Despite difficult times – Lots of great memories from Spring 2020 at MCC!

By Phillip Ericksen

Life has been tough lately. We stay in our residences as much as possible, all while trying to help our neighbors in need, health professionals on the front lines, local businesses that need our support, and those who simply need our friendship.

At McLennan Community College, a major transition was underway in March as courses were moved online. We are extremely proud of students, faculty, and staff who have made this possible.

In these difficult times, it might be nice to remember some of the success stories MCC has seen recently, from special events we celebrated, to honors we’ve received. We hope to resume these special moments once it is safe to do so.

Jan. 22 – At the start of each semester, the Vendor Fair attracts organizations from around McLennan County to visit campus, set up booths, and meet our students. The connections made at Vendor Fair expose students to on- and off-campus resources and organizations that assist students.

Feb. 20 – Grammy Award-winning music producer SymbolycOne returned to MCC – his alma mater – to discuss his craft with students. He received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Audio Engineering in 1997, and is now one of the top music producers in the industry, working with legends such as Madonna, Gladys Knight, Beyonce, Kanye West, and many more.

Feb. 26 – Texas Higher Education Commissioner Harrison Keller visited campus for important discussions with MCC leadership. They spoke about the future of education and innovation in Texas, and how community colleges play a role in educating our state.

Enjoying the annual “Hearts in the Arts Theatre Gala.

Feb. 27 – The 18th Annual Hearts in the Arts Theatre Gala hosted by the MCC Foundation was highlighted by a student production of “Chicago” at the Ball Performing Arts Center. Many community leaders attended this special event, which benefits student scholarship funds and expands access to higher education in McLennan County.

April 2 – MCC donates emergency supplies and loans equipment to local health care professionals treating patients of COVID-19. Four ventilators, 10 hospital beds, and boxes of masks, gloves, and gowns were delivered to hospitals and clinics as the College supported these essential leaders on the front lines.

April 23 – The Waco Independent School District presented MCC with a Rise Award for Outstanding Community Partners. Partnerships in dual-credit courses, faculty-staff collaborations, and special events were highlighted as President Johnette McKown accepted the award on behalf of the College.

For the entire Spring semester, MCC has encouraged students to participate in the 2020 Census, stay safe through social distancing, and register for summer and fall courses. We are proud to play this role in our community.


Phillip Ericksen is the marketing and communications specialist at McLennan Community College. For about four years, he was a journalist at the Waco Tribune-Herald covering higher education and local government. He enjoys following the news, reading books and drinking coffee. As a San Antonio native, he is an avid fan of Mexican food and the Spurs basketball team. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University.  He can be reached at pericksen@mclennan.edu.

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.


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Dual Realities

By Alfred Solano

During this time of crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic we are asked to stay at home except for when we are doing essential business. This is an important step to minimize the spread of this disease. Even so, this situation is having a severe impact on business and organizations.  In turn, the impact on those entities is severely affecting peoples’ lives in various ways and to varying degrees.

What is apparent to me is that there are dual realities because of this crisis. Some of us are being Inconvenienced while others are being devastated. There are those of us who are able to work from home with little worry about how we will immediately survive. We will likely be able to weather this storm. On the other end of the spectrum, we have a population of folks who are experiencing no or very limited income because their workplace is closed or greatly reduced in capacity, and they have no good way to work from home. Whether they get through this situation is not so assured.

Fortunately, at this time I am only being inconvenienced, and I am thinking of how I can support those who are being devastated. In my case, for example, I am driving very little these days, and even when I do drive, the price of gasoline is very low. My personal budget is benefiting because I am not spending money on fuel like I normally do. That surplus of money is not a huge, but my wife and I are consciously spending it in our local retail shops, restaurants (where we are tipping as generously as we are able), and service businesses.

Money spent locally has a direct and immediate impact on local payroll, the purchase of goods, services, rents/utilities and contributes to the local tax base. At this particular moment that money may be the difference between a local business surviving or shuttering their doors.

I recognize that not all local businesses have online stores and it is very easy to search online and quickly buy what we need or want at the click of a button from an out of the area enterprise.  Please remember, those out of area purchases do nothing to support our local economy.

My ask is that each of us evaluate our current situation. If you are able, let’s support local businesses wholeheartedly by buying local to the extent that we can. Together we can get through this crisis. Be well!


Some helpful websites for local businesses who would like to offer products and services on-line:

Creative Waco has created an online marketplace www.makeitinwaco.com to serve as a means for local businesses to easily set up an online store.

The Cen-Tex Chambers have created an online directory free to all local businesses at www.buylocalwaco.com.


Alfred Solano was raised in Waco and is a graduate of Texas State Technical College. He is the President and CEO of the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce since June of 2018. His community activities include currently serving as a board member of Act Locally Waco, the Family Health Center, Hillcrest Health System, Inc., MCC Foundation, StartUp Waco, and Vice Chairman of Prosper Waco.  After 35 years of working in the business community, Alfred enjoys bringing his experiences and various partnerships and relationships to the membership and community that the Hispanic Chamber works to serve. Rachel his wife can be found around town enjoying all the coolness that is Waco. Alfred and Rachel are very proud of his Daughter Elena who works as a Psychotherapist and lives in Austin. Contact information: 254 754-7111 · alfred@wacohispanicchamber.com · www.wacohispanicchamber.com.

New to Waco: The few, the brave, the early morning Wal-Mart shoppers

What does it feel like to be new to Waco?  What would a new person notice about our town?  What’s it like to try to find your place in our community?  Ferrell Foster is moving to Waco from Georgetown to become a part of the Prosper Waco team.  In this blog series he will share some of his experiences as a Waco newbie.  What will we see when we look at Waco through his fresh eyes?  Read along to find out!  To see all the posts in this series, click here: New to Waco. – ALW

By Ferrell Foster

Cue “Jaws” soundtrack. It’s early Sunday — 6:41. My daughter and I enter the “water.” No one else is in the “water;” they’re sitting safely on the “beach” (in their cars). It’s Walmart. We’re first in line.

Gradually others jump in, keeping at least six feet apart. We must look especially threatening; the guy behind us opts for 12 feet of unsocial distance.

Walmart employees buzz around beyond the closed glass doors. They all wear facemasks, but one guy, who kind of acts important, has his mask down on his chin — a rebel, for sure. Required to mask-up, he’s being passive aggressive in his resistance.

Doors open. Our presence is tallied on a digital tablet. The worker’s mask remains low, but my daughter and I are properly masked and rush past him to retrieve a freshly disinfected shopping cart. (No disinfectant injections offered.)

As a “high risk” person, it’s my first visit to a Walmart since things got dangerous. It’s also my first visit to a Waco area Walmart.

The other shoppers must be behind us, but I don’t look back. We are on a quest, and it’s important to keep your eyes forward while on quest. I’m reminded of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” — unsuspecting dangers lurk. We have no coconuts to clap together, but we move with purpose.

There is actually a sign marking the aisle where the grail should be. An obstacle! Not a physical one, merely a message on the floor — “Do Not Enter.” It’s a one-way aisle; we are supposed to go around. A long-time rule follower, I want to detour, but my daughter doesn’t hesitate and she knows this routine better than me. (She’s been my designated COVID-era buyer.) I follow.

I’ve heard the stories and seen the pictures of empty shelves, and there they are down the length of the left side — nothing. But wait. In the distance, there’s something different. Can it be? Yes, it is. The grail is there. I wonder if others are going to rush past us to reach it. But, no, it’s all a rather tame scene. We pick up our one package of toilet paper and proceed to the less-exciting parts of my first Waco shopping adventure.

Having missed the early days of pandemic shopping, I feel I have missed something. I have only one rather lame story to share while others recount thrilling tales of when there really was a toilet paper shortage… of which there really was not one.

Walmart shopping came back to me pretty quickly.  Like riding a bike.  Or more specifically like riding a bike as an adult after years of four-wheeling with a motor attached.

We got most of what we needed and some of what we wanted. And we left some digital money with the nice lady cashier. Another worker even bagged some of our groceries before suddenly disappearing mid-bagging.

I think it’s healthy to have some fun with tough times, but we all know these have been some very difficult days for many people and the struggles are not over. Our community has lost four of our residents, including a school principal, and others have barely escaped the virus’s death grip.

Our health care workers are exhausted. They’ve endured the physical challenges of long hours and dangerous circumstances. They’ve had trouble finding childcare, and they’ve worried about bringing home the virus to the people they love. I cannot fathom what this has been like for them, but I try and I cheer.

My sister-in-law is a health care worker in another town, and she has been in my thoughts and prayers a great deal. She’s had it rough at times, but I’ve noticed on Facebook that she also has had time for some laughs with her fellow heroes.

So I write these rather fun and frivolous words not because I do not hurt for those who have sacrificed so much but because in the midst of all of this it doesn’t hurt to smile.

Years ago, a famous guy said, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” (It’s in a letter to some ancient Romans.)

These surely have been times for weeping, and they are not over, but I hope we also can find some happiness as we move forward. Otherwise, it seems, COVID wins, and that is just not acceptable.


Ferrell Foster is content specialist for care and communications at Prosper Waco. He and his wife, Trese, have five adult children and five grandchildren. He is a native Texan, having grown up in Dallas.

Greater Waco Chamber to Feature Four Local Employers in First Jobs Spotlight Event on Wednesday, May 6

Press Release

WACO, Texas- The Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce’s first Find Your Waco Jobs Spotlight virtual event is scheduled for Wednesday, May 6 at 2:00 p.m. and will feature hiring representatives from Ascension Providence, Clay Pot Restaurant, Pilgrim’s- Waco, and Midway ISD. Job Seekers are encouraged to register for this inaugural event and learn about available positions that span the spectrum of education and skills.

During each weekly event in the series, the hiring representatives from featured companies will provide a short overview of their companies and discuss their job openings, the required skills/ experience to apply, benefits offered, and the application process. “For anyone currently looking for work, this is a must attend event,” remarked Jennifer Branch, Director of Existing Industries & Workforce Development. Branch continued, “In response to the rapid rise of area unemployment caused by the pandemic, the Greater Waco Chamber developed this series to help the adversely affected members of our community. We hope to connect job seekers with their potential new employers!”

The four featured employers will be announced each week in the series. The Find Your Waco Jobs Spotlight series will be held via Zoom and recordings will be available following each event on the Waco Chamber website, wacochamber.com and talent portal, WacoTxJobs.com.

For more information on the Find Your Waco Jobs Spotlight series, please reach out to Jennifer Branch by telephone at 254-757-5625 or email jbranch@wacochamber.com. To register, please visit, Find Your Waco Jobs Spotlight.


MCH Family Outreach: Creatively working to keep families strong, connected and together

By Sara Beth Stoltzfus

I was emailing folks a few weeks ago about MCH Family Outreach and the services we provide, sharing that while we are getting creative with our methods (using video chats, phone calls, dropping off items outside homes) we are still open for business during COVID-19. The response I got was, “I think someone should expand on this lovely list and make it into a blog post to share on Act Locally Waco. I think there are many in the community who would benefit from knowing more about what you do!”

I agree! So here goes.

Basically, MCH Family Outreach exists to support families; to help keep families strong, connected and together. We do this through in-home case management programs, parenting classes, and support groups for caregivers. We do this work with many different types of families: families with very little income, families with high income, families with infants as well as families with teenagers. We work with both English and Spanish speaking families. We work with grandparents, aunts/uncles and other relative caregivers as they search for resources, parenting ideas and support. Our services are free and our services are voluntary. And we can meet in a family’s home or another comfortable and safe place.

The goals we make with families through our case management programs are their own, not ours. We meet for one month to get to know a family before we officially set goals. That way, we do not throw a bunch of ideas at a family that they have already tried or cannot use. We try not to throw things in general. ; )

Here are examples of goals we can help with through case management:

  • We could help your family feel more connected by working on communication and bonding between family members.
  • We could help your family learn to handle difficult emotions by teaching self-regulation skills.
  • We could help brainstorm disciplinary strategies that work for your family.
  • We could help you become more confident in your parenting by providing information about your child’s developmental stage and provide parenting tips.
  • If you are experiencing financial stress, we could help you connect to local resources, prepare a resume, complete a job search, create a budget and learn what benefits you might qualify for.
  • We can provide advocacy and support to you as you navigate the legal system.
  • We can help get you connected with appropriate therapists, counselors, doctors, food pantries, housing programs and other community resources.
  • We can help you navigate the school system, attend ARD meetings with you, advocate for special education services, etc.
  • We can help you explore self-care practices and supports that you need as a parent, including, but not limited to connecting you to local parenting groups or counseling.

I love the work that we are able to do at MCH Family Outreach because we are able to work creatively to help families reach their goals and find stability, connection, and even joy. Parenting is definitely not easy, even more so in the past month. Sometimes we all need a little extra support, someone to ask those tough questions, someone to vent to – then brainstorm solutions with, a non-judgmental person to check in with, for motivation and cheering on.

We are here to provide that support and would love to talk to you more about the programs we offer.

Call 254-750-1263 for our local Waco office or check out our website for more information about our case management programs, our parenting classes, workshops and support groups:  https://www.mch.org/locations/waco/

Visit our webpage for the contact information of our 13 Outreach offices in Texas and New Mexico. https://www.mch.org/family-outreach-leadership/


This Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Sara Beth Stoltzfus. Sara Beth is a Social Worker at MCH Family Outreach through the Methodist Children’s Home. Sara Beth is originally from Pennsylvania but has been living in Texas for more than 10 years, 8 of which have been spent in Waco.