Waco Lions Park poised for revitalization with community support

By City of Waco staff

The City of Waco, Lions Park Trust Board, and many community partners are pleased to announce the revitalization of Waco’s beloved treasure, Lions Park, at 1716 N. 42nd St. John Tipton, immediate past president of the Waco Founder Lion’s Club and a member of the Lions Park Trust Board, said they are interested in a larger partnership that will allow for planning, revitalization, and most importantly, a continuation of this special park venue for children.

“We are grateful for our patrons, volunteers, and the entire community’s support of Lions Park over the years and look forward to the next phase in partnership with the City of Waco and other community organizations. The future of Lions Park is bright,” said Tipton.

According to City Manager Bradley Ford, while the park will temporarily close to undergo a strategic planning and rebuilding process, the City of Waco anticipates committing $2 million to ensure the brightest future for Lions Park.

Lions Park was established in 1952 by the Waco Lions as a unique and popular place for children. Volunteers and community organizations, such as the Junior League of Waco, have donated hundreds of hours and resources to the park.

“Lions Park is a unique place for families to gather, and I’m excited we have the opportunity to reimagine this park so it continues to be the community asset it has been for nearly 70 years,” said Mayor Dillon Meek. “Our community remains deeply grateful to the Waco Lions for building and maintaining this unique family treasure over the years. I also want to assure the children of Waco that while adults will be involved in the planning process, we will certainly include our young people for help with the design and amenity selection. After all, this park is for the children of our community.”

In 2018, Waco Foundation convened a group of partners interested in the park and ultimately commissioned a survey receiving more than 2,000 responses. Results of the survey were overwhelmingly positive when asked about the park’s value to the community. Additionally, many indicated a desire to support the park by donating time, money, and input.    

“The survey allowed us to better understand how the community feels about Lions Park,” said McLennan County Judge Scott Felton. “It is crystal clear that the park is not only a valued place for entertainment but a true gathering spot for families across Waco that spans generations. I am just one of many grandfathers who brought my children and grandchildren to the park for a one-of-a-kind experience in McLennan County. Now we have the chance to revitalize this community asset to make sure Wacoans now and into the future will be able to enjoy everything it has to offer.”

Activities at the nearby BASE facility will complement the park and enhance visitor and resident experience. Wes Allison, president and CEO of Heart O’ Texas Fair and Rodeo, is interested in the future of the park, as well. “As our neighboring campus continues to expand with new facilities like the BASE at Extraco Events Center, it is really helpful to know how important Lions Park is to our community. The HOT Fair & Rodeo has wide-ranging experience with family entertainment and attractions, and so we will look for ways to partner and provide our expertise in future plans.”

The immediate future of Lions Park includes continued meetings of community partners, site plans, and community fundraising. All plans will be designed to preserve the Waco Lions’ intent and the final project will remain affordable and relevant for Waco families.

Community members interested in learning more, receiving updates, and potentially contributing to the future of the park should sign up for updates at lionsparkwaco.com.

Community partners that participated in initial convening:

  • Waco Lions International
  • Waco Foundation
  • Heart of Texas Fair and Rodeo
  • Junior League of Waco
  • McLennan County
  • City of Waco
  • Waco City Council
  • United Waco
  • Waco City Council
  • United Way of Waco-McLennan County
  • Rotary Club of Waco
  • Baylor University
  • Waco Parks and Recreation 

Dr Pepper Museum to mark 30th anniversary

The Dr Pepper Museum in Waco marks its 30th anniversary in May. It is “one of the
largest nonprofit museums devoted to telling the story of the soft drink industry and preserving
Dr Pepper history,” said a release from museum.

The Museum opened in May 1991 and has grown from the vision of a few devoted enthusiasts to now attracting more than 2 million visitors. “Thank you to the Waco Convention & Visitors Bureau and KDP Waco Distribution for their generous support,” the release said.

Chris Dyer, museum president & CEO, and the Board of Directors said: “We have achieved
this milestone through the hard work and dedication of our staff and our culture of customer
service that exists throughout the entire organization. We have dedicated ourselves to 30 years
of educating and entertaining our visitors with the history of the soft drink industry, and through
that example, the free enterprise economic system. On this anniversary, we will take time to look
at where we started, what we have achieved, and what our plans are for the future.”

Three events are planned as part of the celebration.

Be sure to book your spot for the next Fizzy Friday at 6-8 p.m. May 7. Test your taste buds and enjoy a birthday-themed flight of specialty sodas. The gift shop and old-fashioned soda fountain will stay open late to let all visitors have a chance to shop after-hours.

WHERE- Dr Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute
East Wing Building
300 South 5th St., Waco
COST – $12 per birthday-themed flight
Limit 6 people per group
No admission required

Visit the Museum Saturday, May 8, for $2 admission (just like when it opened in May 1991).
You can explore the exhibits, book a Make-A-Soda or Taste-A-Soda experience, get your
Dr Pepper gear from the gift shop, and get a treat at the old-fashioned soda fountain.
This will be the last day for museum visitors to enter to win a year’s supply of Dr Pepper,
sponsored by KDP Waco Distribution.

WHEN – Saturday, May 8, from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
WHERE – Dr Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute
300 South 5th St. Waco
COST – $2 general admission

May 11 is the official anniversary of the museum and the anniversary of the destructive 1953
Waco tornado. It seemed only fitting that these two important events in Waco’s history should be
entwined. Visit the museum to celebrate Waco’s history and to remember those who lost their
lives in the tornado, an exhibition opened on the first floor featuring photographs, videos, and
stories of those involved. On this day the two winners of the year supply of Dr Pepper will be

WHEN – Tuesday, May 11, from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
WHERE – Dr Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute
300 South 5th St.
COST – General Admission

Camelia: A New Play in Search of a Stage in Waco

By Trent Sanders

(You can learn more about “Epiphanies” a new works festival being staged by Wild Imaginings, in Trent Sutton’s blog post from last week. – ALW)

I first heard about Trent and his theatre company, Wild Imaginings, in a funny sort of way. Luann Jennings, founding artist of InSite theatre company in Waco, had invited me to co-direct a show. I accepted, and her welcome to me went, “You’re Trent 2.0.” I thought, “Like Tosh?”  To say the least, this name intrigued me. Trent Sutton had directed shows in Waco for a number of years and had recently formed his own company. I wondered under what circumstances I would meet Trent 1.0. All this took place in early 2020, before the shutdowns.

Eighteen months earlier, in October 2018, my wife, three-month old son, and I had moved to Romania. The U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs had awarded me a Fulbright Creative Arts and Performance grant. My stated purpose was to study and write a play about Romanian Christian exiles fleeing the threat of the Romanian Communist Party. Ironically, a year later, in September 2019, I learned that many of these people had moved to the U.S.  Some of you may have heard of Lucy Lupu. She and her husband, Petru, have a harrowing story of escape by night. Yet, for my purposes, a different and significant batch of Romanians were still living in Romania.

I told Trent 1.0 all this after the last performance of InSite’s Shakespeare mashup, “Law and Order.” He was kind enough to listen with enthusiasm, then asked me what I did instead. Enter Camelia.

The play is her namesake and her song. She sings of her family, their flight from murderers coming from the East, their saga as refugees, and their multi-generational fight against a broken system. She sings of Romania. Camelia Doru was born in Călimănești – a small village in the Transylvanian Alps. There, she spent her formative years listening to the conversations of many, now famous, Romanian literary dissidents, who were sent there, on the Romanian Communist Party’s dime, to write propaganda (though they never did). She sets out on a journey, armed with her wit against the darkness, to redeem her own history, and by extension, Romania’s.

Trent 1.0 did that sort of frown you do when you hear something you like but have nothing else to add. I said one more thing. 

While interviewing Camelia, she mentioned a summit she had attended in 1991. She went on to say the Rockefeller Foundation had summoned the world’s leading torture experts there. He was caught off guard – there are torture experts? Yep. I continued. They met in order to create a tactical map to end torture. Over the course of a week, they mapped out the terrible constellation of torture. Amazed, I asked her if she had a copy. She then rolled out a 100 square foot map. At the center of this nearly invisible universe is the torturer and the victim.

This might sound thought out, but the play was in rough shape when I first showed it to Trent 1.0. He and I both agreed that, in its current form, it had no place in Waco, likely not in Texas, and just a sliver of a chance in the U.S. It was too symbolic. Romanians love that sort of thing, but not so much the Americans.

He prompted me to form it around a question, then to rewrite it according to the question. After that, the play returned to some semblance of its roots. It had begun as an oral history – with me sitting down in Camelia’s office in Bucharest. Asking her questions. Listening. Later on, transcribing. After some thought, I began to ask two big questions: Is her story about how to redeem history? – At least, a kind of redemption in continuum? Is religion somehow involved?

In any case, he asked me to submit the play for his company’s festival, so I did. By April, he informed me that it had been one of eight chosen for a table reading. Fast forward into early May, Trent 1.0 and the actors had done a remarkable job reading and responding to the script. After three hours of this via zoom, I had a great air of confidence for the revisions that lay ahead. And I knew what symbolism to get rid of and how. Camelia’s world, literally closed off to the West until 1989 because of the Iron Curtain, and literarily closed off to the West until June 2020 because of my bad writing – was now readily accessible. I hope it lets you get her. I hope her wit gets you.

But you be the judge on Saturday October 24 at 6:30 PM when Camelia begins streaming. You can purchase a ticket to the festival by clicking here. The cost is $15.

I almost forgot to mention two more things. The problem with faith (and herein lies its power) is that it is incarnational. Culture, place, and era embody it. In Camelia, you will see this conflict: an irreligious woman, encountering godless problems, all while facing God. Is anything out of his purview?

That being so, Camelia loves democracy – the American kind – and I think that shines through. If you love democracy, this is a play for you. If you want to be a part of a conversation about a more perfect union, this play is a great conversation starter.

Peace be with you.

Trent Sanders holds two degrees (B.A. and M.A.) in literature and criticism. After completing his studies, he spent a year studying and making theatre on a Fulbright in Romania. He is currently the playwright in residence at Baylor’s Institute for Oral History.

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 [email protected] for more information.

Waco Pride Network announces Vision 2025: Waco Needs Community

Press Release – Over the past month and a half, Waco Pride Network has gathered input from Waco’s LGBTQ+ community and its allies on what the community’s most pressing needs are, what Waco could be in five years, and what Waco Pride Network can do to pursue that vision. Today, that process reaches its conclusion with the announcement of Vision 2025: Waco Needs Community.

In the vision statement, Waco Pride Network notes, “When we sat down to look at the responses we received, we decided to focus on the words people were using. Three words immediately jumped off the page: Waco needs community. Suddenly, all the needs, fears, and dreams that had been expressed centered themselves around that message. Waco needs community. Waco needs community space. Waco needs community resources. Waco needs community support.” 

The vision statement focuses on the words Waco’s queer community and its allies submitted during the public input process. “We need places to be together,” wrote one individual. Waco Pride Network is responding with a commitment to pursue dedicated community spaces in Waco and a vision that these and other safe spaces be available and easily identifiable within five years.

 “There’s still a stigma,” writes another individual, “which in turn can and does lead to bullying and being left out. I haven’t noticed it as much here as in the TX Panhandle, but it’s there. Kids are worried about being seen as ‘different’, especially when school is their only real safe haven. Quite a few have problems at home.” The vision highlights the need for community support both within Waco’s queer community and between Waco’s LGBTQ+ folx and Waco in general. “The need here is deeply felt. Our community feels disconnected both from itself and the greater Waco community. We do not see ourselves in business, community, or civic leadership. We do not feel that Waco is for us.”

Ultimately, the statement commits Waco Pride Network to pursuing a Waco with:

  • Physical Spaces that are committed to the use of the LGBTQ+ community
  • Safe Spaces that are readily available and easily identifiable
  • Resources that are identified as accessible and safe
  • Regular community engagement through events and a thriving digital community
  • The greater Waco community acknowledging the issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community
  • An LGBTQ+ community that feels supported by the Waco community, at large

Regarding what you can do, Waco Pride Network has a number of suggestions. “Keep an open mind and engage with the LGBTQ+ people you know,” the statement says. “If you are welcoming and affirming…MAKE it known, hire an LGBTQ+ employee, serve an LGBTQ+ customer, or fund an LGBTQ+ entrepreneur.”

Waco Pride Network works to foster Waco’s LGBTQ+ community. The full vision statement can be found on Waco Pride Network’s website (wacopride.org) and sections of the statement will be shared throughout the day on social media.

Waco Pride Network was officially founded in July 2018 as a nonprofit serving the LGBTQ+ community of the Greater Waco area. Waco Pride Network’s keystone event is the annual OUT on the Brazos festival held each October. The all-volunteer organization continues to grow each year through community support.

Waco Bus Rapid Transit Project Enters Preliminary Engineering and Environmental Review Process

Virtual public open house set to take place October 20 – November 3.

Press Release – Over the course of the next several months, Waco Transit System (WTS) and its consultant team will conduct an environmental review pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act and develop preliminary engineering design plans for the City of Waco’s first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor.

WTS is developing a 13-mile BRT corridor to provide buses every 15-minutes during peak service hours; including extended service hours to 10 p.m. and service on Sundays to offer safe, reliable and efficient transit service. The route is oriented in a northeast-southwest direction and will serve industrial and commercial employment centers, the Central Business District, as well as important retail centers for residents and visitors; it also connects Waco with the adjacent cities of Woodway, Beverly Hills, Bellmead and Lacy-Lakeview.

In 2018, following the completion of a two-year feasibility study that evaluated the transportation system, travel demand patterns, existing and future land use and input received from the public, Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), City of Waco and WTS selected and approved a BRT route that features 14 station locations.

The BRT project has garnered extensive community support and to build further upon that momentum WTS and the Waco MPO look forward to continuing to engage the community throughout the next phase of development.

To help re-engage the community with the BRT project, WTS with the support of the Waco MPO is hosting a virtual public open house that features updated project information available in English and Spanish and an interactive route and station location map. (In light of restrictions on public gatherings, the initial public open house for the BRT project is being offered online, rather than in-person.)

The virtual public open house will remain open through November 3 and can be accessed online at WacoBRTopenhouse.net.

A new BRT project phone line featuring prerecorded messages with a voicemail option for submitting questions and comments is also available. The project phone line number is 844-922-6278 (844-WAC-OBRT).

In the coming months, community members will have an opportunity to review and comment on various BRT corridor amenities and design features; including the station locations and proposed operations scenarios.

To sign-up to receive project-related notices, please email the project at [email protected].

For more information about the Waco BRT project, visit the project website at waco-texas.com/transit/BRT.

Caritas of Waco Brings Hope: Sabrina’s Story

By Mary Beth Kauk, Director of Development

Since the pandemic began in March, Caritas of Waco is serving, on average, over 10,000 individuals a month, many of them affected by Covid-19. When you support Caritas, you are supporting people in our local community, like Sabrina and her daughters.

Sabrina is a single mother of four girls. She also supports her mother who is disabled. Sabrina is the only provider in her household. Sabrina was able to support her family by having a stable job as a General Manager at a local restaurant. Then in March of 2020 everything changed. Due to Covid-19, the restaurant had to close and she was laid-off. Sabrina was devastated.

“Going from a stable job with full-time employment and benefits to unemployment was a huge impact on our family,” said Sabrina. “$500 a month on unemployment is not enough to support four children and two adults.”

Because of her job loss due to Covid-19, Sabrina had to decide whether to pay bills or put food on the table. But things got worse. Sabrina was notified that the restaurant would not make it after the closings of Covid-19 and would be shutting its doors permanently. “I felt hopeless. I felt I had nowhere to turn and then my sister recommended calling Caritas.”

Sabrina called and was connected with a Caritas Intensive Case Manager. Caritas was able to help Sabrina and her family by paying their late electricity bill and rent bill. “Caritas helped me when I had nowhere to turn. In addition to the bill assistance, I am also able to get food at Caritas to help feed my family.”

Sabrina is still job searching but has enrolled in school to use her time to further her education. “It is so hard right now. Not many people are hiring, especially for restaurant general managers. I am thankful that my family and I have a place like Caritas to turn to.”

Sabrina is just one of the thousands of people in our community hurting from the effects of the pandemic. Caritas of Waco has served people in our community for over 53 years and continues to serve as place of hope, especially during this time. To make a gift or to get involved, please visit www.caritas-waco.org. Your support is appreciated now, more than ever.

*Thank you, Sabrina, for your willingness to share your story.

Originally from Virginia, Mary Beth Kauk now calls Texas home. She attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor where she obtained her bachelor’s degree and Master of Business Administration in Management. Prior to Caritas, Mary Beth worked in development, marketing, and PR for United Way of Waco-McLennan County and United Way of Central Texas. When she is not working, she enjoys being outdoors and spending time with family and friends. Mary Beth is married to Kasey and they have three fur babies – Wally, Kaiser, and Sunshine.

Waco Suspension Bridge Project Begins

Press Release – The Waco Suspension Bridge will close for a rehabilitation project beginning the week of October 19. A virtual groundbreaking ceremony will air at 10 a.m. Thursday on the City of Waco Facebook page and Waco City Cable Channel (available on Spectrum and Grande and live stream at www.wccc.tv) to commemorate the start of the project and the 150th anniversary of the bridge.  

Significant areas of Indian Spring Park and Martin Luther King, Jr. Park will be closed throughout the duration of the project. Portions of the Waco Riverwalk on both sides of the bridge will also be impacted, as well as traffic lanes along University Parks Drive and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. While areas surrounding the project site will be affected, the river will remain accessible for watercraft and leisure activities.

The project is slated to last 18 to 24 months. Gibson and Associates, of Balch Springs, Texas, submitted a $12.4 million bid proposal and was selected as the contractor. The project includes widescale updates to the foundations, towers, decking and railings.  

Constructed in 1870, Waco’s historic Suspension Bridge is recognized as an engineering marvel of its time and a significant landmark. Notably, this bridge also represents one of the first community-driven civic improvement projects. In the 1860s, local residents contributed the initial funding.

This landmark and its surroundings have become the cultural center of Waco’s public gatherings and recreation, hosting large tourism events and intimate gatherings equally well.

Project partners include funding support from the Tax Increment Financing, engineering by Patrick Sparks of Patrick Sparks Engineering, the Texas Historical Commission, the McLennan County Historical Commission and the City of Waco Historic Landmark Preservation Commission.

For project updates, please visit waco-texas.com or contact the Parks and Recreation Office at (254) 750-8080.

Got drugs? DEA take-back day offers a safe disposal option

By Anna Dunbar

Have you ever participated in a drug take-back program?  If not, what do you do with leftover medicines after you are over that awful head-cold or find some expired pain medicine?  I was shocked to learn that some folks think it is a good idea to flush unwanted or expired medicine or put them in their trash. When flushed, medicines can end up in our waterways and can ultimately travel to Texas’ coastal ecosystems. It is possible that chemicals in the flushed medicines are now in our waterways. Why is that? Because wastewater treatment plants, where the flushed stuff goes, do not remove chemicals; the plants remove organic waste in human waste.  Obviously, flushing unwanted medications is not a good idea when much safer options are available for no cost.

On Saturday, October 24, folks will have an opportunity to safely clear their shelves of expired, unneeded, or unused medications that may pose a public health threat.

What is accepted: Prescriptions/Over-the-counter medications, veterinary medications, vitamins, minerals and drug samples

What is NOT accepted: Oxygen Tanks, Needles or other sharps, Inhalers or thermometers, Nebulizers or IV bags, hydrogen peroxide, liquids

Waco 24-Hour Drop-off location (Starting Friday morning, October 24 and continuing through Sunday, midnight, October 25)


What if you are not available on October 25?

The following locations have installed safe medication disposal kiosks. Individuals can safely and conveniently dispose of their unwanted, unused or expired medications at no cost. Certain items are NOT accepted including needles, inhalers, aerosol cans, hydrogen peroxide, thermometers, and illicit drugs.

Year-round Medication disposal locations in our area:


Thank you for choosing to do the right thing!

Anna Dunbar is the solid waste administrator for the City of Waco Solid Waste Services. She is responsible for informing Waco residents and businesses about recycling and waste reduction opportunities as well as solid waste services in Waco. Her husband is a Baylor professor and her daughter is a Baylor University alum who works at Horizon Environmental Services, Inc. Anna is an active member of Keep Waco Beautiful and The Central Texas Audubon Society.

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 [email protected] for more information.

“Scared Sober” Haunted House Raises Funds for Recovery

By Jennifer Tobin, Sunshine Recovery House Board of Directors, Secretary

When my best friend asked me to be on the board of a sober house, I thought, “I don’t know how to be a board member, but I believe in her and that women need a second chance (sometimes 7×70 chances) to get on their feet to learn to maintain a life of sobriety.” So, I jumped in and became one of the founding board members of Sunshine Recovery House. I have been involved with each aspect of gaining our non-profit status, setting up & enforcing house rules, fundraising, and day-to-day operations of our social enterprise UnSHAKEable Milkshakes.  Sunshine Recovery House, a 501(c3) nonprofit, is currently one of very few places in Waco that offers safe, affordable, accountable housing for women in the early stages of recovery from drugs and alcohol. Women who move to a sober living home are more likely to remain sober than if they were to return to the environment they left when they went to treatment. These women are someone’s daughter, sister, mother, aunt, niece, and friend who are recovering from the disease of addiction. Sober living homes provide a community foundation to learn how to live life free of addiction.

In August 2019, Sunshine Recovery House purchased an amazing house located in Uptown Waco. The first time I walked through I thought it would be fun to set up a haunted house there. Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. For me, Halloween isn’t about witchcraft, honoring evil spirits, or even overindulging in candy. It’s about using one’s imagination while facing and overcoming fear. I prayed about it, then persuaded the other board members to allow a small budget, and with the help of some outstanding volunteers donating materials, decorations, and time we spent September and October planning and setting up the first Scared Sober Haunted House. We had a lot of fun with the brave souls who came.

With expectations that the house would be either under renovation or occupied by this year the scare crew made a tentative plan to find a store front for Halloween 2020. Then Covid-19 shut down the world, along with our major fundraiser in March, and renovation plans were put on hold, until recently. Because we saved a majority of the materials we used last year and the house remains empty we decided to rally the Scare Crew to hold the event again this year on Halloween weekend: Oct. 29, 30, & 31: 7pm-10pm, and have a cleanup/prayer day on Nov. 1.

I realize that some may see “haunting a house” as inviting darkness; however, our intention is to shed Light on the dark aspects of addiction. The name Scared Sober ties into the theme of each room; for instance, addiction spins a web of lies, walking through a maze of darkness, gloomy funerals, pathways of destruction, and alternate realities. We are optimistic that this year’s Scared Sober Haunted House will be a safe way for community members to support us with their donations while having some Halloween fun.

This is a family event. The Scare Crew has a plan to “turn up the heat” to provide a bit more fright or to tone down the scare factor for younger visitors. We will not let children go through the house alone. Due to the nature of some of our rooms we don’t recommend anyone under 10; however, it’s ultimately parents’ discretion to take their child through. There are also strobe lights used within the house so those who may have seizures are advised to stay away.

Due to Covid-19, the Scare Team will be checking temperatures before entry, only allowing small groups that arrive together to walk through together, maintaining 6ft physical distancing, and requiring everyone to wear a mask (which shouldn’t be hard because it’s Halloween).

Come let us scare you sober Thursday Oct. 29, Friday Oct. 30, or Saturday Oct. 31 7pm-10pm! 

We are asking for a minimum $5 donation but if you can contribute as little as a $1 or as much as $10000+ that would be amazing. All the proceeds are going to refurbish and remodel this house. The renovation of this home will provide 9 additional beds for women in recovery and an apartment for our onsite house manager and her family. The SRH Board has a working plan to move residents in soon and we can only do that with your support!

For other opportunities to support Sunshine Recovery House please visit our website at sunshinerecoveryhouse.com, adopt-a-room, sign up for our newsletter, follow us on social media, go buy a milkshake at Unshakeable Milkshakes located in Union Hall, and stop by to pray with us on Sun. Nov. 1, 3pm-5pm.

Jennifer Tobin transplanted to Waco with her daughter for a fresh start in 2005. She has served on the Board of Directors for Sunshine Recovery House as Secretary since its formation in 2018.  Serving others is her joy; helping women while they learn to live free of addiction is her calling. Jennifer earned her Master’s in Educational Leadership & Advising from Angelo State and works full time in Academic Support & Tutoring at McLennan Community College.

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 [email protected] for more information.

Masks make voting safer

By Jack Hill

I recently completed poll working training in anticipation of working Early Voting and Election Day sites. I was shocked to learn that, although Waco has mask requirements in place for all restaurants and bars, masks will not be required for anyone who votes, neither during Early Voting nor on November 3rd. Rather, signs will be posted outside voting sites stating only that “masks are recommended.”

Gosh, I wanted to help out, but it is too risky to do so given the lack of safeguards for poll workers in Texas. According to the CDC, three factors especially facilitate the spread of Covid-19: being in

  • crowds,
  • enclosed spaces with others with limited ventilation and,
  • an enclosed space with persons who are not wearing masks.

Evidence indicates that Covid-19 is primarily spread by aerosols—microscopic particles produced when we cough, talk loudly, yell or sneeze. Aerosols may remain in the air long after persons who emitted them have left the vicinity. They may also travel well beyond six feet.

To work in any enclosed space, virtually non-stop for 5-12+ hours, for the 18 consecutive days of Early Voting —in which individuals are permitted to come and go without wearing masks—is not only unnecessary from a public health standpoint, it is like playing Russian roulette—you may not get the bullet, but then again, you may.

Several states, such as Colorado, have state-wide mask mandates in place. Texas is not one of them

The nonpartisan organization, Mi Familia Vota, together with the Texas NAACP, have filed a lawsuit to protest the state of Texas’ decision to tolerate voters who refuse to wear a mask on Election Day. But even in states, like New York, which also do not require masks, it is recommended that each polling site have an isolated area where poll workers in special protective gear can assist voters who are unwilling to wear a mask.

This is a state-level decision. Come on fellow Texans, call Governor Abbott (512- 463-2000). We can do at least as well as New York!

Jack A. Hill is a political activist and Emeritus Professor of Religion and Social Ethics at TCU, where he taught for the past two decades. Prior to coming to TX, he resided in the Caribbean, the Fiji Islands and Southern Africa for 15 years of an international teaching career. He was the first U.S. born Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Partner in Mission to be ordained by a church overseas—the Jamaican Disciples of Christ (April 8, 1980). He has written eight books, including Ethics in the Global Village: Moral Insights for the Post 9-11 U.S.A. and I-Sight: The World of Rastafari. He was a Fulbright Scholar (Distinguished Chair) in Scotland and served as President of the American Academy of Religion in the Southwest. He has two daughters and six grand-children. Dr. Hill resides in Waco with his wife, Katherine Logue.