largely because the Pardun’s decided to establish a for-profit business instead of the more typical non-profit maker space.  The for-profit model allowed them to get big quickly and fill the shop with mostly new, efficient, and precise tools.  Additionally, this business model allows Maker’s Edge to team with Circle Hardware to provide an in-house mini-hardware store for those “forgotten materials”.  And a hidden benefit of avoiding the non-profit makerspace “club” approach: members never have to take their turn cleaning the bathrooms!

Maker’s Edge charges membership fees. Members use the space and everything in it for a monthly fee that goes towards the maintenance of the building, tools, and material that makers wish to use. The membership types range from “Unlimited Open Shop Membership” for $125 a month to a “Youth Membership” for $30 a month.  There’s also an “Entrepreneur Package” that provides 24-hour access, an enclosed office, a professional address and mailbox, and more benefits for entrepreneurs.

The idea for Maker’s Edge came about when Rick Pardun, an engineer, grew frustrated with engineering applicants who could not design well. They had all the education necessary for their job, but they couldn’t physically do anything because they had never touched a tool.  As an avid reader of Make Magazine, a magazine dedicated to DIY and all types of building, Rick was aware of the maker space movement and thought that it might be a good idea to start one with his wife Melissa, who was very familiar with nonprofit work.

Initially they worried that Waco would not be the ideal place to start a business, but Melissa did not want to leave Waco until her children were out of school.  Waco eventually proved itself to be a fine location – big enough to ensure business in the shop, but not big enough to attract much competition from the franchises. The Parduns grew up in that small town environment. They appreciate that Waco seems to embrace a small town feel despite not being a “small town.” They wanted to be able to have a business where their members appreciated that the owners treated them like neighbors.

Melissa and Rick decided to get help actually creating this business idea.

Maker's Edge ToolsFirst, they sought some advice from Bradley Norris, an entrepreneurship instructor at Baylor University who was familiar with teaming up technology with entrepreneurship. Bradley had played with the idea of creating a maker space himself, but never had the time or the means. He offered Melissa and Rick some guidance on the technicalities of starting that kind of business as well as constant emotional support. Next, they got help from the LAUNCH program. This program included a three-day intensive workshop, where entrepreneurs gathered all of their business ideas and proposals together in order to actually begin the process of starting their business. After this, they got in touch with Jane Herndon of McLennan Small Business Development Center. Jane helped Melissa and Rick create a cohesive plan to present to a bank. Finally, Melissa and Rick got access to the most important part of the business process: connections. The Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce provided the Parduns with access to other business people who could help them get started and helped them get their business name out to more entrepreneurs around Waco.

“One thing I would tell entrepreneurs is that an independent spirit does not work…We live off a community philosophy,” Melissa says with a large smile. “It takes a community to start a business. It takes a community to complete a project. It takes a community to do everything in this life. Embrace it.”

pardunsThe Entrepreneurs…Melissa Pardun is the Executive Director of Maker’s Edge.  Melissa is a life-long thinker and maker and strongly identifies with teaching the ideals of the DIY spirit to the next generation of innovators.  Rick Pardun is the Chief EDGe-ineer, the creative force responsible for initial workshop design and ongoing training and tool acquisition.  As a mechanical engineer, Rick has 18 years of experience in prototyping and design in the aerospace industry.

Allison Le GriceThe writer…Allison Le Grice is an English student at Baylor University. She is passionate about literature, mental health, and recycling. In her free time, she is most likely binge-watching “Chopped.”

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.


Grateful Reflections on Waco

by Jesse Harden

Nearly four years ago, my family moved from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Waco, Texas, to attend Baylor University. I had never been to Waco, and knew nothing about it. My family’s time in Waco is now complete, and we will be returning to Albuquerque. In this short time, Waco has become more than a space we have occupied, it has become a place that has shaped us.

The concept of place speaks of the physical space we occupy at a given moment as more than the geographic boundaries of our existence, those in which we live, work, play and worship. Conceiving of place goes deeper than mere geography to the intangible ways our environment (its history, beauty and inhabitants) begins to have formative power in our lives. Dale M. Coulter (in an article found HERE) delves into the formative power of place,

“As much as humans seek to carve out the land they occupy, more times than not, it carves them. It turns ordinary humans into Southerners or Midwesterners or New Englanders”

In Short, where we are forms who we are. We are a product of the places we have lived. In the four short years my family has been in this place, we have, in many ways, become Wacoans. This place, its people, geography and culture have captivated us, and we are forever changed.

Two significant aspects of Waco that have forever carved their mark in my family are the prevalence of concern for the common good and the many assets that this community has to leverage toward this concern. First, as I have lived in Waco and have interacted with various members of this community, I have been overwhelmed by the general love, pride and concern each has had for this city. I worked as an intern, both with Communities in Schools and Mission Waco as a part of my studies. Additionally, I pastored at Highland Baptist church for two years. In each of these settings, I met people who love Waco deeply, and are dedicating their lives to see Waco flourish.

Asset MapIn my work at Mission Waco, I was primarily involved with their work to bring an end to North Waco’s food desert, working with the community to establish Waco’s first non-profit grocery store, the Jubilee Food Market. Among my responsibilities was to promote and process the OASIS Shares that Mission Waco is selling to raise funds for the market. I was privileged to see the name and generosity of each individual, foundation and organization that gave generously to this effort, providing nearly 75% of the needed funds in just a few months. The response of the greater Waco community to the opportunity in North Waco to provide fresh and affordable food to their neighbors was a truly humbling and inspiring experience (Shares are still available, by the way, and can be purchased HERE).

In addition to the generosity and concern of Wacoans for the common good of their city, I have been overwhelmed by the number of assets Waco has available to work toward a truly thriving, fruitful and just city. Waco has so many strengths waiting to be identified, connected and leveraged! As a part of my internship with Mission Waco, I partnered with North Waco residents to complete an asset map of the 3.5 square miles surrounding the Jubilee Food Market. Our team chose just five categories of assets to map, and identified 105 assets! Imagine the potential of these assets being connected together. Imagine the number of assets within Waco as a whole!

Very few people have the opportunity and platform to thank a city for their hospitality and formative role in their lives. I have such an opportunity now. Thank you, Waco! You are more than a space in which people live, you are a place by which people are formed. You have welcomed my family and allowed us to become Wacoans. And, though it grieves us to leave, we will carry our new identity to Albuquerque, inspired by your generosity and passion to see your community prosper.

Jesse HardenJesse Harden just graduated with his Masters of Divinity and Masters of Social Work from Baylor University. He is a church planter and community development practitioner in Albuquerque, NM. 

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.