New Year – New Beginnings: You can help!

By Catherine Haynes Bauer

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a challenging year. Act Locally Waco was born out of a desire by our founder, Ashley Bean Thornton, to build community in Waco, and to bring people together who shared a desire to make Waco a better, more productive, and connected place. It began very simply as a means to communicate what was happening in the community in one central place and grew to include The Whole Enchilada newsletter, guest blog posts, a book club, a thriving community of contributors and readers, and so much more.

In the context of 2020 and a global pandemic, when so many events and gatherings have been canceled and postponed, it has never been more important to find new ways to build community. As Wacoans have evolved to adapt to new ways of gathering and sharing ideas amidst a global pandemic, so too has Act Locally Waco had to explore how to evolve. 2021 ushers in for us a new era as we adapt to the changes in the world and uncertainty regarding when we’ll be able to gather together in physical spaces. With the arrival of a vaccine we look forward to having more events and gatherings to promote and new ways to engage with our community in 2021 and beyond.

Forward-looking nonprofits with forward-looking founders plan for the future and equip their organizations to exist in perpetuity. And Ashley, our devoted founder, did just that. After pouring many years of her heart and soul into Act Locally Waco, Ashley decided in 2020 that it was time to establish a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in order allow ALW to expand and grow. She selected a founding board of directors made up of like-minded, passionate community leaders who were similarly devoted to supporting Waco and building a robust and diverse community. Those individuals include: Catherine Haynes Bauer, Cory Dickman, Ferrell Foster, Jillian Ohriner, Cuevas Peacock, and Alfred Solano. As a board entrusted with upholding Ashley’s vision for Act Locally Waco and committed to ALW’s loyal followers, it has now become our responsibility to plan for Act Locally Waco’s future. Beginning in 2021, Ashley is turning over the reigns of this dynamic organization to us, her carefully selected board members, and we are honored to continue her mission and vision for Act Locally Waco.

As we eagerly anticipate the arrival of a new year and a fresh start, the board of Act Locally Waco would like to invite you to help us dream for the future, while expanding upon our capabilities and offerings. Please consider an end of year gift to Act Locally Waco to equip us to serve our community well into the future. We look forward to sharing the exciting ways in which Act Locally Waco will be evolving in the future. And we’d also love to hear your ideas and desires for how we can together make Act Locally Waco a better and stronger resource for the Waco community. Join us on social media or send us an email to let us know what ideas you have….and please don’t forget to remember us in your end of year giving. You might also consider an end-of-year gift in honor and recognition of Ashley Thornton’s countless contributions to Act Locally Waco as we thank her for her service and boundless devotion. Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year! On behalf of Ashley Bean Thornton and the new ALW board of directors, thank you for reading and for your continued support. Stay tuned for good things to come in 2021 and beyond.

With gratitude and hope,

Catherine, Cory, Ferrell, Jillian, Cuevas, and Alfred

Civic Insights: The Why of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

(City council, school board, planning commission, county commissioners – these groups and several others represent us.  They do the day to day work of running our community. It is our responsibility to keep informed about their work so that we can help them represent us effectively.  “Civic Insights” by Jeffrey Vitarius is a regular feature of Act Locally Waco.  Its purpose is to help us understand decisions that shape our community so that we can participate effectively as informed, engaged residents of Waco. – ALW)  

By Jeffrey Vitarius

We hope you all had a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving and thought it might be good to start back up with a topic we find particularly interesting, bus rapid transit (BRT).

Next Thursday (December 10th, 2020)  at 6:00 pm Waco Transit, the Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), and AECOM Technical Services  are hosting a virtual meeting  to gather public input on station locations and designs for the BRT project. AECOM also recently provided updates to the City Council and MPO on the progress of the project.  Let’s take a look at why this project is being considered and what stage of the process we are in now.

Way back in 2013-4, the City of Waco commissioned an Economic Development Strategic Plan from the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. The study is generally called the Upjohn Report.  Unlike a standard economic development strategy that focuses purely on the “general economic performance of the area,” the City “called for a plan to also reduce poverty, increase labor force participation, and increase area income.” That is, rather than focus on economic growth in and of itself, the plan also focused on how that growth might be made equitable for the people of Waco. This focus on equitable development rather than just any development remains an important goal of the City.

In the process of drafting their report, the Upjohn team interviewed ninety individuals, asking them (in part) about what challenges they see to finding and retaining employment. The result, “transportation was overwhelmingly cited as the most prominent barrier to finding and keeping a job.” In 2018, about 8% of Wacoans got to work by a means other than a car. At that time approximately 29% of Wacoan households had no car or 1 car. The average household size in Waco is about 2.5 people meaning that having one car could mean a household is still reliant on a non-car means of getting to work.

Although walking or cycling remain valuable commuting options for folks (your author does so whenever he can), needing to rely on your feet or your bike makes you vulnerable to long distances and poor weather (especially August heat). Given these challenges, it is critical for those in Waco who do not have ready access to a car that public transit gets people where they need to go reliably and as swiftly as possible.

The current Waco transit system is configured as a “spoke and hub.” In this design bus routes extend out from the City core to residential neighborhoods, job centers, and service locations before returning Downtown. The routes out and back are the “spokes” with the Downtown Transit Center as the “hub.” The transit map below shows how the various routes converge at the transit center downtown before spanning out across the city.

 (Map 1)  

This configuration has its challenges. The spoke and hub setup means that to get from one side of town to the other, an individual has to transfer at the “hub,” lengthening travel times. Additionally, the variety of routes mean that each route can only be run once an hour (in the case of East Waco the route runs varying directions based on what hour of the day it is). 

BRT may be the solution to these issues. The BRT would run through the middle of the city extending from Woodway through Downtown Waco and on to Belmead and Lacy Lakeview. The BRT would make fewer stops and be timed to traffic. This would, theoretically, reduce the delays caused by passengers entering and exiting the bus as well as the delays caused by sitting in traffic. The goal of such a system would be to maximize the time the bus is in motion, therefore reducing travel times. It is also hoped that such a system would generate more frequent bus service and bus services that extend more into weekends and evenings (an important factor when considering whether folks can get to work when they need to).

In 2018, the City received a feasibility study from AECOM Technical Services that looked at the potential system overall as well as a number of route, technology, and service operation options. The study recommended (after substantial public input) a route that ran from US 84 to New Road to Franklin Avenue to Taylor Street and Hillsboro Drive before taking US 84 to Loop 340.  On May 1, 2018 the City Council approved the recommended route. Below is the most recent map of the proposed route.

Since then, the City, the MPO, and AECOM have begun the process of seeking federal funding for the project. In July of 2019, pre-award authority was granted that allows the City to begin pursuing projected development costs before receiving a formal award. Under this authorization the City sought services for preliminary engineering and environmental review.  We are in the middle of that process now.

Preliminary engineering (think of this as preliminary technical design) needs to be completed to understand the final costs of the project and pursue the funding needed to cover those costs. Environmental review is required to make sure the project will not unduly damage Waco’s environment. Throughout this part of the process there are three different periods of public input planned. The first passed in October, when AECOM sought to reintroduce the project to Wacoans and update them on the project approach. The second is the meeting coming up on December 10.  This one will focus on where stations will be and how they will function. Both of these aspects can have a huge impact on cost and operations down the line. Finally, in mid-February it is anticipated that the final results for this phase of the project will be brought before the public for review.

Other Interesting Items from the Agenda (to me)

  • Over the last two meetings City Council has received information regarding a Municipal Settings Designation (MSD). In short, this would reduce a hurdle to development in the city’s core by prohibiting the future use of groundwater as potable (safe to drink). Without a Municipal Settings Designation each property owner would have to deal with testing and remediating groundwater contamination before development which can slow projects in an area where the city provides water to all properties anyhow.
  • The City and WISD are working on a partnership to provide all WISD students with e-cards that would grant them access to the library’s substantial e-book catalogue.
  • The J.H. Hines Elementary Sidewalks project continues with the city pursuing $101,918.37 in property acquisitions to account for right of way needs.

Meeting Basics

  • City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month. Work session – 3:00 pm / Business session – 6:00pm (there have been two meetings since our last post)
  • To watch the recorded session click here (City of Waco Cable Channel,
  • For the full agenda click here (11/17) or here (12/01)
  • For the meeting packet with the documents pertinent to the meeting click here (11/17) or here (12/01)

Jeffrey Vitarius has been actively local since early 2017. He lives in Sanger Heights with partner (JD) and his son (Callahan). He helped found Waco Pride Network and spearheaded its Vision 2025 process. Jeffrey works at City Center Waco where he helps keep Downtown Waco clean, safe, and vibrant. He is a member of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and graduated from Baylor in 2011.

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.orgfor more information.

Ways to Give Back This Holiday Season

There’s no better way to spread holiday cheer than volunteering in your local community! Volunteering and donating are a great way to get into the spirit of giving. Read on for some ways you can give back to the Waco community this holiday season.

The Salvation Army Waco

The Salvation Army is famous for its ubiquitous red kettles and bell ringers outside of stores during the holiday season, and this year is no different, despite the challenges of COVID-19. The Red Kettle Campaign is the one of the Salvation Army’s biggest fundraising events of the year, and the money collected in the kettles goes directly to programs and services that help people right here in McLennan County. The Salvation Army needs bell ringers until December 24. To pick a date, time, and location to ring, visit To ensure the safety of bell ringers and donors, masks will be required at the kettles and touchless payment options like Apple Pay and Google Pay will be available.

If you’d rather stay at home, you can take the Virtual Red Kettle Challenge right from your couch! Set up your own kettle online, and you’ll receive a personalized link to share with friends and family so they can “fill” your kettle. Take the Red Kettle Challenge here.

Volunteers are also needed at the Salvation Army Community Kitchen now through January to serve meals, including the traditional holiday meal on Christmas Day. To help out at the community kitchen, sign up at or call 254-756-7271.

The Salvation Army Waco is also hosting the Rescue Christmas Run this year. Sign up for the run at here and run (or walk or bike) for good! 

You can also help out by shopping the Salvation Army Toy Registry and making Christmas special for Waco children in need. Take a look at the registry here, then ship or bring toys to The Salvation Army, 4721 W. Waco Dr, Waco, TX 76710.

Lastly, you can donate money directly to the Salvation Army Waco by visiting

Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry

Help make Christmas a truly joyful holiday for all Waco kids! Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry is hosting their annual “Toys from the Heart” toy drive and need donations to help provide for families in Waco. They need toys of all kinds for kids in grades K-12. For more information, click here or call 254-213-7833. For a list of drop off locations, click here.

Family Abuse Center

Make the holidays bright for survivors of domestic violence and their children! Family Abuse Center is working to make this holiday season feel special and comforting to survivors with their “Holiday Helpless Gift List.” They need toys for children and household and personal items for adults. A full list of needed items can be found here. Bring unwrapped items to Family Abuse Center now through December 18. For more information about donating and dropping off, call 254-772-8999.

Becca Muncy is an Act Locally intern from Dallas. She is studying professional writing at Baylor University and is completing her senior year.

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.orgfor more information.

The Act Locally Waco Thanksgiving Cookbook

Happy Thanksgiving, Waco! A few weeks ago, I put out a call in The Whole Enchilada, asking for people’s favorite Thanksgiving recipes. I wanted to create a blog post that could serve as a community cookbook for Waco. And, boy, did you deliver some fantastic recipes! Read on for three great recipes from your Waco neighbors: a show stopping side, a fun and easy dessert, and a unique twist on Thanksgiving leftovers! Then, click here for a special Act Locally Thanksgiving recipe card you can print off and use to keep these recipes for years to come!

The Recipe: Hasselback Butternut Squash (Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine)

This recipe was submitted by Rachel, who has lived in Waco on and off for the past 10 years, and whose favorite Waco spot is Lula Jane’s porch! Rachel made this recipe while celebrating Thanksgiving in the UK and added the serrano pepper and sorghum syrup for a little Southern flair once she returned to Waco.


1 large butternut squash

1 tablespoon olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 serrano chile, thinly sliced

¼ cup pure sorghum syrup

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

6–8 dried bay leaves


Place a rack in the upper third of oven; preheat oven to 425°F. Halve squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds with a large spoon. Using a peeler, remove skin and white flesh below (you should reach the deep orange flesh). Rub all over with oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast in a baking dish just large enough to hold halves side by side until beginning to soften (a paring knife should easily slip in only about ¼”), 15–18 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring chile, sorghum syrup, butter, and vinegar to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high, stirring occasionally and removing chile as soon as desired heat level is reached (set aside for serving), until just thick enough to coat spoon, 6–8 minutes. Reduce heat to very low and keep glaze warm.

Transfer squash to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Using a sharp knife, score rounded sides of squash halves crosswise, going as deep as possible but without cutting all the way through. Return squash to baking dish, scored sides up, and tuck bay leaves between a few of the slices; season with salt and pepper.

Roast squash, basting with glaze every 10 minutes or so and using pastry brush to lift off any glaze in the dish that is browning too much, until tender and glaze forms a rich brown coating, 45–60 minutes. Serve topped with reserved chiles.

The Recipe: Cinnamon Walnut Pecan Pie Bites (From the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service)

This recipe was submitted by Lindsey, who has lived in Waco for 5 years and loves walks along the Brazos River! This recipe can be easily doubled, tripled, or even halved, depending on how big or small your Thanksgiving crowd is!


15 mini phyllo shells, frozen

1/4 cup liquid egg substitute

3 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1/2 tablespoon room temperature butter

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 drop vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoon chopped walnuts

2 tablespoon chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine egg substitute, brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt. Mix well.

Stir in 1 tablespoon chopped pecans and 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts into mixture. Arrange phyllo shells on baking sheet and distribute the mixture evenly among the shells. Combine remaining nuts and sprinkle them on the top of the shells.

Bake in the oven until edges are crisp, 15-18 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving. If you like, top each piece with a squirt of fat free whipped cream topping. Enjoy!

The Recipe: Thanksgiving Leftovers Lasagna

This recipe was submitted by an anonymous Act Locally reader, who has lived in Waco for 49 years and whose favorite Waco spots include Cameron Park and the River Walk at the Waco Suspension Bridge! This recipe is a great way to use up leftovers; feel free to swap any ingredients based on whatever leftovers are in your fridge!


3 cups leftover cornbread stuffing

1 (14-oz.) can whole berry cranberry sauce

1 ¼ lbs cooked turkey breast, sliced into ¼ inch slices

3 cups cooked mashed potatoes

2 cups green beans, corn, or mixed vegetables

6 oz sharp white Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 ½ cups)

Gravy, for serving


Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a square baking dish with cooking spray.

Spread half of the stuffing in a layer in bottom of prepared baking dish. Spread half of the cranberry sauce in an even layer over stuffing. Layer half of turkey slices on top of cranberry sauce, then half of vegetable of choice, then spread half of the mashed potatoes on top of vegetables. Sprinkle half of the shredded cheese on top of potatoes. Repeat layers once. Bake in preheated oven until lasagna is warmed through, about 20 minutes. Increase heat to broil, and broil until cheese is golden, about 2 minutes.

Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before cutting into squares. Spoon gravy over each square to serve.

Becca Muncy is an Act Locally intern from Dallas. She is studying professional writing at Baylor University and is completing her senior year.

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.orgfor more information.

Candidate for City Council, District 4: Kelly Palmer

By Kelly Palmer

Affordable housing, economic development, and COVID-19 are three of the most pressing issues our District IV City Councilmember must prioritize. More than ever, we need trustworthy leaders who listen to their constituents’ needs and are well equipped to address the complex issues our city faces. 

Issue 1: Affordable Housing

The rising cost of housing in our community is one of the concerns I have heard repeatedly voiced by District IV residents. Since 2015, the cost of property taxes and housing in Waco has skyrocketed while wages have mostly stayed stagnate. Nearly half of our city’s residents are “housing burdened” and spend more than 30% of their monthly income on housing. As housing costs continue to surge, folks have to move further and further from the city’s core, where many of Waco’s highest paying jobs are located. Housing is an issue where we see poverty and race significantly intersect, in everything from disproportionate homeownership rates to redlining in communities of color. 

While there are several ways to address housing-related issues, I believe we will not see meaningful change enacted until housing is a priority in our city’s budget — which ultimately reflects the city’s values. In reviewing the city of Waco’s budget from the past three fiscal years, I was surprised to learn that housing and community development are consistently the least funded budget category. Year after year, housing has made up only 1% of the city’s annual budget. By allocating greater resources to housing, we can invest in solutions that will help alleviate this significant area of need in our community. If elected to the council, I would advocate for both for the development of mixed-income housing, which the data suggests can significantly benefit both communities and residents, in addition to pursuing policies that prevent gentrification and displacement of families from generational homes. 

Issue 2: Equitable Development

Waco has experienced a significant economic boom over the past several years, and yet, 44% of District IV residents make under $25,000 a year. While Waco’s growth has undoubtedly benefited some segments of our community, many of our neighbors have not shared in the prosperity or growth. As the city continues to expand in the coming years, the development we pursue must be sustainable and rooted in equity. 

Equitable Development is a framework that encompasses economic and community development goals, in which community members are actively engaged in the decision-making process. If elected, I would pursue economic development initiatives that seek to improve the quality of life for all Wacoans, focusing particularly on our residents experiencing financial insecurity. One way I will do this is by championing jobs that provide our residents with a living wage and supporting our local workforce development programs. Through my work with Communities In Schools, I have seen firsthand the impact that workforce development programming can have on someone’s life by equipping them with an employable skill set that opens the door to financial security.    

I look forward to reinforcing partnerships like this within our city, bringing together schools, non-profit organizations, and businesses to train our residents with the specialized skill sets needed to access high paying jobs available within the Greater Waco area.

Issue 3: COVID-19 Management & Recovery

COVID-19 continues to pose a real threat to the security and wellbeing of our community. While the virus has had broad sweeping adverse effects on all of our residents, it has significantly hit our communities of color. Our Black and Latinx populations have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, as evidenced by the positivity and morbidity rates among these demographic groups. Addressing racial disparity as it relates to the novel-coronavirus is an issue of critical importance. 

While there are no quick fixes or easy answers, our city council members must continue to provide thoughtful leadership throughout the duration of this crisis. Getting up-to-date, accurate information to our residents will continue to be an important area of focus. Finding ways to access hard-to-reach populations and populations at heightened risk of contracting the virus is also vital. We need city leaders who can strategically mitigate and respond to the wide range of effects COVID-19 has on our community. Even after a vaccine has been created and widely distributed, we will likely face the virus’s ramifications for months, if not years to come. As a city, we must be thoughtful as we develop plans for the long-term multi-tiered recovery we will need.

I commend Mayor Deaver, Judge Felton, and our extensive network of local healthcare providers for the decisive actions taken since March to flatten the curve and minimize the transmission of COVID-19 in our community. The road ahead of us is long, but we can weather the storms of this virus together. My experience working on the frontlines of a humanitarian aid crisis in 2015 and 2016 has equipped me with the skills needed to effectively prioritize competing values and lead during times of collective crisis.

2020 has been a challenging year, but there is hope for a brighter tomorrow. Our community is resilient and resourceful; we will get through this together. Collectively we can build a healthy future for all Wacoans – one where our neighbors have access to needed resources, our local economy is strong, and our community thrives. As a social worker and educator, I have the tools and expertise necessary to get us there. I have been on the frontlines, showing up for our community for years, and I’m ready to serve District IV residents as their next city councilwoman.

Biographical information for Kelly Palmer

Kelly Palmer is a licensed social worker and educator running for Waco City Council, District IV. She has called Waco home since 2013, when she moved to here to pursue her Masters in Social Work for Baylor University. Kelly is running for public office to further serve the community she loves by promoting greater equity and justice through public policy and city funding. Kelly’s campaign priorities are housing, COVID-19 leadership, and economic development with a focus on impacting our most financially insecure neighbors. When she’s not working, you can usually find Kelly volunteering with a local non-profit, on a walk with her husband, or nose deep in a book from the library.

CWJC: Nurturing Women, Transforming Lives in Waco

By Anna Hoffman

I first heard about Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC) Waco 5 years ago when I joined “Women of Waco” for business networking. We often talked about the needs of CWJC and we regularly gathered items for the students. One WOW meeting 3 years ago the director told the group that they had a need for a volunteer to teach night class Bible Study. I had already wanted to be more involved and here was my chance. 

Here it is 3 years later, and it is clear that CWJC, the students and the leaders have had more of an impact on me than I have had on them. 

The reason I volunteer is to be a part of something that encourages and equips women. My goal with the Bible Study is to do these same things by reminding the students of two things that encompass a great amount of truth: 1) That there is hope for their future. 2) That God deeply loves them. I want to be involved with an organization that is doing this very thing. At various times in all of our lives, we need to be reminded of these two things. In a Bible Study or through a devotional reading this can be simply done. One of my favorite things to do is to remind others that God loves them and that He is for them. Not because of something we did or didn’t do, but because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is what motivates me to be dedicated to the ladies of CWJC and to their mission to “Nurture Women & Transform Lives.” This is what motivates me to give of my time, resources, and money. The Baskets of Hope fundraiser is designed to give us ALL the opportunity to remind others there is hope for the future and that God seriously loves them. Accomplishing this mission day in and day out comes at a cost. 

If we all come together, teachers, mentors, staff, volunteers, donors, and students for this all-encompassing mission of “Nurturing Women, Transforming Lives” the impact will be immeasurable. We will have ladies who are educated with their GED and have the tools to find a good job. But more importantly these same ladies will know they have a community of people who support them and a Savior who loves them. Then they can pass that on.… Hope for the future!

Supporting CWJC Waco brings transformation and hope to women across McLennan County. Join our mission by exploring ways to give at or contact us at 254-757-0416 for more information.

Anna Hoffman has served for several years as a community leader and community relations director advocating for the care of the sick and elderly. She is the Community Relations Director for Visiting Angels where she has the privilege of serving local healthcare professionals and seniors. Because of her years of being the wife of a wonderful husband, the mother of two amazing kids, a grandmother, a pastor’s wife, and music director, she brings with her a compassionate heart to help connect her clients to the right services for their needs. Anna is actively involved in various community organizations – serving on the board of the Greater Hewitt Chamber of Commerce, chairing events for the Alzheimer’s Association, serving as the President of the Women of Waco, and teaching weekly Bible study at CWJC 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 for more information.

Partner with Communities In Schools to Grow Your Business

By Jillian Jones

Communities In Schools of the Heart of Texas (CISHOT) has been known for over 30 years for providing wraparound services to thousands of students and families in the many school districts across our Heart of Texas region. However, many people may not know that Communities In Schools serves youth beyond their school years and into adulthood as well. The Workforce Development Program at CISHOT provides case management, career advancement services, and real-life work experience to young adults to help them work towards post-secondary education and careers that provide stability and opportunity.  

CISHOT intern, Tiffany, settles into her new full-time position at Friends For Life after completing her 8-week internship through the Workforce Development program.

One of the more tangible ways young adults break into the job market is through internships. Internships provide the participant with valuable insight into a career field they may be interested in, as well as access to mentorship and guidance from more experienced workers. Employers can also use internships as vital training time that is needed before an intern can receive a full-time job offer.

While internships have tangible benefits for both the participant and the employer, we understand internships can be costly for an employer and unpaid internships are not as attractive to young people or as common as they used to be.

This is where the Workforce Development Program at Communities In Schools of the Heart of Texas plays a role. With funding and support from the Heart of Texas Workforce Development Board, Communities In Schools is able to provide internships on a year-round, rolling basis at dozens of local businesses across all sectors and industries. These short-term internships are completely free for an employer who volunteers to host an interested participant, as CISHOT acts as the employer of record and covers all wages paid to the intern for the duration of the internship.

CISHOT intern, Enrique, works on his kitchen skills in the food & Beverage Department at the Hilton Waco Hotel & Restaurant.

The job market is changing rapidly as we navigate through the pandemic. While some employers are downsizing or shifting to permanent virtual work, others may be having trouble finding enough qualified applicants to return to normal operations. If you’re an employer who is looking to hire or fill open positions amidst the uncertainty, please consider hosting an intern (or two!) through the Workforce Development Program at CISHOT. All interns participate in a four-hour New Hire Training course covering workplace basics and safety guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Our 2020 Fall cohort will start on October 12 and will work through December 11. We are looking to expand our employer base and would love to work with YOU on a partnership that can benefit young adults in our community and help your business grow through this season of change!

Jillian Jones is the Director of the Workforce Development Program at Communities In Schools of the Heart of Texas. Jillian is a Waco native and a graduate of Baylor University and the University of North Carolina. She enjoys reading, cooking, spending time with family, doing anything outdoors, and worrisome amounts of online shopping. She has a husband, Jenner, and a dog, Buddy.

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.orgfor more information.

Renovation Complete at Historic Greenwood Cemetery

Press release, City of Waco. Additional Notes, Ashley Bean Thornton

The City of Waco is holding a Virtual Ribbon Cutting to mark the completion of the renovation of the Greenwood Cemetery.  The edited virtual ribbon cutting celebration ceremony will air on WCCC-TV (available on Spectrum and Grande cable channel 10 and on the web at at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, September 15.

Greenwood Cemetery is Waco’s second oldest cemetery, dating back to 1875.  While Greenwood is the final resting place for many of Waco’s famous and widely celebrated citizens, it has struggled with the legacy of a segregated past. 

The $435,000 improvement project was a collaborative effort to remove the boundaries that separated the “White section” from the “Black section” and place the entire cemetery within the City of Waco’s care.  Working together were families, citizens and former cemetery association members along with the Texas Historical Commission, Texas Department of Transportation, People’s Cemetery Association, McLennan County, Methodist Children’s Home and the City of Waco.

Here are some brief notes about just a few of the notable people who are buried at Greenwood.

Robert Bevis (1889 – 1972)

Robert Bevis was born in Austin. He attended Tillotson College there.  He later received a Master of Arts from Denver University in Colorado.  He organized South Waco Colored Elementary School (later named Oakwood School) in 1914.  He was the first principal and served in that role for for 44 years (1914 – 1959), minus one year for serving in WWI.  In November of 1915 South Waco Colored School moved into the first brick school for Negroes to be erected in Waco.  

Jules Bledsoe (1899 – 1943)

Even as a young child, Jules Bledose loved to sing.  He gave his first performance, age five, at New Hope Baptist Church. In 1918 he Graduated Magna Cum Laude from Bishop College.  In 1920 he began studying medicine at Columbia University.  After taking voice lessons, career plans shifted. In 1924 he made his professional music debut at the Aeolian Hall in mid-town Manhattan.  In 1927 his portrayal of Joe in Jerome Kern’s Showboat launched him into the spotlight. His version of  “Ol’ Man River” became a classic.  Known internationally, he performed across the United States and in Europe.  Despite racial discrimination his immense talent and skill earned him the right to perform with BBC Symphony in London, the Royal-Dutch Italian Opera Company, and the Cosmopolitan Opera Association in New York.  He was also a composer. He composed several songs and an opera titled “Bondage” based upon Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Andrew “Lefty” Cooper (1896 – 1941)

Born in Waco in 1896/1898, Andrew Cooper attended A. J. Moore High School and Paul Quinn College.  Prior to the 1940s, Black people could not play baseball in the American Major Leagues.  Cooper had successful careers in both the The Negro National League, and the Negro American League. He played for both Detroit and Kansas City. Cooper was known as one of the best pitchers in baseball.  He became player/manager of the Monarchs in 1937. By 1940 he had led Kansas City to three championships. Cooper died in 1941 only a few years before Jackie Robinson integrated the major leagues 1946.  In 2006 Andrew Cooper was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Estella Maxey – (1904-1948)

Estella Maxey was an orphan.  She was adopted by Gussie Moore and raised on South Second Street near Baylor.  Even as a child she was fascinated with music and would slip away to pick out tunes on the piano.  She had perfect pitch. During the depression she organized an orchestra to accompany her on the piano and began to play and sing to make a living.  Gradually she began playing dance music.  Soon she was “all the rage” playing at private parties for all the rich people in town. A generation of young people in Waco learned to dance to the sound of Stella singing “My Blue Heaven,” “Lover, Come back to Me,” “You’re my Everything” and other hits of the time.  When she died in 1948, the Waco Tribune-Herald ran her obituary on the front page.

Dr. Vivienne Malone-Mayes (1932 – 1995)

Vivienne Lucille Malone grew up in Waco and graduated at age 16 from A.J. Moore High School, not far from the Baylor campus. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Fisk University. She chaired the math departments at Bishop College in Dallas and then Paul Quinn College, which was in Waco at the time. Because she wanted to take more graduate-level classes courses, she applied to Baylor in 1961, but she was rejected because of her race. In 1962 she enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, which had been required by federal law to integrate. She persevered to become the second African-American and the first black female to earn a PhD in mathematics from the University of Texas.  After earning her PhD, she returned to Waco where she was eventually hired as the first African-American faculty member at Baylor University in 1966.  By 1971, Baylor Student Congress named her as an Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year. 

Meeting Insights: Waco City Council Meeting – 09/01/20

By Jeffrey Vitarius

(Civic meetings happen in Waco every week – city council, school board, planning commission, and countless others.  Decisions from these meetings affect our lives every day.  Many of us are curious about these meetings, but to be honest, it’s just too hard to decipher the jargon and figure out what’s going on and why it’s important.  Act Locally Waco is trying something new in August! Jeffrey Vitarius follows civic meetings for his work and out of personal interest.  Each week in August he will pick a meeting in our community and highlight one or two items from the agenda to translate from “government-ese” into language we can all understand.  We’re calling the series “Meeting Insights.” Let us know what you think! If you enjoy it, we will try to keep it going!  — ALW )

The Waco City Council meets every other Tuesday. The work session starts at 3:00, that is where most of the explanation and discussion happens.  The business session is at 6:00, that is when the council takes action (votes).  The public is invited to attend either or both of these sessions, although, for the time being due to COVID-19, that attendance is virtual through the Waco City Cable Channel (WCCC.TV/live) with public comments sent in ahead of time. Today we will highlighting Public Hearing Agenda item 2…the Downtown Waco Public Improvement District.

Meeting Basics 

  • Work Session – 3:00 pm / Business Session – 6:00pm
  • To watch the live stream click here (City of Waco Cable Channel,
  • For the full agenda click here
  • For the meeting packet with the documents pertinent to the meeting click here. Quick note on page numbers: the numbers I will be referring to below are the “packet page numbers” found on the bottom right corner of each page of the meeting packet. These do not always match the number of the page in the pdf. One neat aspect of the packets the city builds for city council meetings is that you can click on the agenda item on the agenda page of the packet and it will take you directly to the relevant materials. 
  • Details on how to provide public comment are listed in the agenda

What’s in a PID? – the Downtown Waco Public Improvement District

Public Hearing Agenda Item 2 – PH-2020-584 Conduct a public hearing and consider an ordinance approving and adopting an updated Service and Assessment Plan, including the Assessment Roll, for providing improvements and/or services in Waco Public Improvement District Number One during Fiscal Year 2020-21. FIRST READING

Two weeks ago we took a look at the Waco Tourism Public Improvement District (TPID) and its service and assessment plan. This week, the service and assessment plan of an entirely different kind of Public Improvement District (PID) is on the City Council agenda.

As I explained in the previous post, a PID allows for the collection of an assessment (more on that below) in a certain geographic area to provide additional services to the property owners in that area. The downtown PID focuses on providing additional services to Downtown Waco. Let’s jump into how the PID is funded and what services it provides. (Full disclosure, I spend a substantial portion of my day job administering and managing some of the programs of the Downtown Waco PID so I may be a little biased.) 

Every property within the PID (there is a handy map below) pays an extra $0.10 per $100 of property value to the PID. This is the “assessment.” These assessments are pooled together to pay for services that benefit Downtown Waco collectively. The service and assessment plan describes the services the PID will provide in a given year. The service and assessment plan for 2021 can be found on pages 47-61 of the meeting packet.

The services the PID provides to Downtown Waco fall into a few different categories. This list is not everything the PID does, but it should give you a pretty good idea:

Clean and Safe – This is the biggest one it is generally over 50% of the budget each year and basically boils down to keeping the public areas of Downtown…well…clean and safe. This can look like landscaping services, using lasers to chase birds out of trees, washing away bird droppings, and painting over graffiti. It also includes a reporting service, which is actually a person whose name is Dave. You can find him riding around Downtown in the Clean and Safe Team golf cart making sure issues are taken care of. If you happen to see him you should say “hi” (socially distant and masked of course), he is a pretty friendly guy. 

Beautification – From time to time the PID funds efforts to make Downtown even more inviting than it already is. If you noticed the red bows along Austin Avenue and Elm Avenue last holiday season, those were a PID project.  The banners identifying the different “districts” of Downtown are a PID project. The PID has also been one of the funders for ARTprenticeship, which has created murals on the Brotherwell building on Bridge Street and along Jackson Avenue between 2nd Street and University Parks

Marketing – The PID operates a website and social media accounts that give Downtown Waco a voice, elevate the efforts of all the folks that make up Downtown, and encourage others to visit. You can find the website ( and you may want to follow the social media (Downtown Waco) to find out the latest about what is going on Downtown.

Programming – The PID has historically supported the Waco Wonderland event. The PID also looks for interesting and innovative ways to encourage or support other kinds of programming that make Downtown Waco an interesting place to visit time and time again. 

Looking through the services, one general theme is that the offerings are for the benefit of all of Downtown. Each of the property owners benefit from Downtown being clean, beautiful, marketed and full of events. The reason for a PID like this is to provide these services that are best accomplished collectively by all the property owners together. 

In terms of process, the property owners provide input on these services through the Downtown Waco Public Improvement District Advisory Board (or PID Board). This board is made up of representatives of at least 50% of the taxable area and at least 50% of the taxable value within the PID. Each year, they review and recommend the service and assessment plan that is then sent to City Council for final approval. As you now know, it’s on the agenda this week. The property owners and other stakeholders also assist the PID by sitting on a variety of committees that oversee different service areas. Most of the day-to-day work is carried out by City Center Waco (where I am employed) and its contractors. This is just one of City Center Waco’s functions, but that is a topic for a different day. 

Over the last five weeks we have touched on a number of topics and board/committees/councils. I thought it might be a good idea to tie them all together with a single example. Let’s say you think it would be a good idea to build a hotel in Downtown Waco. The property you are looking at has recently become much more attractive now that trains will no longer be blaring their horns thanks to the TIF. Perhaps the property is not zoned to allow for a hotel, so you file for a zoning change that ends up before the plan commission. Perhaps you seek TIF funding for some portion of your project. If all goes right, a handful of years down the line you end up with a properly zoned, mostly quiet, fully functional hotel. Each year your guests pay 2% of their room charges to fund the TPID that markets Waco’s hotels across the United States. Meanwhile, you, the property owner, pay $0.10 per $100 towards keeping your part of town clean, safe, beautiful, marketed and programmed. All the while, some portion of the taxes you pay to the City, County, Community College, and School District end up back in the TIF paying for further improvements and developments.

Thanks for coming along with me over the last month. I have appreciated the opportunity to take a closer look at the beautiful, complicated, and ever developing world that is Waco and its public meetings. I hope this has been helpful to you and encourages you to zoom in on whatever local topic sparks your interest. I plan to keep this going as long as I can and I have a few additions (hopefully) taking form in the back of mind. See you again next week. 

Other Interesting (to me) Items From the Agenda

  • A presentation on the Bridge Street project is scheduled for the work session. This is another project CIty Center Waco has been working on and should be interesting.  
  • Budget Watch – we are nearing the end of the budget process. Here is a brief review of how we got here:
    • July 21st – city staff talked through preliminary budget projections with City Council
    • August 4th – City Council discussed the tax rate and set the public hearing for this week (we talked about the tax rates here)
    • August 25th – City Council voted on a resolution to establish when they would take a final vote on the tax rate
    • September 1st – there is a public hearing on the budget followed by two votes. The first will approve the budget and the second will authorize City Manager to spend (formerly expend) certain portions of that budget. This allows City management to pursue certain standard expenses (think payroll and benefits) without having to come back to City Council.
  • There are two resolutions and one ordinance related to the movement of Texas Meter and Device Company from Downtown Waco to a site to be purchased from the Waco Industrial Foundation. This is related to that potential high rise development that might be under consideration for the former Texas Meter and Device Company location. This is an interesting look at the various tools in the City’s economic development tool kit. 

Jeffrey Vitarius has been actively local since early 2017. He lives in Sanger Heights with partner (JD) and his son (Callahan). He helped found Waco Pride Network and now serves as that organization’s treasurer and Pride Planning Chair. Jeffrey works at City Center Waco where he helps keep Downtown Waco clean, safe, and vibrant. He is a member of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and graduated from Baylor in 2011.

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.orgfor more information.

State of Texas Recommendations (Espanol)