Teal Pumpkin Halloween

By Ellen Filgo

When my son was three, his daycare switched their lunchroom to being peanut-free.  At first, I wondered what my son – who pretty much subsists on PBJ sandwiches – was going to eat, but soon figured out that he liked the almond-butter and jelly sandwiches I ended up packing in his lunch.  While we don’t have any food allergies in our family, I have several friends with children who deal with severe or even life-threatening allergies to several different foods.  I also have a good friend whose youngest son was a 23-weeker preemie and for many years got most of his nutrition by feeding tube.

Halloween Trick-or-Treating can be a tricky time for these families. Families that manage allergies or intolerances, or families of kids with celiac disease, diabetes or feeding tubes need to balance the desires of their children to have a fun holiday with keeping them safe.  Much of our Halloween candy contains a lot of the most common allergens – wheat, soy, nuts, milk, eggs, and food dyes.  In addition to that, much of the Halloween candy that people purchase comes in smaller sizes without nutrition labels, so parents can’t determine what is or isn’t safe to eat.

This is where the Teal Pumpkin Project comes in.  The Teal Pumpkin Project “encourages people to raise awareness of food allergies and promotes inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season.”  This movement provides a way – by offering non-food treats – to include children who normally would be left out of the fun of Halloween Trick-or-Treating.  Families can participate by providing a separate bowl of non-food treats* for trick-or-treaters and by putting a teal-colored pumpkin at their door to let people know of their participation in the project.  The Teal Pumpkin website provides a map where families can register their participation so that other families can connect with them.

In addition, Holy Spirit Episcopal Church on Wooded Acres Drive provides an entire Teal Pumpkin-friendly Trunk or Treat on October 31 from 6-8 pm.  Every single vehicle at the Trunk or Treat will have a bowl of non-food treats so that trick-or-treaters can have one fun and safe event to participate in.

Please join in this growing movement to make Halloween more inclusive of all trick-or-treaters.

* There are lots of great non-food treats that kids of all sorts love!  The Teal Pumpkin Project provides a great list: Glow sticks, bracelets, or necklaces, Pencils, pens, crayons or markers, Bubbles, Halloween , Erasers or pencil toppers, Mini Slinkies, Whistles, kazoos, or noisemakers, Bouncy balls, Finger puppets or novelty toys, Coins, Spider rings, Vampire fangs, Mini notepads, Playing cards, Bookmarks, Stickers, Stencils

Ellen Filgo is a research librarian at Baylor and a Wacoan of 10 years. She is also the director of the Waco Diaper Bank and a member of Holy Spirit Episcopal Church. She loves living in Sanger-Heights with her husband, her stepson and her two energetic little boys. She has been known to get sidetracked researching the answer to a random question casually asked in a Facebook post.

Sometimes there truly is no room at the inn…Sally’s House

By Louise Powell

A year ago at Christmas time in our city, a young family with a tiny infant was suddenly homeless. When the baby’s father requested help at a local emergency shelter, he was told that Mom and Dad were welcome, but their baby would have to be placed somewhere else. When they called an 800 number for assistance, they were told that the only emergency family shelter in Central Texas was Sally’s House. Majors Anita and Brad Caldwell of the Waco Salvation Army remember that the young mother wanted only one Christmas gift—a plastic baby bathtub—because every time she bathed her little boy in a gas station sink, he hit his head on the hard metal faucet.

Sally’s House is vital to the community because it is the only emergency shelter specific for families with children in McLennan County. And, Sally’s House needs the help of the community because its federal funding has been cut. In 2015/2016 the federal government’s emphasis changed from shelter assistance funds to rapid rehousing. Although rapid rehousing of the homeless is a worthy goal, families in crisis will always need short-term emergency accommodations until other options become available.

So for those who are unfamiliar with Sally’s House, what does the place look like? The small house is attractive, thanks to students from Live Oak Classical School who have spent hours this year repainting the exterior fences and sidewalk. The house itself is modest, with three bedrooms and bathroom facilities for families, one bedroom with bunkbeds for single women, two cots in the hallway, and a small area off the hallway for washers and dryers. A Salvation Army staff person is always on duty to safeguard the families at night. Professional case managers work directly with residents to provide budgeting, life skills, and other needed resources and assistance to focus on long-term solutions.  Daily breakfast and a hot evening meal are provided at the Salvation Army Community Kitchen. Within 30 days, most families are transitioned to apartments.

Last year 172 women with children, families, and single women stayed at Sally’s House. Too often all the beds–plus the cots in the hallway–are full, which means desperate families have to be turned away. Many of the moms, dads, and children no doubt spend nights in their cars or on the street unwilling to have the family split up among other shelters.

Because sometimes there truly is no room at the inn, the dream of the Waco Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary, a group of local women who support Salvation Army ministries, is not only to sustain Sally’s House as it is now, but also to eventually build a much larger facility.

Won’t you, Waco and McLennan County residents, help us provide consistent help to homeless children and families? The Women’s Auxiliary of the Salvation Army is holding a fundraising event, “Repurpose for a Purpose,” where everything old is made new again. Waco’s best professional and amateur designers have contributed their finest work — repurposed furniture, household items, clothing, and art – to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. All proceeds benefit Sally’s House. We invite you to enjoy this special evening of fun, fabulous food, and incredible finds!  For tickets and more information, visit www.SalvationArmyWaco.org/repurpose or call (254) 756-7271.

Louise Powell is currently an adjunct English instructor at Baylor and MCC. Previously she was an English teacher and administrator in Waco I.S.D. She is married, the mother of three grown children and grandmother to seven. Louise is a member and secretary for the Women’s Auxiliary of the Salvation Army and a past president of Waco Founder Lions Club, for which she currently serves as Vision Screening Chair. 



The Sex Talk

By Sarah Frank

At age 21 I feel as lost about sex as I did at 15.

Raised in a strong Christian community in a tiny Texas town, my sex education focused on abstinence. I can’t recall having a formal conversation about sex with either of my parents. The majority of my knowledge on sex came from the two days we covered it in health class and conversations in the girl’s locker room.

When I was in high school, my church briefly ran a program on Sunday nights where the girls and boys would separate and discuss passages from the Bible.  One week, we had a Bible study over relationships and dating. Our group leader took the time to tell us about her past relationships and how difficult her love life was growing up. She explained that the first man she kissed she ended up marrying and described how much happier she was because of the fact that she waited. She encouraged us to do the same – to wait to kiss or do anything physical until after, what now seems to me to be, an obscene amount of time has passed in the relationship.

Meanwhile, in the next room over, the boys talked about sex and masturbation. The teaching was far from scientific.  For example, we girls put our ears up to the door and overhead the statement “Every time you masturbate a kitten dies.”  Whether the boys also got the speech about waiting to have any physical contact in a relationship at all, I do not know, but it is clear to me the boys and girls were hearing vastly different things and neither group was being given any understanding of what a healthy sex life looks like.

None of these conversations in health class, church, or in the home ever taught me how to have safe sex.  In fact, these conversations have had a more damaging effect on my love life and in my relationships than a positive one. Growing up, I have been ashamed of my natural, human emotions because every older member in my family and in the church taught me that this desire was sinful. I never felt as if I had someone to talk to about sex and, consequently, I treated sex as something to be feared and not as a loving connection between two consenting adults.

As young adults my friends and I struggle with figuring out sex and taking care of our reproductive health.  Abstinence-only sex programs didn’t work for us.  Fear mongering didn’t stop us from exploring our basic human drive, it only made us terrified to speak with our parents or other adults during the time when we needed the most guidance. These programs avoided teaching us how to prevent pregnancy and STDs which is information we all, even married couples, need to know.

Even now as twenty-somethings, the closed-off approach to sex we were taught growing up continues to influence our sex lives and our relationships. Some of us are afraid of sex and intimacy even in long-term relationships because we were taught these desires are bad.

In retrospect, I see how important it is to talk about sex in an open and honest environment. As uncomfortable as it was to speak with my parents about sex, being able to have that open communication would have been better for me in the long run. I didn’t know where to set my boundaries, and I didn’t know what constituted sex. When the time came to practice my values, I didn’t know what they were. I had no one to talk to about this because I felt as if the adults I knew would only judge and condemn me. An open approach to sex would have given me someone to speak with and may have saved me hurt and stress.

I believe that sex should not be such a taboo subject in the home. Instead there should be open and honest discussions about safe sex, family values, and how to determine personal values surrounding sex and relationships. Instead of learning about sex through fear tactics designed to prevent sexual activity, I would have benefited more from being taught what a healthy relationship looks like and why healthy relationships are important regarding sex and intimacy. It is my belief that every person deserves to have a healthy and safe sex life when they are ready and this comes through proper teaching and open and honest communication.

In the 2016 Waco-McLennan County Community Health Needs Assessment it was discovered that 62% of women in McLennan County have their first child by the age of 21. For more information about teen pregnancy awareness and prevention, please visit: www.wacofoundation.org/AboutUs/OurSmartBabiesInitiative.aspx

Sarah comes from Abilene, Texas and is a senior at Baylor University. She studies Psychology and Professional Writing and hopes to pursue a career in clinical research. She is a dog lover and is known to pull over in her car to stop and pet a dog. She has a hunger for travel and has visited 8 countries and hopes to go to more. A pessimist by nature, but with hope for a better future, she is passionate about civil rights and dreams of a future without borders, hunger, and war.



Health terms everyone needs to know: Advance Directives and Palliative Care

By Glenn Robinson

Given the complexity of today’s health care system, weighing options and making treatment decisions are difficult enough as it is.

While we are all grateful for the wonderful doctors and nurses who work long hours and go above and beyond for their patients, often it is family caregivers who are the unsung heroes of health care.

They are the ones who provide the relentless daily support for their loved ones who cannot care for themselves because of frailty, illness, injury, or disability. Their care is critical to sustaining or greatly improving life.

Being a family caregiver is the very definition of ‘labor of love.’ Spouses who act as the primary family caregiver bear an enormous burden. They routinely perform complex tasks virtually identical to what doctors or nurses perform in a clinic, such as medication management, wound care, using meters and monitors, and much more.

Making the job even more difficult is that more than half of spouses report no additional help from family or friends or home care aides, and three out of five caregivers also are members of the traditional American labor force.

And the cost of informally caring for particularly the elderly by friends and relatives in the United States? More than a half trillion dollars per year, according to one study, with Americans spending an estimated 30 billion hours annually providing care to elderly relatives and friends.

When a loved one is seriously ill – perhaps even dying – the decision-making process for the patient and his or her family becomes that much more difficult.

Too often, though, those decisions are not able to be made by the patient when the time comes. Rather, it becomes a burden that falls on a loved one – but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Advance care plans, which include advance directives, attempt to take the guesswork out of figuring out a patient’s wishes and values about end-of-life care while they are still of sound mind.

Advance directives are legal documents that establish guidelines for what treatments patients should or should not receive. They can lift the emotional burden off of loved ones responsible for making care decisions, because it is clear what the patient wants.

Both a living will and a health care power of attorney are types of advance directives. Unfortunately, a recent study found that just 29 percent of Americans had completed a living will that contained specific end-of-life care wishes, and only 33 percent had designated a health care power of attorney.

A rapidly growing field of medicine called Palliative Care is helping patients and their family members navigate the complex decision-making process surrounding serious illness and end-of-life care.

Whether it’s physical, emotional, or financial relief, Palliative Care is rapidly becoming a critical resource helping patients and families in difficult circumstances cope.

The goal of Palliative Care is to relieve a patient’s disease symptoms and minimize the side effects of treatment regardless of long-term prognosis. Palliative Care specialists often help families and patients make difficult decisions about whether to use highly aggressive therapies, and sort through treatment options – aligning them with the expectations of the patient and their family.

Additionally, palliative caregivers provide comfort care – which is spiritual, emotional, and psychological support and guidance.

The efforts of palliative caregivers are producing tangible results. Research shows that Palliative Care patients report improvement in pain or nausea, better communication with doctors and loved ones, and care that is more in line with their wishes.

Not only does not having an advanced care plan in place add burden to family members during an already stressful and emotional time, but it’s a burden on the health care system as well. The cost of care in the last week of life is 55 percent higher for those who have not had advance care planning discussions.

A Baylor Scott & White Health study showed that palliative patients and their families spend an average of $3,000 less in hospital costs than patients with similar conditions who did not receive such care, and these palliative patients often received not less, but better, care. This means having this very personal conversation is a decision that impacts all of us.

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.

This report, and other episodes of “The Business of Healthcare,” are available at KWBU.org

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.






A Summertime Challenge

By George Stonikinis

The importance of spending time with my children was instilled in me by my father who always made it a point to make time to take my sister and me to some museum or an afternoon movie during the long days of summer.

My father is an excellent cook, and he often would whip up some great repast for a summer lunch. However, my fondest memories of those days were of lunches at the “The Steer,” a local restaurant in my hometown in Virginia. In answer to my protests requesting a burger at one of the fast food joints, my father always answered, “Nothing interesting ever happened at a fast food place.”

Oh how right he was! The entire local color of my hometown would pass before me as Dad and I ate our bacon cheeseburgers with fries (Dad was an onion ring man). Many unspoken lessons were learned in that velvet painting festooned dining room: how to treat people, the wisdom of an old regular who always had some interesting story, or just the life story of Janice, the waitress whose delivery of our food was always accompanied by a strong smell of hairspray. I valued those times with my father. Living 2,000 miles away from him I don’t get to share a lunch with him as often as I’d like.

As a teacher, I am blessed with the ability to spend summers with my 7 and 8 year-old daughters. This past summer, faced with the challenge of filling days with indoor activities that would avoid the heat, my daughters and I came up with the idea of The 2017 Burger Tour of Waco.

If you are looking for reviews of our dining experiences, you will not find them here. Initially I had intended to rate our experiences and have even been implored to publish our rankings on social media, but I came to the realization that to do so detracted from our adventure. If we began to evaluate our experience then it began to devalue it in many ways. I did not want our time together to be relegated to a Yelp! Review.

We chose eight locally owned burger joints (no fast food allowed) over the course of the summer. Cupp’s Drive-In, Tom’s Burgers, Health Camp, Kitok’s, Dubl-R, Kims, Captain Billy Whizbang’s, and Big Pop’s were our chosen destinations for our culinary tour. I will not describe all of our stops and omissions should not be seen as negative reviews. Rather, some of the memories are a bit more indelible than others.

Our first stop was Health Camp, where we partook of a cheeseburger combo with fries and I got to watch their eyes light up as I introduced them to their first peanut butter and chocolate milkshake. As we ate I described to them how long the restaurant had been there and discussed the traffic circle and the nearby Elite Café. It was there that we started our tradition of taking a group selfie in front of the signs of the restaurants.

At Cupp’s, one of my daughters let it be known that we were on a burger tour which immediately raised the staff’s competitive spirit. They wanted to know what other places we’d visited and how they compared. As they would at Dubl-R, the girl’s loved sitting at the counter watching their food being cooked and hearing the stories of the history of the restaurant.

Kitok’s was a repeat performance for us as I had introduced them to the place last year between soccer games. They remembered it as the place I had tried to sneak vegetables into their diet via the oriental fries. Sadly, they didn’t fall for it this time. We did, however; use the time to celebrate my hiring to a new teaching position. We are still working on the vegetables.

Big Pop’s brought an unexpected church reunion as it seemed like half of our congregation was dining there that day. The impromptu gathering along with the juicy burgers, made the place feel like home and the relaxed atmosphere allowed the girls and I to joke and laugh with our friends.

The topic of our summer challenge comes up in conversation sometimes as we plan are for next year’s challenge, with taquerias, breakfast places, and sandwich shops in the mix (sadly, vegetables are still not on the list.) My girls seem less interested in the type of food and more so in the time we will spend together. What began as as a simple way to idle away the hours of a hot day has grown into a shared family memory with pictures to boot!

To this day I do not know if my father took us out to lunch just to eat or if he had some deeper, educational motive in mind. I’d like to think that he, like myself, discovered that while life will always teach you a lesson and we will always have food; the time we have with our children is far more precious.

George Stonikinis is a Texas History teacher at La Vega Junior High School. He is the father of 3 daughters, 4 cats, and one crazy dog. A self-described nerd, he enjoys history and metal detecting.