East Waco Voices: Getting East Waco Back on its Feet – Move East Waco 2019!

By Khristian Howard

If you have been around Waco for a while, you may recall “Move East Waco,” the fitness series that got East Waco up and active two summers ago. We are thrilled to announce that exciting six-week campaign for health education, fitness, and community will be back this summer to continue the impact it began in 2017. Packed with incentives, fun, and most importantly, FREE workout sessions, “Move East Waco 2019” will give you the motivation you need to begin or continue your fitness journey. This year’s series will begin on May 16th at 6:30 p.m. at Oscar DuCongé Park (1504 J.J. Flewellen) and will feature some new and familiar faces to give previews of the workouts and health lectures that will follow in the subsequent six weeks.

Success During Summer ’17 & Hopes for this Year

Move East Waco had its debut in the summer of 2017, and immediately proved to be a hit within the community. Cuevas Peacock, community organizer and co-creator of Move East Waco, shared that in 2017 they saw over 100 people attend the kickoff, and [an] average 15 people at the various workouts. This year, Cuevas and the team hope to double the participation numbers, and to implement some new tracking measures that will provide a more comprehensive report of the program’s impact. Cuevas has garnered support from several East Waco community members, many of whom were key players in the success of Move East Waco ’17. These team members include, Tara Briscoe, Victoria Calhoun, Vivian Vonner, Ashley Royal, Sandra Dorsey-Butler, and Van Davis, to name a few. Some of the main organizations represented are Grassroots Community Development, Live Well Waco, Baylor Health & Wellness, and more. 

To ensure that the goal of doubling participation is met, the team has secured various incentive donations from places like, Gold’s Gym, Refit Waco, Orange Theory, Jamba Juice, Da Shack Farmer’s Market, and more. Additionally, participants can expect a wide variety of workouts and demonstrations ranging from Zumba, line dance, and hip-hop aerobics to cooking demos, healthy food budgeting classes, and stress relief exercises.

As mentioned above, this summer will mark the second installment of Move East Waco. With the help of health and fitness instructors and local businesses providing services and incentives, the program proved to be a huge success in its first installment. Still, you may be wondering, why do a health and fitness series…and why in East Waco? Cuevas Peacock gave us a glimpse into the motivation behind Move East Waco. He shared some troubling statistics about health in East Waco.

He stated, “Throughout our nation, 12% of residents report being in poor health, in Waco the number rises to 13.2%; however, in East Waco, the number grows even more to 18%.  Nationally, 29% of residents are obese, but in East Waco, the number grows to a staggering 45%.”  Move East Waco is a solution that Cuevas believes will be a significant factor in decreasing these numbers. “It is our belief that by increasing the amount of physical activity among the residents of East Waco we can begin to lower the high obesity rate and improve the community’s overall health.” Ultimately, Cuevas summarized the goals of the program as a way to “[demonstrate] various ways for our community to get up and get moving, along with providing access to vendors that could address various health issues…[along] with the hope to Move East Waco towards adopting a healthier lifestyle.”

We Want to See You There!

This year’s kickoff event will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 16th, at Oscar DuCongé Park Park in East Waco (1504 J.J. Flewellen), next door to G. W. Carver Middle School. There you will be able to learn easy fitness practices that can be practiced at home. Additionally, this kickoff will give you a preview of each instructor who will be heading up classes throughout the rest of the program. Classes will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. from May 21st to June 27th. Do not hesitate to take advantage of free access to health and fitness materials provided by local professionals – and access to great giveaways that can assist you in living a healthier, fuller lifestyle. Join us as we “Move East Waco” closer to maximum wellbeing!

Click here for “Move East Waco 2019 Schedule

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.

June 13, 2019: Symposium Focuses on Suicide Prevention & Connecting Schools to Mental Health Resources

Press Release

Bringing educators, mental health providers and others together to learn and take actionable steps to save lives, regarding what is considered “the preventable epidemic” among American youth, is the focus of the 14th Annual Teen Suicide Prevention Symposium.

Education Service Center (ESC) Region 12, Cedar Crest Residential Treatment Center (Platinum Sponsor), Providence Ascension Healthcare Network (Gold Sponsor), and the Methodist Children’s Home (Gold Sponsor) will present the symposium 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday, June 13 at ESC Region 12, 2101 W. Loop 340 in Waco.

Medical and mental health speakers will share research and strategies for helping youth who struggle with suicidal ideation.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, an average of one person dies by suicide every 13.7 minutes in the U.S with more than 120 people dying by suicide each day.

Jenipher Janek, ESC Region 12 counseling specialist and regional crisis response team leader, says social media continues to be a factor in teen suicide, but efforts to raise awareness about healthy practices and reporting options are making a difference in Central Texas schools.
“We are seeing an increase in the need for suicide prevention and intervention in our region and in our state. This event offers an opportunity to come together and discuss ways that we may be more effective and collaborative in our efforts to keep our kids safe.”
In addition to the speakers and panel, several organizations will provide resources in an effort to bridge the gap between education and mental health services.

“Schools are struggling to find and make connections with resources in the community,” Janek said. “If we can provide a collaborative place for making that less difficult, we’d really like to do that. Our kids are depending on us.”

More than 35 participants from schools and other entities are registered and additional seats are available. The symposium is $90 to attend and includes a light breakfast and lunch. Registration is available at www.esc12.net.

Would you take a few minutes to help the City of Waco earn $500,000 for sidewalks?

By Ashley Bean Thornton

The City of Waco is diligently working on applications for grants that would help pay for walking and biking infrastructure for Waco, particularly in areas near our public schools. These are huge grants from Texas Department of Transportation’s 2019 Call for Projects for both the Safe Route to School (SRTS) Program and Transportation Alternatives (TA) Program.

A successful grant application could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars for our community specifically earmarked for sidewalk and bike/walk improvements.

They need our help! An important part of the application will be letters of support from the community. 

Jim Reed, Capital Improvement Program Manager with City of Waco Public Works, is managing the grant application process.  He says, “Your letter would make a big difference in the success of our efforts.  The State review committee asks all letters to written from your heart. The review committee loves it to be personal. Please share this request with your neighbors. All letters received shall be incorporated into our applications.”

See below for the list of possible projects. Please take just a few minutes to write a quick, heartfelt email supporting one or more of these projects. If you live in one of these neighborhoods, have kids in one of these schools, teach at one of these schools or have any personal connection at all – your letter could be especially valuable for this process.  Just a few sentences explaining your connection and why you think the project is important, could make a huge difference to our efforts to win this grant!   Even one or two sentences could help.

This is a quick and easy way to make a positive difference in our community.

Please send your email by May 15 to Jim Reed: JimR@wacotx.gov.

List of Possible Projects:

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.

Letter Carriers’ “Stamp Out Hunger” Food Drive to Benefit Local Food Pantries

As part of the 27th annual “Stamp-Out Hunger” food drive, McLennan County, Texas, letter carriers will be joining forces with the National Association of Letter Carriers on Saturday, May 11th, for the largest one-day food drive in the nation.  The drive assists millions of families in the United States who are struggling to put food on their tables every day.  In the Waco-McLennan County area, letter carriers will be collecting non-perishable food donations to help people served by Caritas of Waco, the Salvation Army and Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry.  This drive is one way people can assist those in their own city who need help.

This year Wal-mart is partnering with “Stamp-Out Hunger” by providing paper bags that letter carriers will leave at each mailbox prior to May 11th and which can be used for food donations. 

To participate in the “Stamp-Out Hunger” Food Drive, households are encouraged to place non-perishable food items such as canned vegetables, canned meats, pasta/sauces, rice, cereal, peanut butter, dry beans, rice, macaroni & cheese, baby food, etc., in bags and leave them next to their mailbox prior to their regular mail delivery time on Saturday, May 11.   Letter carriers will then collect these food donations as they deliver the mail and will provide them to Caritas, the Salvation Army and Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry for distribution to people in need. 

In the past, letter carriers in the Waco-McLennan County area have collected over 50,000 pounds of non-perishable food which makes this drive one of the largest food collection efforts in the community. 

For more information, call Jerrod Perry, United States Postal Service, at 254-709-1094.

The “Stamp-Out Hunger” Food Drive takes place this Saturday, May 11th.  All that you need to do is to place non-perishable food items, such as canned vegetables, canned meats, cereal, peanut butter, etc., in the Walmart paper bag left by your letter carrier and place it next to your mailbox prior to your regular mail delivery time on Saturday.   Letter carriers will collect these food donations as they deliver the mail and will provide them to Caritas, the Salvation Army and Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry for distribution to people in need.  Thanks for your help!

Paulanne’s Pantry helps MCC students fight food insecurity

By Cheyenne Atchison

Thirty-six percent of students at 66 surveyed colleges and universities do not have enough to eat, according to a Temple University and Wisconsin HOPE Lab study. Food insecurity among college students is a growing concern across the United States, and universities are working to find solutions to address this problem.

McLennan Community College is fighting food insecurity with Paulanne’s Pantry, a campus food pantry that provides meat, produce, canned and other nonperishable items to MCC students and faculty in need. As the associate director of MCC’s Completion Center, Letitia Monsey oversees the pantry. Before coming to Waco in 2017 to be closer to family, she worked at the University of Texas at Austin – a different campus experience than MCC.

“People go to a community college for different reasons,” Monsey said. “At UT, a bachelor’s degree was always the end goal. Here, there is a lot more diversity in the student body, which is what I was looking for.”

Many of the services provided by the Completion Center were also offered at UT, but in multiple offices rather than one. Since Monsey first came to MCC, changes have been made to allow Completion Center staff to allocate their time and resources to specific projects, such as the food pantry.

The earliest records of an MCC food pantry date back to 2007. At one point, it may have been housed in a staff member’s office. It was later reopened, and by 2015, it moved to its current location in the Completion Center. The next goal was to secure finances and use a standard budget for long-term sustainability.

As more students started using the pantry, the Completion Center staff found that issues concerning academic performance and attendance were related to food insecurity. Some students dropping out of school said they needed more time to work so they could purchase food. Conversely, some students may have spent all their money on food, forfeiting other payments for electricity or water bills, which could also lead to decreased attendance.

“We found so many students that had a need,” Monsey said. “When we had students sit in our offices, we could build enough trust to learn that they didn’t have food. It was having those conversations that allowed us to give them what they needed.”

Most of the food provided in the pantry comes from the Central Texas Food Bank. MCC established that partnership prior to 2017. MCC places an online order for the food, then twice a month, the Completion Center staff along with interns from the Tarleton State University social work program pick up the order from Acts Church. The food is then unloaded and organized in the pantry. Each load weighs between 1,200 and 1,900 pounds and averages around $250 at the discounted rate provided by the food bank. The MCC Foundation handles the food pantry fund and provides the funds to purchase food.

For daily operations, the Completion Center staff will check students in, walk them through the process, and stock the pantry shelves, along with a handful of volunteers from around campus. Volunteers must be trained in handling sensitive topics and student privacy.

When the building was due for a renovation, the pantry was expanded and received a $5,700 grant from the Texas Higher Education Foundation, which provided the funds to improve the check-in process and purchase a new refrigerator and freezer. With the ability to hold more produce and proteins, and some decorations, the pantry is now more accommodating and welcoming. It was reopened and renamed “Paulanne’s Pantry” last month in honor of Paulanne Ream Hoover, who left a portion of her estate to fund an endowment for the pantry.

As for the future of the pantry, Monsey wants to continue to serve the students and faculty of MCC, but she hopes there will eventually come a day when their help is no longer needed.

“Ideally, society will answer the problem to the point that we don’t need the pantry,” Monsey said. “Until then, we will continue to serve students and meet their needs. Right now, we’re at a good pace of what we have: we anticipate need, and we meet it. I want to sustain that.”

The Completion Center serves as a resource to provide the additional help students need to be successful. The purpose is to remove obstacles that hinder a student’s ability to progress and complete their goals. Like an intake center, the staff at the Completion Center talks with students to pinpoint areas of distress and find the right resources in a compassionate way.

“That’s where we’re different from other offices on campus,” Monsey said. “They are very distinct in what they do, we do whatever needs to be done to help the student. We take a holistic view of other things that are needed to complete the degree.”

To make a financial donation to Paulanne’s Pantry, contact the MCC Foundation at 254-299-8606 or email Kim Patterson at kpatterson@mclennan.edu

Cheyenne Atchison is a junior at Baylor University studying Marketing and Public Relations, and currently serves as an intern in the Marketing and Communications Department at McLennan Community College.

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.

May is National Bike Month: What’s the status of biking in Waco?

By Christine Miller

The month of May is National Bike Month.  This is Waco’s second year promoting and hosting community events to highlight and celebrate the possibilities of the bicycle and the many reasons we ride.  National Bike Month is a shared experience by all communities, #BikeJoy, to build a more Bicycle Friendly America for everyone.

How to Participate during Bike Month within Our Community

May 8 & 22: Bike with a Ranger – City of Waco Parks and Recreation – Park Ranger guided tour along the Riverwalk in Downtown Waco.  Will highlight historical facts about Waco’s river corridor and landmarks along the route.  Please meet by 6PM at the Suspension Bridge.

May 15: Ride of Silence – Waco Bicycle Club (Website: https://wacobicycleclub.com/)  – A nation-wide, silent procession to honor cyclists who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways.  Will include a reading of the Ride of Silence Poem, remembrance of local cyclists killed, and then a silent ride for about 6 to 8 miles.  Meet at 6PM at City Hall fountain, located at Austin Avenue & N 3rd Street.

May 31: Critical Mass Community Bike Ride – Critical Mass Waco (Website: https://www.facebook.com/groups/47057872309/)  –  Critical Mass Waco leads a community bike ride the last Friday of every month.  Celebrate National Bike Month with Waco’s cycling community.  Meet at 6PM at City Hall fountain, located at Austin Avenue & N 3rd Street.

Waco – Becoming More Bicycle Friendly One Year at a Time

A couple years ago, the Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) issued an online survey about citizen’s transportation and travel habits including cycling as a mode of transportation.  Two of the most common reasons that created hesitation for Wacoans to choose cycling over driving a car included:

  • Knowledge of safe routes to ride
  • Lack of bicycle lanes or paths separated from vehicle traffic to provide a more comfortable route

In 2018 the City of Waco was awarded an honorable mention as a Bicycle Friendly Community from the League of American Bicyclists.  City and MPO staff and the active cycling community have been diligently working on multiple projects to continue to improve Waco’s bicycle culture and infrastructure for citizens and visitors alike.

How to Know the Best Roads and Routes to Ride around Waco

The City of Waco, the Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Waco Bicycle Club came together over the past year to develop a map of the best roads and routes for riding your bike throughout Waco as a local or as a tourist.  These identified streets have a natural inclination to be more bicycle friendly than others and are as direct as possible to key destinations – parks and community centers, schools, shops and business centers.  In conjunction with the Convention and Visitors Bureau the first “Cycling in Waco” map is printed and ready for you to use.

You can pick up a free, printed map at the Tourist Information Center (At the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame,  106 Texas Ranger Trail), at the Waco Parks and Recreation Department (201 W. Waco Drive) and at the Waco Convention Center (100 Washington Avenue).  You may even find it at your local bicycle shop.

The Cycling in Waco map is also available online at: https://wacoheartoftexas.com/plan/visitors-guide-and-map/ 

More Bicycle Lanes and Shared-Use Paths are on the Horizon

This is the first year that new bicycle infrastructure will begin to be signed and striped on our Waco streets in many years.  In conjunction with the City’s Pavement Maintenance Program and previously awarded federally funded grant projects new bicycle infrastructure will soon be on:

  • Lake Shore Drive from Wooded Acres Drive to N 19th Street
  • MacArthur Drive from McFerrin Avenue to Alexander Avenue
  • S 26th Street from Clay Avenue to Bagby Avenue
  • Elm Avenue from Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard to Forrest Street
  • 11th/12th Streets from Downtown Waco to Garden Drive
  • Washington Avenue from University Parks Drive to N 18th Street
  • Londonderry Drive from New Sanger Road to Old McGregor Road
  • Herring Avenue from N 4th Street to N 15th A Street
  • Colcord Avenue from N 5th Street to N 18th Street

City staff are applying this year to federally funded grant programs with emphasis on multi-modal transportation to include a shared-use path on Mars Drive near Midway Middle and High Schools and a multi-purpose trail along the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad right of way in East Waco.  The City is also applying to Safe Routes to School federal grants which if awarded will include infrastructure improvements for school-aged bicyclists and pedestrians in future years to come.

Bicycle and Scooter Share Pilot Program

A year-long planning and design process is finally wrapping up and Waco will soon have a bicycle and scooter share pilot program.  Expect to see electric-assist bicycles and scooters in the Greater Downtown in June this year.  Ride a scooter to your favorite place for a bite to eat in downtown.  Take a sunset bike ride along the Riverwalk before you head home for the night.  Be a tourist for a day, leave your car behind and enjoy the various local favorites and hot-spots via a bike or scooter.  The City looks forward to seeing all of you taking part in this new way to get around town.

Christine Miller is a traffic engineer in training for the City of Waco Public Works Department.  She has been with the City of Waco since 2015 and has been directly involved in improving the infrastructure for the bicycle and pedestrian community.  Though she is not an avid cyclist yet, she does own a bicycle and takes it out on fair weather weekends to the Cottonbelt Trail and the Riverwalk and to trail systems in Round Rock and Austin.  Maybe you’ll see her at one of the scheduled Bike Month rides.  She’ll happily chat about genealogy, the Women’s World Cup coming up this June, and the changes that are occurring in Waco.