SummerFest, April 10, to highlight opportunities for students

By Hermann Pereira

In this pandemic and most recently the snow-apocalypse of 2021 we have felt more disconnected. This has truly affected our youth, who are accustomed to being in school face to face everyday along with having the ability to participate in other extracurricular activities. Time away from school is having academic and social emotional impact on youth of all ages. 

The good news is we are getting back to normal as the vaccine has come into the picture and people are feeling more safe. I would like to share an event that is coming up that will give students an opportunity to feel connected. 

Two of our working groups (School Focused Wrap Around Services Working Group and the Informal Learning Working Group) have come together to plan what will be a way for all students to have access and feel connected to summer activities. 

Student Success SummerFest will be 9 a.m.-1 p.m. April 10 and will be in partnership with the Waco Downtown Farmers Market. There will be vendors from all over the community that offer summer activities for youth. Families will be invited to visit with the different vendors and will have an opportunity to sign up on site for camps. 

Working groups are a vehicle for community members to come together to collaborate in order to serve a larger purpose. Our working groups are focused on overall student success. They consist of the Early Childhood Committee, Informal Learning Working Group, Mentor Waco Coalition, School Focused Wrap Around Services Working Group, Education, Workforce and Talent Alliance, and the McLennan County College Access Network. 

All of our working groups are open to anyone in the community interested in working hard for all students in our area. Please email me at hermann@prosperwaco.org, and I can connect you to one of these groups. We hope to talk to you soon. 

Hermann Pereira is chief program officer with Prosper Waco.

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

Experts warn of impending mental health epidemic; there are things we can do

By Tiffiney Gray

One year ago, on Sunday, March 8, 2020, I attended church service with my family, drove to MILO to have brunch, then went to Michael’s to pick up some crafting materials. With two little ones (then 5 months and 3 years old) along for the ride, it was no small decision to add two more stops to our outing. Looking back, I’m glad I braved the possibility of a nursing infant meltdown and toddler restlessness to see smiling faces at church, enjoy brunch, and pick up supplies. Little did I know that day would be my last in-person church service, Sunday brunch, and in-store shopping experience for a very long time. 

In two weeks, our community will mark one year since our local shelter-in-place order. One year of hunkering down, wearing masks, travel restrictions, canceled parties, rescheduled family events, and modified birthday celebrations. For many of our neighbors, this past year has brought on much more than mere social inconveniences, but instead has meant financial, occupational, and family hardships like never before. 

All of this change, not to mention the duration, can take a toll on mental, emotional, and physical health. I’ve been checking in with colleagues, family, friends — and myself — to see how we’re doing. How we’re trudging along. It seems like many of us need a little more help, more support, and more grace these days. And our recent deep freeze hasn’t made this marathon of calamity any better. For many of our Waco neighbors February’s icy, snowy storm dealt yet another blow to a long haul of health concerns, economic uncertainty, lost income, social isolation, and all kinds of distress. Being in the dark, being in the cold, wanting for running water, and watching your groceries (bought with hard-earned wages) spoil right before your eyes has a way of layering on the pressure and testing our ability to cope. 

These pressures can accumulate, and experts are warning of an impending mental health epidemic that could sweep across the country, but especially impact communities of color. 

Last spring, we witnessed the disproportionate physical health impacts of COVID-19 in Black and Hispanic communities brought on by historical social and economic inequities. Changes in the way families interact, commune, socialize, celebrate, and mourn have aggravated existing traumas, brought on separation distress, grief issues, anxiety, and a host of other mental health challenges. But what can we do reduce the impact of this looming storm?

Check on your neighbors, family, and friends. 

Use every safe communications channel at your disposal, including digital and traditional ways of engaging. Think Zoom, FaceTime, Google Meet, What’s App video calls, and good old-fashioned land lines. A carside-to-front yard meet up (with masks in tow) is also a family favorite. Maintaining relationships and social connections is more important than ever to keep spirits high. 

Tell your health provider what’s going on. 

When we have back pain, we don’t hesitate to see a spine doctor or a physical therapist. The same should be true of emotional pain. Connect with a mental health provider or schedule an appointment with your family doctor to ask about more specialized support from a mental health practitioner, therapist, or counselor. 

Talk with a trusted advisor. 

Whether it’s a pastor, a community elder, a professional mentor, or in my case another mom of toddlers, extend an invitation to pray together, to share a devotion through FaceTime, or to have virtual coffee to talk and catch up. My hope is that the outpouring of grace, prayers, and encouragement flows both ways. 

Call for immediate help. 

The Heart of Texas Region MHMR is home to emergency counseling services for anyone impacted by the pandemic. MHMR is a huge local resource with a host of counseling and therapeutic services in addition to social support and wellness resources. Whether it’s a crisis or you simply need to talk to someone, MHMR is available to help.

MHMR Crisis Line 866-752-3451

MHMR COVID Help Line 866-576-1101

Advocate for better coverage of mental health care. 

I’ve been on the search for mental health support and therapy for my family and me for several months. With my own health consumer hat on, navigating insurance coverage and which providers even accept my (really good) insurance, or accept insurance at all, has been both surprising and disappointing. We need collective advocacy to demand better. Better payor coverage of mental health services and better acceptance of insurance by mental health providers. There is undoubtedly a need – a market – for mental health care, and marketplace vendors (practitioners and payors) should better respond to consumer needs. 

A year ago, I wrote a post about minding your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s hard to believe that we’re still riding out this storm 11 months later and my hunch is that this ride of ours isn’t over yet. Our resilience has been tested, tried, and tested again, but we’re in this together to support our neighbors when they need us and to lean on our neighbors when we need them. 

Tiffiney Gray is senior content specialist for health with Prosper Waco.

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

Vaccines are the new toilet paper

By Suzii Paynter March

Everybody needs it and there is not enough. Rumors fly, promises of millions are made, but national news notwithstanding, it’s only the local supply that matters. The city, the county, medical providers, pharmacies, hubs, hospitals are all at the ready… and ready… and ready. Could somebody turn on the spigot? Vaccine production, running water? It is a frustratingly bleak reminder that the systems we put in place matter. 

When it comes to Waco and the meager amounts of vaccine we are being sent from Texas State Health Services, I’m wondering, “Is the State of Texas Health data up to date? Do they know Waco-McLennan has grown in the past 5 years? Is our dose allocation up to date? Or are they using 10-year-old Census data to determine the number of vaccine doses we need?” I mean, can people in Austin count?

Good people are working hard, but they are pioneers forging a way through the we-have-never-had-a-pandemic underbrush, not motorists driving down a well-travelled Interstate highway of frozen medicine delivery. 

Remember the fits and starts that riddled Katrina response? The unintended health consequences for first responders from 911? Things got better when subsequent hurricanes hit, and new protections are now in place for first responders. As a nation we are not slow learners, and I take comfort in believing that we are able to learn and adapt. 

Back to bathroom tissue. Last March the run on the tissue aisle at HEB meant they draped the aisle to hide the poor stock boys so they could get product to the shelves, pull down the draping and then scurry off the floor to safety before the rush of shoppers. There was an early morning hour set aside for elderly  shoppers and other experimental measures employed by stores to try to meet demand and spread the essential tissue widely. 

If you are 1b, are you calling and emailing every place you can think of?  I am. Back in November I was prepared to wait patiently until April for my vaccine because I thought none was available…. THEN we were told vaccine was available for 1b NOW. Then I shifted from patient patient to eager patient, urgently looking for my dose! 

I sincerely believe the spigot will come on and vaccines will be available. Waco has a system for delivery through public hubs and private sources, and there are many places and populations that need support. The need is going to get bigger and bigger, and we have to plan and build for tomorrow as well as today. 

So my pledge is that even while I am anxious for my dose, I can still be a part of the build out –  I can call, volunteer, organize my workplace, my family, keep up to date and help my friends get connected, too. The city needs volunteers as vaccinators, as paperwork and crowd management volunteers, and as ambassadors for various neighborhoods and in various congregations and pockets of the community. Call the city number to help: 254-750-1890.

Suzii Paynter March is chief executive officer of Prosper Waco, our community’s collective impact initiative. She is a graduate of Baylor University, with a lifetime of experience in organizational leadership and public advocacy.

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

New workforce initiative launched at Prosper Waco; Gallegos Whitley leading

By Ferrell Foster

WACO — Prosper Waco has begun an effort called UpSkill Waco to promote coordination of workforce initiatives in Greater Waco and to provide scholarship funding for residents, particularly those impacted by COVID-19, to gain needed training or re-skilling for high-demand occupations.

Cooper Foundation is funding the effort, which will be led by Tiffany Gallegos Whitley, Prosper Waco’s new director of workforce initiatives. She will continue in her role as chair of Waco Employer Resource Network (WERN), a working group of higher education, community organizations, and employers involved in workforce development and employee retention.

Tiffany Gallegos Whitley

The goal of UpSkill Waco is to train local residents to improve their work skills in a manner that matches local job needs and to do so using a cost-effective model. 

“Working toward this goal takes coordination,” said Hermann Pereira, Prosper Waco’s senior education and workforce specialist. “Prosper Waco has met with City Council members, existing leaders of businesses in five sectors, the three Chambers of Commerce, instructors from MCC & TSTC training programs in five areas, Goodwill industries, City of Waco services and local organizers with roots in neighborhoods. Prosper Waco has gotten commitment from these entities to create an aligned system of services to provide workforce training at a reasonable cost for Waco.” 

Gallegos Whitley said the initiative is particularly focused on persons about age 18-24 who have a high school diploma but no post-high school education or training. Unemployment rates are highest among this group, she said. 

“My role was created to coordinate multiple stakeholders across the city and county to move the needle on workforce initiatives,” said Gallegos Whitley. The effort will focus on increasing the capacity of current workforce training, filling gaps in training, and providing equitable career paths to help people move into family-sustaining careers.

Prosper Waco CEO Suzii Paynter March said: “Successful workforce initiatives are based on education, training, and relevance to industry needs. Tiffany and Hermann are a talented staff team combining strengths in education and workforce success. Waco will benefit from the teamwork.”

Cooper Foundation Executive Director Felicia Goodman said: “Cooper Foundation is committed to making Waco a better and more desirable community in which to live. An important part of any healthy community is having job opportunities and trained persons to serve in those jobs. This workforce initiative will help both the people and businesses of Waco.”

The project is yet another outgrowth of the 2014 Upjohn economic development plan presented to the city. “We are building off of the Upjohn report and going beyond,” said Gallegos Whitley. “We are staying current with new data.”

“Upjohn has influenced all that we have done with workforce development in recent years, giving us a north star to guide our efforts,” Pereira said. “In this newest stage we are investing in the goals of other organizations involved in the effort.”

Gallegos Whitley has called Waco home for the past 12 years. She is a two-time Baylor University graduate, receiving a bachelor’s degree in international studies and a Master of Social Work degree. Between undergraduate studies and graduate school, Gallegos Whitley worked with the Texas Hunger Initiative, helping communities organize around food security issues. She became passionate about community development and decided to root herself in Waco.

Prior to joining Prosper Waco, Gallegos Whitley worked 5½ years with Heart of Texas Goodwill Industries, where she oversaw building strategic community and business partnerships to further Goodwill’s job training and education programs. During her time at Goodwill, she also helped implement the Waco Employer Resource Network, a national model of skills training and job retention for incumbent workers.

In her role with Prosper Waco, Gallegos Whitley will oversee workforce projects that bring together key stakeholders to collaborate and continue building equitable training and career pathways for all McLennan County residents.

Ferrell Foster is senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

Prosper Waco takes on Homeless Management Information System

Press release – The City of Waco has contracted with Prosper Waco to administer the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), which is the federally funded program to track homeless populations and to understand their needs.

Prosper Waco will provide data management and a reporting system for participating providers serving Greater Waco’s homeless and low-income population with a variety of services.

“We are proud to begin this new responsibility to provide data coordination for the City of Waco,” said Suzii Paynter March, CEO of Prosper Waco. “We have experience and expertise in handling data but do not provide direct social services.”

“Prosper Waco is a data driven organization and is equipped to oversee the HMIS administrator position. We are confident in the work they have provided within the community and excited to partner with them to assist in data collection for the City of Waco, “said Raynesha Hudnell, Community Services Interim Director.

The Heart of Texas Homeless Coalition uses HMIS to coordinate data upon entry into services, track services provided to people who are experiencing housing instability. This includes people who are “couch surfing,” need rental assistance, live in a shelter, or have no shelter.

Prosper Waco’s Sammy Salazar, community data specialist and HMIS administrator, will manage the day-to-day operations of HMIS. Contact Salazar at HMIS@prosperwaco.org for technical assistance related to HMIS.

One aspect of the Homeless Coalition’s work is the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count. The 2020 figures revealed 234 people in Waco with housing instability. Prosper Waco will support the PIT count by the coalition and its partners in January.

Homeless services through a variety of providers are funded by private donations, foundations, and the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development. The local continuum of care consists of six counties (Bosque, Hill, Falls, Freestone, Limestone, and McLennan).

City of Waco Launches Free Financial Service to Help Residents Tackle COVID-19 Financial Challenges

Press Release – In partnership with national nonprofit organization the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund), the City of Waco has announced the launch of a free Financial Navigators program to help residents navigate financial issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic in conjunction with community partners: Heart of Texas Goodwill Industries, the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Grassroots Community Development.

Financial Navigators will be available beginning August 24th to provide guidance over the phone to help residents access available programs and services to manage income disruptions and other financial concerns they may be experiencing at no cost. With one-on-one discussions, they will help to address personal financial issues, identify immediate steps to manage expenses and maximize income, and make referrals to other services such as bill paying assistance, receiving government services and finding food and childcare assistance. The City of Waco will offer these Financial Navigator services in partnership with Prosper Waco.

Council Member John Kinnaird explains, “We know that our citizens are struggling, and in this environment where stress is high and keeping track of all available resources is difficult at best, being able to provide a comprehensive and helpful resource like the Financial Navigators is invaluable. Being able to get those in our community to the help and resources they need in an effective and timely manner is critical to the overall health and well-being of our residents, and this program will greatly help us achieve that goal.”

To access services, residents can visit: finnav.org/interest-waco and fill out a short form, or they can call (254) 753-7337 to sign up. They will then be contacted to begin their personal session. Organizations across Waco can also refer clients directly to a financial navigator. *Information will also be available at covidwaco.com under Community Resources.

The Financial Navigators program is funded in partnership with the CFE Fund, who provided grant funding along with significant technical assistance and training to launch the program. This initiative is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the CitiFoundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and the Wells Fargo Foundation.


“Financial distress is a primary part of the COVID-19 crisis, and we’re pleased the Waco City Council has made this a priority for their residents,” said Jonathan Mintz, President and CEO of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. “The Financial Navigators program will help Waco residents assess and prioritize their financial concerns and get connected with the correct resources.”

“Communities across the country continue to face significant economic challenges as a result of COVID-19,” said Brandee McHale, Head of Citi Community Investing and Development and President of the Citi Foundation. “To provide residents in the City of Waco with the vital financial tools and support necessary to navigate the financial impacts of the pandemic, the Citi Foundation is proud to partner once again with the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund to launch the Financial Navigators program.”

“The pandemic has clearly heightened awareness around the financial hardships that so many people were already facing here in Waco and deep disparities that exist in society,” said Darlene Goins, head of financial health philanthropy with the Wells Fargo Foundation.  “We applaud the CFE Fund for bringing together the City of Waco, philanthropists, and financial services and other industries to reimagine solutions that can help improve financial stability and resiliency for individuals and families, particularly during this economic crisis.”


Waco leaders stress safe practices & flu shots


By Ferrell Foster

Five Waco civic, health, and school leaders Wednesday encouraged the people of Greater Waco to think of their neighbors and to be careful how they are involved in gatherings and celebrate the Labor Day weekend. They also stressed the importance of getting a flu shot.

With the holiday coming and football season upon us, Mayor Kyle Deaver asked residents to do these activities “smartly and safely” so the community can remain open. “Take care of yourself and take care of each other.” He made the comments during the weekly City of Waco News Conference related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jerry Maze, executive director for Education Service Center Region 12, noted, “What happens in the community shows up in the schools,” and that can be both good and bad. “If everyone works together and makes good decisions, we get better outcomes.”

Dr. Brian Becker, of Ascension Providence Hospital, called special attention to the holiday weekend, noting that following standard safety procedures is important for our public health and to our neighbors.

Dr. Marc Elieson, of Baylor Scott & White-HIllcrest, also spoke to the importance of wearing face masks, distancing, and proper hand hygiene. ”Be wise,” he said.

A number of questions were asked about schools and Baylor. For students, “it’s so much more about what’s happening off campus,” Mayor Deaver said. “We know this is hard; it’s trying for everyone, … but it’s the way we keep schools open and having football” and other activities.

Dr. Jackson Griggs, of the Family Health Center, praised the efforts of Baylor University to test and then isolate students exposed to COVID-19. “I’m impressed with efforts by Baylor to mitigate the risk.”

Current hospitalizations are down some, but the hospital representatives said their in-patient numbers usually lag behind case counts by about a week. And case counts have been rising in McLennan County.

The current “Effective Reproduction Rate” for McLennan County is 1.07, Mayor Deaver said. Anything above 1 means the disease is expanding, not contracting. The Rt is a measure of contagiousness or how many people one COVID-19 person infects.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Griggs highlighted the importance of bringing down the positivity rate. In recent weeks that rate has hovered just under 15% in McLennan County, which is above the state rate. More testing helps identify people with COVID-19 and also lowers the positivity rate. “Anyone with subtle symptoms needs to come in and be tested,” Dr. Griggs said. The first step is to contact your primary care physician.

The head of Family Health Center also emphasized the importance of flu vaccinations. “We need to keep flu rates down this season,” Dr. Griggs said. There’s a lot we don’t know about flu and COVID-19 infections in the same person. “Flu vaccines are imperative.”

It is especially important to promote the flu vaccines in “communities of color” because they have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 and have “historically lower vaccination rates.” 

The news conference is aired at 1:30 p.m. each Wednesday at WCCC-TV for the public to view.

Ferrell Foster is senior content specialist for care and communication for Prosper Waco. He also serves on the Act Locally Waco Board of Directors and helps the website with blog posts related to health, education, financial security, and equity.

Staff leadership transitions occur at Prosper Waco

NEWS RELEASE

WACO — Prosper Waco Executive Director Suzii Paynter March announced that the local nonprofit is saying goodbye to one leading staff member and welcoming another.

Rev. Bryan Dalco
Dexter Hall

Dexter Hall joined the Prosper Waco staff July 28 as full-time chief of staff and senior content specialist for financial security. It is a new role at the nonprofit but will include many of the functions previously part of the Chief Operations Officer position.

Bryan Dalco left the part-time COO position July 31. Dalco is also a pastor, having recently moved from being pastor of One Fellowship Church in Waco to being pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Temple and also serving in a new leadership role in the UMC Annual Conference. Dalco will continue to live in Waco.

“We are fortunate to have had Bryan as part of our collective effort in Waco, and we are now fortunate to have Dexter join us,” said March, Prosper Waco’s CEO. “Dexter’s background in banking and finance will help Prosper Waco to advance it’s priority of promoting financial security across Greater Waco. This is even more important now as we respond to the COVID-19 crisis and the economic challenges created for so many people.”

March expressed her deep appreciation to Rev. Dalco for his leadership and the strengths he has brought to Prosper Waco. “Bryan will continue to be a part of our Waco community, and we count on his friendship and involvement even as he leaves the Prosper Waco staff and launches out into his new areas of responsibility.”

In the new chief of staff position, Hall will provide direct support to CEO March and build strong relationships across the organization to optimize Prosper Waco’s resources, business process and administration. As a senior content specialist, he will develop, coordinate and execute projects and initiatives which advance benchmark indicators in financial security.                                                       

“I am happy to continue my work and lifelong heart’s desire to make our community, country and world a better place,” Hall said. “The City of Waco gave me birth, pride and my nucleus. I look forward to making our tomorrows better with Prosper Waco in improving the education, health and financial security of our citizens as we work to ensure equity for all.”

Rev. Dalco joined the Prosper Waco staff in April 2018.  “I will always treasure my time with Prosper Waco because it has added so much depth to the call upon my life,” he said. “I’ve always felt called to work with people who have been disenfranchised and marginalized. However, much of my work had been done at ground zero with more of a hands-on approach. Prosper Waco gave me the opportunity to do this work from a much higher and broader perspective.

“To be a part of efforts that provided research and data analysis towards impacting systemic issues has been an extremely rewarding effort,” he said. “During my time at Prosper Waco I have learned a lot of things, but one of the most important things I take with me is the importance of collaboration. When we work together we get more accomplished together. Thank you for accepting me and working with me.”

Hall is a native of East Waco and was raised in Oakland, Calif. He is owner of Noir Kith Consultants, which provides business and consumer financial management consulting. Hall retired in 2019 after 28 years with Wells Fargo, his last position being regional banking district manager for Wells Fargo’s Texas Region covering the Waco-Brazos Valley market.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration / public administration from California State University in Hayward. He sits on the boards of LeadersUp, Dr. Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute, YMCA of Central Texas and Black College Expo (advisory board). Hall has three daughters from age 16 to 22.

Rev. Dalco is a native of Beaumont and holds a bachelor’s degree from Prairie View A&M University and master’s degree from Brite Divinity School. He has served several churches under appointment for 20 years in the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. Rev. Dalco is a mentor at South Waco Elementary School, a member of Waco NAACP and active in other community organizations. 

He has served as executive director of two nonprofits in the Houston area. He is married to Tara and has four children.

Waco Working Together Website Gearing up to Share Vital Community Information

By Ferrell Foster and Emily Hunt-Hinojosa

Prosper Waco began using the phrase “Waco Working Together” before the tragedy of COVID-19 struck. The pandemic has shown just how important and possible it is for the people and organizations of Waco to work together. It has been great to see how the community has worked together to respond.

In light of the challenges, we are extending our phrase a little — Waco Working Together for a new normal. There is no going back; all aspects of the Greater Waco community are working together to create a new normal, and we think it can even be better than before.

By working together for the common good we do more than rebuild what was going well; we can bring new health and wellbeing to parts of our community that were struggling before the pandemic began.

To aid this collaboration, Prosper Waco has launched a new website — WacoWorkingTogether.org/covid. Check it out, but this is only the beginning.

In the next few weeks, with needed funding, we will move to phase two, which will utilize a web platform called RoundTable, from the Thriving Cities Group. On this platform, Prosper Waco and Thriving Cities Group are building a unique tool specifically designed for Waco. Roundtable supports an interactive map that connects stories with data for a more contextual understanding of our community. By leveraging a common data platform, we can develop a more holistic perspective of Greater Waco.

Key features of Roundtable are:

  1. Display of quantitative indicators across the Waco/McLennan County region searchable by various geographic levels (neighborhood, Zip codes, city, county, etc.). This feature enables everyone equal access to relevant data about our community (population demographics information, as well as data related to education, health, income, employment, and a variety of other topics) to enrich our understanding on issues, pipelines, and opportunities.
  2. A profile system whereby local organizations and groups can input and update their own information. This will enable quick and direct input of information in a changing environment.
  3. A map of the various assets and resources across our community that bring us together

Thriving Cities uses the phrase “human ecology” to speak of how a community works. Just as a biological ecology involves interacting of varied species, a human ecology refers to the interacting of the individuals and organizations in a community. Biological and human ecologies can promote thriving life or hinder it.

The goal of WacoWorkingTogether.org is to help us all see Waco as a human ecology that helps Greater Waco thrive. It will do this, in part, by building a store of information in one place previously unavailable in Waco. Prosper Waco will analyze the data and the information entered by the varied organizations to help all of us to understand our community better and to work more effectively together.

Thriving Cities Group likes to say that a Community IQ exists in every city, but it’s just not together in one place. WacoWorkingTogether.org, powered by the Roundtable platform, will bring the Community IQ of Greater Waco together in one place.


Ferrell Foster is content specialist for care and communications at Prosper Waco. He holds a doctorate in ministry, in which he focused on justice issues. He has been a professional ethicist, minister, and communicator.

Emily Hunt-Hinojosa is director of research and community impact at Prosper Waco. Hunt-Hinojosa holds an Associate Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, where she was employed prior to joining Prosper Waco. She holds a master’s degree and doctorate in sociology from Baylor University.

Prosper Waco Hires Tiffiney Gray as Senior Content Specialist for Health

Press release –

Prosper Waco is pleased to announce the hiring of Tiffiney Gray as senior content specialist for health. In this position, Gray will develop, coordinate and implement projects and initiatives that advance benchmark indicators in health for Prosper Waco. Gray will advance the work of collective impact by strengthening community relationships, networks and partners in the Waco area. In addition, she will be implementing a Collaborative Approach to Public Goods Investment project by researching and designing an effective intervention based on research showing the impact of addressing social determinants to change health outcomes.

“Tiffiney Gray brings experience and leadership to advance health goals for our community,” said Prosper Waco CEO Suzii Paynter March. “Tiffiney will put her experience in medical research and community engagement to use with a national research team studying Waco and 14 other cities for behavioral health practices.”

Gray has formerly worked as a research and development officer at Jackson State University, where she designed and secured funding for programs supporting early childhood education, minority student retention and campus wellness. She was previously director of The Salvation Army Corps Community Center in Jackson, Mississippi, a resource for children and families providing after-school enrichment and cultural programming. Recently, Gray managed multiple community engaged research (CEnR) projects at the Medical College of Wisconsin to include Community Health Improvement for Milwaukee’s Children (CHIMC), Earlier is Better (EIB), and Milwaukee Prevention of Opioid Misuse through Peer Training (Milwaukee PROMPT) with funding support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Foundation, Pfizer Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. At MCW, Gray also supported graduate student and medical resident learning as coordinator for the Community Pediatrics Training Initiative (CPTI) and the Community Health Improvement III Course in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. Gray completed her master’s degree in sociology at the University of Mississippi and has a longstanding passion for social justice and advancing health equity.

Prosper Waco is a collective impact initiative focused on addressing issues facing the Greater Waco community in education, health and financial security. As a facilitator and convener, Prosper Waco encourages collaboration among nonprofits, city and county governments, businesses, foundations and churches. The goal is to build on and increase the effectiveness of current efforts

and to develop new strategies to bring about measurable and sustainable positive change within the focus areas. For more information, please contact Allison@prosperwaco.org