Prosper Waco: Using data to inform the work

By Christina Helmick

As you may have heard, the US Census Bureau recently released the 2017 American Community Survey (ACS) data. The ACS is an ongoing survey of individuals and households. The government uses this information to help distribute federal and state funds each year, and the Prosper Waco backbone organization uses this data to track our community’s progress toward the initiative goals. The ACS includes information about population demographics, employment, income, educational attainment, housing and other topics. It is important to note that while the newly released ACS data breaks down 2017 outcomes, it is the most available and recent data for our community to use in guiding the work of Prosper Waco. Click here to peruse the American Community Survey data portal.  

Across all indicators, Waco saw notable improvements from 2016 to 2017. Waco’s growth mirrored the growth that was seen at both the state and national levels. Below is a breakdown of key indicators of how our community is doing:

Poverty rates:

In 2017, the number of individuals experiencing poverty was concentrated within the City of Waco. The number of children (individuals under the age of 18) living in poverty in Waco increased, while all the other categories decreased. 

Median Household Income:

The 2017 numbers for the City of Waco and McLennan County followed state and national trends of increased median household income. In 2017, the median household income in Waco was $8,204 less than for the rest of McLennan County. 

Educational Attainment:

McLennan County and Texas had similar educational attainment rates in 2017. Waco, McLennan County and Texas followed similar trends, which indicated that the general population is becoming more educated. In 2017, one in eight residents of Waco had a high school diploma, compared to one in four in both the county and state.


In 2017, one in six youth who looked for work were unable to find employment. Waco had slightly higher unemployment rates compared to the county and state. 

Health Insurance:

Eighty-five percent of Wacoans were insured in 2017, which was higher than the state average. Additionally, the highest population at local, state and national levels without health insurance were 26-34 year olds.

Our community is using data, like what is highlighted above, to make data-informed decisions and to work toward advancing the goals of the Prosper Waco initiative. To learn more about these partnerships and initiatives, visit “The Work” page on the Prosper Waco website.

If you have any questions or comments, email or call 254-741-0081.

Christina Helmick is the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

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.



Better Living for Texans: Pizza Night – A Slice for Everyone!

(As I’m sure most of you probably know, one of our Prosper Waco community goals is McLennan County residents will live healthier lifestyles and access the best available care. With that in mind Act Locally Waco is teaming up with Better Living for Texans to bring you a monthly blog post full of tips for healthy living. For more of the posts in this series, click here: Better Living for Texans. – ALW)

by Lindsey Breunig

Fall is here, which means busy days and busy nights. From the school work (dog school for me), fall sports, and extra-curricular activities, everything is back in session. Hectic schedules between family and friends create limited time to prepare a healthy meal at home. I will admit it, when I am hungry and have limited time, my dinner choices usually are not the healthiest.

I believe it is safe to say we have pizza fans in Waco. Pizza can be cheap, easy, and feed the masses, perfect for those fall days. I can think of numerous occasions where pizza has been the chosen meal for watching away Baylor football games. Pizza is a great go-to meal, but you might be wary to regularly serve pizza because of the nutritional value, or lack thereof. Calories add up quickly when one adds double cheese and extra meat! However, today I’ve got good news for you! Pizza doesn’t have to be unhealthy – read on, and get ready for pizza night, there will be a slice for everyone!

Making a healthy pizza can be easy, a cost-saver, and fun for family and friends. Make the crust and sauce together and let everyone personalize the pizza with their favorite (healthy!) toppings! In the sections below, we will talk about pizza basics; however, once you’re in your own kitchen, I challenge you to get creative and make it your own! 

Make Your Own Crust!

Whether it is thick, thin, or deep-dish, in its basic form, pizza crust is made from flour (whole wheat or unbleached are preferred), water, and yeast. If you are pressed for time, buy a pre-made whole wheat pizza crust, or use an alternative crust – English muffins, mini-bagels, flat or pita bread, or French bread make great crust! Does the crust have to be bread-based? No! Sneak more veggies into your pizza by trying out a cauliflower crust, check out this recipe below, and see if anyone notices the difference!

cauliflower stemmed and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon minced onion
garlic cloves peeled and minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
egg whites
To make the Crust: Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a food processor, add the cauliflower in sections and pulse 10 times until it has a rice-like consistency. Place into a dry dishcloth, squeeze and wring out any water into the sink. Pour out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 25 minutes, or until dry and lightly golden. Remove and cool. In a large mixing bowl, add cauliflower and remaining crust ingredients. Mix together until dough forms, then press mixture into two 8-inch circles on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil if desired. Turn oven up to 450°F and bake for 20 minutes.


Choose tomato-based sauces like marinara rather than alfredo sauce for a lower fat content. Use a premade tomato-based sauce or take fresh tomatoes and blend them together for your own sauce. For added nutrtients, add fresh or frozen vegetables to the sauce and use a blender to mix the vegetables into the sauce. I recommend spinach or kale! Try this recipe below:

1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp garlic minced
2 28 oz canned crushed tomatoes unsalted
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp rosemary
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp basil
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
2 Tbsp sugar

Instructions: Heat olive oil and garlic in a large saucepan or pot over medium heat. Sauté garlic for 1 -2 minutes until slightly golden. Reduce heat to low and add crushed tomatoes, herbs, and sugar. Simmer on low for 15-18 minutes. 


Choose your favorite toppings to make the perfect pizza for you and your family. Something I always encourage is the more colorful, the better! Add your favorite fruits and/or vegetables and you’re almost done! Don’t like the crunch? Sauté bell peppers and onions before topping. Like a kick? Add some pickled Jalapeños! Something I have found when introducing new veggies is that the more finely cut, the better. When it comes to cheese, use a low-fat cheese, like part-skim mozzarella. If you want a little protein on your pizza, use a lean meat source.


Making your own pizza can not only be a good bonding experience, but it can also provide you with a much healthier pizza that everyone will love! Don’t be afraid to let the kids help, many important nutrition-related lessons and habits can be taught over making pizza together. Get the pizza cutter out and save me a slice!

Lindsey Breunig is a graduate of Baylor University and currently works as the Better Living for Texans Educator for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She is originally from Grapevine, TX and now calls Waco home. Here in Waco she loves to venture out to Cameron Park, visit the local Farmers Market, and try out the awesome eateries in Waco. If you see her and hear a loud bark, that’s her pup Lucy just saying hello.

Cauliflower Crust:

Herb Infused Marinara Sauce:



Acknowledging Our Past, Cultivating our Future:Historic Waco Foundation Hosts Community Gathering to Discuss Waco History

The Historic Waco Foundation has launched a strategic process to understand Waco’s story from a number of perspectives in order to form future partnerships and programs that would offer the greatest benefit to the community. This post is the first in a series to share with you how that work is progressing and how you can get involved!  For the rest of the posts in this series, click here: Historic Waco Foundation Series. — ALW

By Ashley Wucher

Humans are, generally speaking, emotional creatures. We digest and retain information best when packaged in a way that allows us to connect emotionally with the information presented. Perhaps, then, it should come as no surprise that storytelling has, for so long, been society’s primary form of communication. In fact, humans used stories even before written language as one of the very first forms of communication.

Fast forward to today, and we are still a society of storytellers. We package difficult concepts in a familiar story to teach our children from grade school through secondary education. Families tell stories of grandparents and great-grandparents as a way to keep the memories of loved ones alive. Cities use stories to articulate their communities’ culture through historical museums, foundations and exhibits. Waco has some great examples of this kind of storytelling such as the Waco Hispanic Museum, now in its third year, and the 2016 Historic Waco Foundation exhibit “Footprints of African Americans in McLennan County” that spotlighted major, yet largely unfamiliar, contributions by local African Americans to the region.

The Waco community has made great strides in recent years to create a space for listening to the stories of the people and places that have made Waco what it is today—but we have long way to go in order to articulate a more complete history of our community that is representative of every Wacoan.

Historic Waco Foundation, a group that has long considered itself the storytellers of Waco’s history, has begun to broaden its work and follow its long-held mantra: Preserve, Educate and Inspire. The organization is stepping outside of the historic homes to listen to the community in an effort to become better storytellers of Waco’s full history.

The group gathered local leaders representing the Waco-area’s diverse communities on September 27 to discuss the rarely told and untold stories of the people and places that make up the City’s history. The gathering was the first step in a larger strategic process of understanding Waco’s story from a number of perspectives in order to form future partnerships and programs that would offer the greatest benefit to the community. Historic Waco Foundation convened a working group that identified community leaders from across the greater Waco-communities, but the group is now asking for input from the greater Waco community.

Waco-area residents can submit their comments, questions and stories to  or by mail to Historic Waco Foundation, 810 South 4th Street, Waco, Texas 76706.

The group discussed the well-known stories of World War II hero Doris Miller and Waco-born Gospel singer, Jules Bledsoe, but it also focused on the stories that have not gotten the attention they deserve, like the Starlights, a Waco-based Mexican-American dance band popular throughout Central Texas in the 60s.

East Waco community organizer, Cuevas Peacock, said the gathering is only the first step in a larger strategic process of understanding Waco’s story from a number of perspectives.

Louis Garcia, Chairman of the Waco Hispanic Museum at the South Waco Community Center, said he looks forward to working with Historic Waco Foundation to tell the story of Waco’s Hispanic families, past and present, as the group works to build a Wacoan can see themselves represented.

Ashley Wucher is Assistant Director of Community Public Relations at the Waco Foundation. Ashley graduated magna cum laude from Baylor University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism/Public Relations, where she served as the News Editor for the Baylor Lariat. Ashley also earned her Masters of Jurisprudence from Michigan State University College of Law. She is thrilled to return to Waco and looks forward to bringing people and ideas together to help the city realize its collaborative vision.


Man in the Mirror Collective: Working to make a cultural shift

By Brett Mills

“Let’s take Easter to the strip clubs,” my wife said to me 15 years ago. Little did I know my “yes” would be my death sentence.

I experienced a “gentleman’s club” only once before as a bright-eyed Baylor freshman. I ducked in with trepidation, curious about what I would see. Two decades later, that experience is still seared into my memory, though for different reasons than you might expect. From the back, I watched as a half-naked dancer swayed around a 50-something-year-old man. He stared at her…as close as he could get without touching. His gaze was empty, robotic, disconnected from reality. I thought to my 18-year-old self, “I don’t want to be that guy”, and played pool the rest of the night. But I am no hero. I, too, am that man. A man who has been culturally conditioned to view women as objects, to “conquer the girl,” “chase the skirt,” belittle her mind and question her power.

Good Friday 2004, I drove my wife to several Waco stripclubs. She carried gifts inside, I sat in the car. It was the beginning of what would later become Jesus Said Love: a statewide movement sharing the love of Jesus with those impacted by the commercial sex industry.

This death of mine has been slow. In my 20s, I knew everything. I understood the way things worked. And, without a shadow of a doubt, I knew this reality of mine was made up of black-and-white, clear-cut, God-given truth. Today, at 42, my reality is more shades of living color than anything else, a hundred tones stacking and overlapping and spreading wide. This didn’t happen overnight. Every time we would visit a strip club, death. Every conversation with a club employee or manager, death. Every crisis, death. Dinners at my house with entertainers and their children, death.

My thoughts on everything from the sex industry to government, social justice to the church…everything in me, at some point, has experienced one of these deaths. And it makes sense. When macro issues suddenly become intimately personal, your response is wildly different than it was when you were a mile away. For those concerned that I’ve abandoned my faith, I can assure you: my views on Jesus have only deepened and grown stronger. In fact, these deaths I died were exactly what Jesus meant by “losing your life” to find the life that is life indeed. Yes, I die and rise again on the daily. I have awakened to greater truths: that numerous times in Scripture, Jesus relates to women, empowers women, listens to women, respects women. Jesus stands with women, positioning himself between oppressor and victim.

Several years ago, another level of death smacked me in the chest when we launched an empowerment program called ACCESS. I was scheduled to spend every day of 8 weeks with women who have been to hell and back: sisters with bravery beyond comprehension (because facing your own trauma is a serious and gutsy thing).

I sat around the big table in the Great Room at our JSL office with 8 future ACCESS students. It was our first chance to meet—an orientation of sorts. There came a point in our visit when the atmosphere shifted. There was a bit of silence. And then she spoke up. She said “I don’t trust men. I never have and never will. All they’ve ever done is hurt me. Abuse me. Lie to me.” She went on to say, “but I can honestly say you, Brett, are the first man I think I trust. There’s something about you that’s different.”

Tears. From everyone.

I swallowed and looked around the table. “I’m sorry for the way men have treated each of you,” I managed to say. “You are worth infinitely more than the words and actions that have been done to you at the hands of men. I promise this will be a safe place for you.”

I went home that night and the grim reaper was waiting…again. I kept thinking about her words: “You’re the first man I think I trust…” In a moment of honesty, I struggled with her comments because I thought about all the times I’ve objectified women. The crass jokes I’ve made around other guys, or (worse) the times I’ve heard other men say horrible things about women and I’ve kept silent – also known as “the bystander effect”. The times I thought, “She can’t handle that…we need a man to do it,” or the times my wife asked me to help with laundry, and, almost instinctively, my gut quietly said, “Wait, that’s your job.”

I don’t want to find myself sitting around the deer campfire talking about “tits and ass,” thinking it’s harmless. Or, conversely, diminishing its harm by saying, “It’s just guys being guys,” or, “I was just kidding.”

That night, in light of these deaths over the past 15 years, I wanted to create a space for men to come and die with me, learning about issues affecting women today. Yes, this was to be a brotherhood of sorts, made up of men who are willing to take back the language of the locker room and golf course. A band of brothers willing to look at these issues affecting women and realize they are, in fact, also inherently men’s issues.

Man In the Mirror Collective is that space where, together, we will put our minds, hearts, and pocketbooks together and make a difference in the current culture of domestic and gender violence. Men coming together in numbers strong enough to make a cultural shift.

The objectives of MITMC are simple:

  1. Courage to Look Inward
    To stand against gender violence, we must be willing to examine our own attitudes, biases, and behaviors regarding women, approach to sex, and masculinity.
  2. Support Survivors
    Most sexual abuse goes unreported. Most who report are telling the truth. Offer support by listening intently to survivor stories, not minimizing or criticizing them.
  3. Refuse Sexist and Abusive Behavior
    Help to create a climate in our male peer culture that discourages sexist attitudes and behaviors. Refuse to be a bystander.
  4. Contribute Financial Resources
    Help fund programs and organizations, providing resources for victims of domestic, physical, and sexual violence.

Now, this collective is not about helping the “poor, weak woman.” It’s not about charging in, muscles flexed, ready to rescue with a savior mentality. Rather, it’s about doing what any logical human would do: listen first, link together – arm in arm, feet lined up unified at the front lines of the battlefield. In standing with women, we not only become better men, but (ultimately) better human beings in a better world for the next generation. This is legacy. This is good and true and right and reasonable.

The bells are tolling, men. Will you join me in making a change? Let’s start with the man in the mirror.

Brett Mills is the CEO of Jesus Said Love, a movement across Texas working with those impacted by the commercial sex industry. He also works closely with those arrested for buying sex through an intervention program of JSL called Stop Demand School. A graduate in Communications from Baylor University, Brett lives in Waco, TX with his wife Emily, and children Hattie, Lucy and Gus. For more information about how to participate in the Man in the Mirror Collective visit or or email

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.