The Kindness of Water

By Barbara Bridgewater

I was swimming the other morning at the Doris Miller YMCA on Elm Street, enjoying the feel of the water as it flowed over my broken body, aware of how kind the water was to me.  I don’t swim like my friend Ruth, quick laps up and down to get good exercise!  I float and let the water flow over and around me.  The water is so kind.

I’m grateful that I have a place to do this in Waco:  I’ve been a member of the YMCA since 5 years ago when I had to have a hip replaced.  Since then, I’ve had to have 2 other surgeries and have been very grateful that water is so kind to me.  Although I would prefer other kinds of aerobic exercise like running, playing basketball or hiking, my body right now is only able to handle the kindness of water.

Although I like the larger Family YMCA for all the programs and pools they offer, I prefer the Doris Miller YMCA because it is closer to me and because I really enjoy the people that attend swimming with me there at the 8:00 aerobics class. I often can swim by myself if I get there early or late, but most of the time, I choose to start my days by floating with my classmates.  I hear all the local sports and political news, learn new recipes, and enjoy hearing of life experiences from the others in the class. I’m grateful for all of them. I’ll miss them for the next 6 weeks until I recover once again from surgery. I’m already eager to return!

When I traveled to Portland, Oregon this summer, I was surprised that they didn’t offer a local YMCA pool for me to swim in.  When I went to Ohio last year, I noticed that they didn’t have such an offering, either.  It had not occurred to me that we are so lucky here in Waco to have so much kindness offered.

I feel God’s love and grace surrounding me in the midst of the water. I feel my body, a little like a penguin, enjoying graceful movement, while on “land”, I have to limp and hobble around. Perhaps there are others who need some kindness to their bodies:  come join me (in 6 weeks, anyways) at one of the local YMCA’s pools…


Barbara Bridgewater has lived with her husband, Phillip, and 2 daughters in the diverse north Waco neighborhood of Sanger Heights for 17 years. She teaches English to adults through MCC and works with homeless families at Compassion Ministries (while Phillip works with Habitat for Humanity International). Barbara attends a church in that neighborhood called Hope Fellowship, where Casa Azul was born.

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.

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 ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Waco 101: Overlay Districts

(Thanks to Beatriz S. Wharton, Senior Planner, Planning Services, City of Waco, for providing most of this information. – ABT)

By Ashley Bean Thornton

Waco Walks and the Centex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are hosting a walk on LaSalle Avenue.  We hope you will join us!  We’ll meet up on Saturday, March 2, at 9:30 at the Centex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce offices at 915 LaSalle Aevenue. (Click here for the details.)

As usual, we will be sharing some history and telling some stories as we explore part of Waco on foot.  As is often the case, we will also be learning a little bit about urban planning and, in particular, what “steps” (Get it?) we can take to help make Waco a more walkable community.  

One of the tools a community can use to improve walkability is to create an “overlay district.” The term “overlay” or “overlay district” has been in the news quite a bit lately as the city and business owners consider the future of development on LaSalle Avenue.  With that in mind, it seemed like a good time to learn a little bit more about the whole concept of overlay districts and in particular what is being proposed for LaSalle.

What is an “overlay district?”

An “overlay district” is a tool that a community can use to regulate development in a particular part of town or “zone.”  Almost all land within Waco is “zoned” for a particular use.  For example, some land is zoned for commercial use and some for residential use.  Each zone has a particular set of rules that govern what may or may not be built in the zone as well as regulations and restrictions about design elements, for example, sidewalks, set-backs, parking, windows, landscaping, etc.  

An overlay district is a set of rules that “overlays” the existing base zoning district in a particular area. It provides additional design regulations that address issues that are unique to a specific area. It can include increased regulations/ restrictions or relaxed restriction/ codes. Waco has five existing overlay districts: Brazos River Corridor District, Downtown District, West End District, Neighborhood Conservation District, and College and University Neighborhoods District.

Who can propose an overlay district?

Overlays in Waco have typically been proposed by the city, but can also be proposed by a group who is interested in implementing guidelines to protect or preserve a specific area’s characteristics and/or guide future development.  The proposed LaSalle Avenue overlay, for example, has been more of a grassroots effort. A group of owners of property along La Salle Avenue organized public meetings and brought a proposal to the city.

Who makes the final decision as to whether an overlay district will be implemented?

Overlays are ordinance regulations and therefore must go through the public process. This means public hearings before Plan Commission and City Council (with two required readings). City Council makes the final decision. City Council can approve, disapprove, or approve an amended overlay. Notices are mailed to all property owners within the proposed overlay boundaries, as well as property owners within 200 feet of the proposed overlay boundaries, prior to public hearings.

What are some of the Pros and Cons of an overlay district?*


* Adapted from https://www.rcsanda.com/default.htm,  downloaded 2/26/2019.

Highlights from LaSalle Avenue Proposal

(The full proposal can be found here: https://www.waco-texas.com/userfiles/cms-root/file/Planning/LaSalle%20Ave%20Overlay.pdf )

Purpose:

The purpose of the LaSalle Corridor District is to preserve and enhance a business district that is rich in heritage, historic architecture, business activity and significance as both a destination and a connector.  It further aims to guide the LaSalle Corridor’s development into an area that serves: nearby neighborhoods and neighboring institutions; Waco residents and visitors; and vehicular and pedestrian travelers.  

Application of Regulations:

Within the LaSalle Corridor district, the regulations of each respective base district shall continue to apply to property located in that district, except as expressly supplemented or modified herein. These regulations only apply to new development or a substantial renovation to an existing structure. Designated historical landmarks located in the LaSalle Corridor district may be exempt from section “Architectural Requirements”.

The following uses would be specifically prohibited in the LaSalle Corridor District: 

  • HUD-Code manufactured homes.
  • Television and radio broadcasting towers.
  • Automobile sale (except as incidental to primary use).
  • Repair and servicing of automobiles and other passenger vehicles.
  • Automobile car-washing establishments (unless screened and/or architecturally compatible with surroundings)
  • Heavy machinery storage, rental, sales and repair.
  • Machinery, farm sales, repairing and overhauling.
  • Warehouse storage.
  • Feed processing and grain elevators.
  • Tire retreading, recapping or rebuilding.
  • Motor freight and truck service terminals.
  • Sand and gravel extraction except from the bed of the river.
  • Junkyards, automobile-wrecking yards, salvage yards and scrap operations.
  • Acid manufacturing.
  • Cement, lime, gypsum or plaster of Paris manufacturing.
  • Distillation of bones.
  • Fat rendering.
  • Fertilizer manufacturing.
  • Gas manufacturing.
  • Garbage, offal or dead animals, reduction or dumping.
  • Glue manufacturing.
  • Storage or refining of petroleum or its products.
  • Smelting of tin, copper, zinc or iron ores.
  • Stockyards or slaughter of animals.
  • Agriculture feed lots.
  • Asphalt batching.
  • Screened or unscreened open storage.
  • Sexually oriented businesses.
  • Enclosed outside storage.
  • Smoke shops
  • Pawn Shops
  • Payday Lending
  • Well drilling shops.

Sidewalks 

  • All new developments and substantial renovations fronting on LaSalle must construct and maintain a 10-foot-wide pedestrian way along the pavement of the street. 
  • Fronting LaSalle, the pedestrian way must consist of a minimum 6-foot-wide sidewalk and a minimum 4-foot-planter strip between the sidewalk and street.
  • Fronting other streets, the pedestrian way must consist of a minimum 5-foot-sidewalk and a minimum 4-foot-planter strip between the sidewalk and street. 
  • If the paved portion of the pedestrian way exceeds 8 feet in width then streetscape and landscaping must be incorporated into the design of the pedestrian way. 

Want to learn more about LaSalle Avenue and how all this might look “in real life?” Join us for our walk!  See you Saturday!  Want to find our more about Waco Walks?  Follow our Facebook page or join our email list. 


This Act Locally Waco blog post is by Ashley Bean Thornton, she has lived in Waco almost 20 years now. Far longer than she ever lived anywhere else. She likes to walk. If you see her out walking, honk and wave and say, “Hi!”

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.

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.  

Cost

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 ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

League of Women Voters: Spread the word! Don’t let “Proof of Citizenship” letters discourage voting!

By Meg Wallace

The League of Women Voters of Texas (LWVTX) is spreading the word that naturalized citizens who properly registered to vote are indeed eligible to vote, in spite of what they may have heard in the news or received in their mailbox.

If you are a naturalized citizen who is registered to vote in Texas, you may have received a letter indicating that you must prove your citizenship in order to vote.  Please do not let this letter discourage you from voting.

How did the letter come about?

In late January, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley created a list of names of people on the Texas voting rolls who may be noncitizens. Across the state, 95,000 people were on Whitley’s list. Of those, about 58,000 where shown to have voted at some point during the past 22 years.

Whitley sent this list to county elections officials and indicated they should send these registrants a “Proof of Citizenship” letter.  The letter instructed the registrants that they have 30 days to prove their eligibility to vote, and that if they don’t prove their eligibility the county registrar will cancel their voter registration.  Whitley circulated a media release about his actions late on a Friday afternoon.

This list received quite a bit of attention on social media and mainstream media. On the same Friday afternoon Secretary of State Whitley circulated his media release, Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick tweeted about “illegal voter registration,” and Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted a warning of “VOTER FRAUD” in all caps. Soon after, President Donald Trump also tweeted about the assumed fraud.

Problems with the list

As it turns out, however, there are serious problems with the list. First of all, according to Cinde Weatherby, LWVTX Voting Rights/Election Law Issue Chair, “Many of the names represent noncitizens who applied for a driver license or State ID at the Texas Department of Public Safety during the past 22 years.” In the meantime, many of those individuals have become citizens. Each year from 52,000 to 63,000 Texans are naturalized in Texas. There are no requirements for them to notify the Department of Public Safety of that action.

“Proof of Citizenship” letters known to discourage voting

Challenge letters like the “Proof of Citizenship” letter described here have been shown to suppress voter participation. If someone is sent a letter and does not respond as instructed within the 30-day period provided, their registration can be canceled.  This produces an additional burden on the voting rights of a specific group of registered voters: recently naturalized citizens.  As a federal judge wroteregarding a similar recent attempted voter purge in Florida, “A state cannot properly impose burdensome demands in a discriminatory manner.” Furthermore, the text of the Proof of Citizenship letter suggested by the Texas Secretary of State does not indicate how registrants should supply their proof of citizenship to elections officials. This creates confusion, making it difficult for registrants who receive the letter to comply.

Upon hearing of the Secretary of State Whitley’s actions, Julieta Garibay, co-founder of United We Dream, contacted her county’s voter registrar office and received confirmation that she was on Whitley’s list. Originally from Mexico, Garibay moved to Austin in the 1990s and received a green card as a domestic violence survivor. She became a citizen in 2018 and voted for the first time in November. In her testimony at Whitley’s confirmation hearing before the Texas Senate Nominations Committee this month, she said, “As a Latina, as a woman, as a proud immigrant with an accent, I know my right, duty, and responsibility as a U.S. citizen, and I do not take it lightly. Winning my right to vote was not a victory just for me or my family. Rather, it was a victory for my community… I will not let these bullies intimidate me or prevent me from voting.”

How does this affect us in Waco?

Kathy Van Wolfe, McLennan County Elections Administrator, reports that her office did not send any Proof of Citizenship letters in response to Whitley’s instructions. Soon after she received the list, the Secretary of State’s office contacted her office to confirm all 388 people on the list sent to her had already been confirmed as citizens. At least five counties are known to have sent the letters. It is possible McLennan County voters may have family and friends who received them.

What should people do if they receive the letter?

LWVTX advises naturalized citizens who may receive the letter to “contact your county voter registrar to find out how to provide a copy of your naturalization certificate or U.S. Passport.” County voter registrar contact information is available on the LWVTX website’s naturalized citizen page.

“The League congratulates naturalized citizens participating as voters,” says LWVTX President Grace Chimene. “Every naturalized citizen, you have a right to vote and participate fully in our democracy.”


For more information about The League of Women Voters in Waco, please visit the Facebook page: League of Women Voters of Waco.


Meg Wallace is the organizer of the Amberley Collaborative a new nonprofit that is increasing the caring capacity of Waco and McLennan County by strengthening residents’ natural support systems.

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.