Waco Symphony Orchestra’s 2023-2024 Performance Season is ‘Out of this World’

The Waco Symphony Orchestra’s 2023-2024 performance season theme is Out of this World and is a concert series that is truly something otherworldly. The performances will showcase composers and pieces from around the world and feature several notable guests. The season will end just before Waco becomes a hot spot to view the total solar eclipse next April. 

“The Waco Symphony Orchestra has been a star of the Central Texas performing arts scene since 1962, and it’s all because of your unwavering support… get ready for blastoff, whether you’re renewing your season subscriptions or joining us for the first time!” said Carolyn Bess, Executive Director of the Waco Symphony Orchestra.

The season takes off on October 5 with “Breaking Boundaries” which features music from Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5. Conductor Lawrence Loh said that the pieces chosen for this performance are “the epitome of the ability of music to take the listener out of the world in which they live”. 

The next performance “Larger than Life” will be on November 16 and will feature music from Johannes Brahms Symphony No. 4, conducted by David Itkin. A special feature of this performance is the narration of the poem that inspired the second piece, “Don Juan”. 

The third performance “Extraordinary Feats” takes off with a jaw-dropping 30,000 note piano solo by the 2022 International Piano Competition Silver Medalist Anna Geniushene and will be conducted by Emmy award-winning conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya. 

“Exploring the Great Unknown”, the fourth performance in the season, features a performance by the 2023 Grammy Award winning trio, Time for Three. The performance will be on March 21 and will pair music with an incredible visual of the cosmos. 

On the eve of the Great American Eclipse, the WSO will perform music from some of your favorite Sci-Fi films such as “Star Wars”, “Star Trek” and “Interstellar”. The “Sci-Fi Spectacular: Sun, Moon, & Superstars” will be performed on April 7 and include insights from Emmy Award-winning journalist Gary Gogill. 

By popular demand, the annual “The Nutcracker” performance has added an additional show. The two performances, taking place on December 9 and 10, will feature the WSO and the Ballet Frontier to bring a treasured holiday tradition to Waco.

Patrons can purchase season tickets for the Out of this World performance season or individual tickets to “The Nutcracker” or any other shows. Season tickets are sold in varying bundles with benefits such as parking passes, better seating, social events and after-concert receptions.

Season tickets for the Out of this World performance season and for “The Nutcracker” are on sale now and can be found here. Individual tickets for the Out of this World performance season will go on sale September 7 and can be found here. 


About Waco Symphony Orchestra:

The Waco Symphony Orchestra has been a cornerstone of Waco music for over 45 years. The orchestra features a wide variety of world-renowned soloists and guest conductors during their performance season concerts. They also feature a variety of special performances such as “The Nutcracker”. 

The WSO’s mission is to present live classical music that will enrich the cultural life of the Waco community. They believe that music serves as a source of beauty, conscience, humanity and tranquility, which are essential to the human spirit. 

For more information, please visit their website

WFM lunch for people experiencing homelessness kicks off National Health Center Week

On Monday afternoon, Waco Family Medicine (WFM) hosted “Flavor Feast,” a free lunch at the Meyer Center for community members experiencing homelessness. The event included a meal provided by Part Time Chef and a cooling station for attendees.

The event kicked off WFM’s recognition of National Health Center Week (NHCW). NHCW is an annual observance sponsored by the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) running from Aug. 6 to 12. It aims to raise awareness and honor the contributions of Community Health Centers (CHCs) like WFM that provide comprehensive healthcare services to millions of patients across the U.S.  

WFM’s NHCW programming includes People Experiencing Homelessness Day (Monday), Patient Appreciation Day (Wednesday), and Health Center Staff Appreciation Day (Friday). Patients and staff will be recognized with tokens of appreciation later in the week. 

Each year for NHCW, WFM hosts Healthcare for People Experiencing Homelessness Day to highlight and expand the care provided to community members experiencing homelessness in Central Texas. People who experience homelessness endure higher rates of chronic and acute disease, behavioral health conditions, and other needs that are connected to poorer health outcomes, disability, and early death. Located downtown in the same building as Mission Waco’s Meyer Center, Waco Family Medicine – Meyer Center treats more patients experiencing homelessness than most other locations in the clinic system.

In 2022, WFM provided more than 61,000 patients with integrated medical, dental, and behavioral health care across 15 clinical sites. WFM addresses social and environmental barriers to wellness through innovative programs and community partnerships. Additionally, an in-house pharmacy provides quickly filled prescriptions to patients at a fraction of traditional costs. 

With a quarter-million patient visits annually, the WFM system cares for one-fifth of McLennan County’s population. Ninety percent of county residents live within 10 miles of a WFM location, making care more accessible to patients, especially those with limited transportation. In 2021, about 74% of WFM patients identified as a racial or ethnic minority, and 22% were best served in a language other than English. The organization strives to provide high-quality, equitable care to meet the medical needs of Central Texans. 

WFM invites community members, partners, and supporters to follow the organization on Facebook and Instagram (@wacofamilymedicine) to learn more about the social and economic contributions of CHCs throughout NHCW.


Waco Family Medicine is a Federally Qualified Health Center providing medical, dental, behavioral health, and community health care at 15 locations across McLennan and Bell counties. The nonprofit also provides graduate medical education through Waco Family Medicine – Institute and serves as a clinical training site for medical residency students, dental students, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical social workers, pharmacy students, medical technicians, and allied health caregivers. WFM was established in 1970 to address a shortage of doctors, lack of access to primary healthcare, and economic development issues.

The Salvation Army, Walmart and HEB Unite to Collect School Supplies

WHO: The Salvation Army Waco Corps, Local Waco Walmart locations, Waco HEB Stores

WHAT: The 2023 back-to-school campaign encourages shoppers to purchase and donate school supplies and other requested items at the Salvation Army collection bins at Walmart on Franklin and in Hewitt from August 4th to August 6th. Additionally, all Waco HEB stores will be collecting Back to School donations for school supplies, which will be purchased for distribution by The Salvation Army. The aim is to provide new school supplies to 300-500 students in the McLennan County community, ensuring they have the necessary materials for the upcoming school year.

WHY: The collaboration between The Salvation Army and local communities, along with supporters like HEB and Walmart, helps meet the needs of people and serves over 23 million Americans annually through social services, aiding communities in overcoming poverty and economic hardships. This joint effort ensures children in Waco and surrounding cities have the school supplies they need for academic success.

WHEN: School supply collections at Walmart will take place on August 4th, 5th, and 6th, 2023, from 10 am to 6 pm. The HEB Back to School Event will be ongoing throughout August, including curbside purchases.

WHERE: Live event at Walmart on Sun Valley in Hewitt, scheduled for August 5, 2023, from 10 am to 6 pm. Interviews and photo opportunities can be arranged upon request before the event.

MCC hosts Small Business Networking Forum

McLennan Community College’s (MCC) Small Business Development Center, in partnership with Dallas College’s Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, will host an engaging Small Business Networking Forum on July 25 from 10-11:30 a.m. at the MCC Conference Center, located at 4601 North 19th Street, Waco, Texas.

This forum offers small business owners a valuable opportunity to connect with resources dedicated to fostering success in their ventures. Participants will gain access to crucial information about the McLennan Community Investment Fund, Start-Up Waco, MCC’s Small Business Development Center, local Chamber of Commerce organizations, and various other small business advocacy groups. 

A highlight of the forum will be a presentation from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, an investment program to support the growth and job creation of small businesses by offering education, capital, and business support services. Over 12,800 business owners from all 50 states including Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, have graduated from this program to date. 

The Forum will conclude with networking and one-on-one meetings with small business resources and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses representatives.

            Registration for this free event is at https://qrco.de/be7eIt. For more information, contact Dr. Frank Graves, Dean of Workforce & Public Service at MCC, at 254-299-8126 or[email protected].

Mural Monday: Chesley Smith

“Black Pride”

by Debbie Wright

Art has long been recognized as a potent medium for expressing emotions, stimulating dialogue, and challenging societal conventions. In recent times, the significance of representation in art has gained considerable acknowledgment due to its ability to amplify diverse voices, bridge divides, and foster a sense of belonging within communities. An exemplar of this principle can be found in Chesley Smith’s new mural project, proudly titled “Black Pride,” located on the wall of Marilyn’s Gift Gallery on Elm Ave in Waco, Texas.

When asked about his inspiration for the mural, Smith said, “My goal is to inspire the community to embrace their African American culture and celebrate their heritage.” 

With 45 years of experience as an educator, including teaching art in both college and Waco public schools for 22 years, Smith brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to his artistic endeavors. Furthermore, he previously taught at Paul Quinn College, the oldest historically black college in Texas, which holds significant historical value as part of Waco’s legacy as the “Athens on the Brazos”. The mural project is particularly poignant as it also stands near the former location of the Paul Quinn College campus, situated at Eighth Street and Mary Avenue. 

Smith has left his artistic imprint in other prominent Waco landmarks as well, such as the old Paul Quinn Johnson Hall and the historic Anheuser-Busch building on 10th and Webster Ave. Both structures are presently undergoing redevelopment, contributing to the city’s ongoing evolution.

Smith’s mural project on Elm Ave in Waco, Texas, required approximately three months to complete, spanning from the initial stages of design to the final touches. Throughout the process, Smith collaborated with Marilyn’s shop, receiving some amazing community support from individuals such as Doreen Ravenscroft, Kim Torres, Sam Torres, and Tyler Vansyckle. Moreover, the mural project aligns with the mission of Marilyn’s shop, which specializes in offering a selection of African American attire and artifacts. In combination, the mural and the shop contribute to the promotion of black pride, unity, and a more inclusive community in Waco.

Chesley Smith’s commitment to art and representation has left an indelible mark on Waco, fostering dialogue, honoring heritage, and inspiring the community to embrace and celebrate their African American culture. His mural project serves as a testament to the transformative power of art and the importance of representation in promoting inclusivity and understanding within our communities here in Waco.

*Photos from the Art on Elm Facebook page

July is National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month. 

To help protect your vehicle, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is teaming up with the National Insurance Crime Bureau to provide information about vehicle security. Review these statistics on vehicle theft in the United States and NHTSA’s tips on keeping your vehicle safe.

Vehicle Theft Facts and Figures

· More than 1,000,000 motor vehicles were stolen in 2022, with more than 250,000 reported to law enforcement during the fourth quarter alone. This is a 25% increase in vehicle theft totals over the past few years.

· Historically, passenger cars made up approximately 74% of all stolen motor vehicles.

· A motor vehicle is stolen every 32 seconds in the United States.

· In 2022, thieves stole more than $8 billion in motor vehicle value.

How to Prevent Motor Vehicle Theft

· Park in well-lit areas.

· Close and lock all windows and doors when you park.

· Hide valuables out of sight, such as in the glove box or trunk.

· Do not leave your keys in your vehicle.

· Do not leave the area while your vehicle is running.

· Some vehicles come equipped with an alarm and anti-theft system, but what if yours does not? Consider purchasing extra layers of protection for your vehicle if your manufacturer does not provide it. This could be something like an anti-theft system, which can be easily purchased online or in a store.

Cooling Sations in Waco!

With temperatures soaring and the mercury reaching 100 degrees, The Salvation Army is taking measures to ensure the safety and well-being of those in need of respite. In response to the extreme heat conditions, The Salvation Army Cooling Station will be open and available to the public from noon until the temperatures lower each day.

The Cooling Station, located at 300 Webster in downtown Waco will serve as a refuge for individuals seeking relief from the scorching heat. The facility will operate during peak heat hours and provide a comfortable environment for residents to cool down and protect themselves from the potential risks associated with high temperatures.

Equipped with air conditioning and ample seating, the Cooling Station offers a safe space where residents can escape the heat and find relief. The facility will remain open during the heatwave, ensuring residents can access a cool and comfortable space when needed.  In addition to an air-conditioned environment, The Salvation Army Cooling Station will provide access to clean drinking water. Hydration is crucial during extreme heat, and the station will have water available to help residents stay hydrated and prevent heat-related illnesses.

Major James Taylor urges those who need it to take advantage of the Cooling Station’s services during this period of extreme heat. “The well-being of our community is our top priority,” said Major Taylor. “We encourage anyone, especially the elderly and individuals with no other location to cool off, to use the Cooling Station and stay cool and hydrated during these weather conditions.”

Residents are advised to dress comfortably, wear loose-fitting clothing, and bring any necessary personal items they may require during their stay at the Cooling Station. It is also recommended to check on vulnerable neighbors and loved ones, particularly those more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. 

Regular updates on the Cooling Station’s operations will be provided through official channels, including social media platforms and local news outlets.

LGBTQIA+ Online Resources: Online communities, resources help keep LGBTQ+ youth connected.

Written by: Robin Layton

As Americans regroup after two years of a pandemic lifestyle, studies are revealing that youth who are in the sexual and gender minority are experiencing depression and anxiety at a faster rate than other groups.

In fact, The Trevor Project 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that “45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year,” with 60% of the youth who wanted mental health care in the past year unable to access it. The survey also found that 73% of LGBTQ youth reported having symptoms of anxiety.

Being an LGBTQ young person, unfortunately, means that during their critical adolescent years, they can often feel isolated and misunderstood, lacking the resources they need to maintain their mental health. 

With pandemic-related measures in place across the country, youth are at an even greater risk of social isolation and depression. But online resources, including supportive and educational materials, can help them maintain mental and emotional health. 

In a Catch-22, the internet can make this necessary information accessible, but only if you have access to the internet. 

In this guide, Allconnect researchers take a look at available online resources, as well as address the digital divide and homeless issues within the LGBTQ youth community.

LGBTQ youth can face some unique challenges, such as higher rates of depression and suicide than their peers. A behavioral health report on youth.gov noted that suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth and young adults, and up to 33% of LGBTQ youth report having attempted suicide. LGBTQ high school students are also two to seven times more likely to commit suicide than their peers.

Along with all the pressures of growing into their own identities, they have increased risks of alcohol and drug use, bullying, peer pressure, depression, suicide attempts and high-risk sexual activities. LGBTQ youth and young adults may be kicked out of their homes, and often face homelessness.

Identifying as LGBTQ doesn’t cause depression or mental health issues. The cause is rooted within outside factors: Discrimination, family rejection, negative biases and bullying and hostile microaggressions that can lead to suicidal ideation, according to the report. When LGBTQ youth aren’t accepted for who they are, they have higher rates of stress, anxiety, depression, self-harm behaviors and other disturbances to mental health.

In addition, many LGBTQ youth are confronted with online bullying. Pre-pandemic, 32% of teens aged 14-17 spent about four hours in front of screens. As of June 2020, that number leaped to 62%, according to a Statista report.

Cyberbullying has made the internet a dangerous place for LGBTQ youth, and approximately 48.7% of LGBTQ students are victims of cyberbullying each year. This can be through private text messages or public posts on social media. Cyberbullying leads to high rates of psychological and emotional distress for LGBTQ+ youth, as well as low self-esteem, social isolation, depression and thoughts of suicide.

Other resource and advocacy groups

  • The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs – The program offers direct services to survivors of all forms of violence and their circle of family and friends. They also work on policy and advocacy, and provide “free, holistic legal services to LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors in all five boroughs of New York City in Family Court, Housing Court, Civil Court and with immigration matters.” 
  • GLAAD LGBTQ Resource List – GLAAD shares stories from the LGBTQ community and this list includes resources in politics, military, aging, legal and other sectors.
  • The TrevorLifeline – Provides a national crisis intervention and suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ youth.
  • Homelessness Help – Provides resources for homeless LGBTQ individuals in crisis, as well as provides a reporting platform for housing discrimination or violations.
  • National Runaway Safeline – A hotline for youth who need someone to hear them, as well as for concerned adults.
  • The LGBT National Youth Talkline – Free and confidential peer support for LGBTQ youth 25 and under.
  • Trans Lifeline – Run by trans people, this lifeline provides peer support.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Free and confidential support for anyone in distress, suicide prevention and resources.
  • TheRecoveryVillage.com – A free web resource that provides information about addiction, eating disorders and mental health issues.

Surgeon General’s Advisory on Social Media Effect on Youth Mental Health, PANS Syndrome & Mental Health Support for SchoolsPart of June 15th Teen Suicide Prevention Symposium 

Education Service Center Region 12 staff, educators, mental health advocates and care providers will join forces for the 18th Annual Teen Suicide Prevention Symposium from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday, June 15 at 2101 W. Loop 340 in Waco.

ESC Region 12 and Partners Cedar Crest Residential Treatment Center and Daybreak Health want to gather educators, mental health providers and community members to learn and take action to help save the lives of challenged youth. The event will encourage awareness, intervention and prevention of teen suicide, regarded as the ‘preventable epidemic’ among Texas youth. 

“This year’s event focuses on issues and trends impacting youth in many ways that educators, parents and care providers are seeing in our schools. From speakers on Pediatric Acute Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (or PANS), to discussions about the US Surgeon General’s Advisory on Social Media and its Effect on Youth Mental Health, we are presenting cutting-edge topics that have a direct impact on our teens and their mental health,” said Jenipher Janek, a counseling services coordinator and lead for the Region 12 School Crisis Response Team.  

The ESC Region 12 School Crisis Response Team includes ESC counselors and communication staff, school counselors and mental health advisors from the Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network. The group coordinates grief response and provides logistical and communications support, and crisis recovery at no cost to area schools. In the last year, the team has responded to 18 calls to support educators and students affected by the loss of a student, employee or other crisis incident impacting school operations, including loss of life to suicide. Part of this work includes connecting schools to mental health providers and creating awareness about TCHATT, the Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine, which provides telemedicine or telehealth programs to school districts to help identify and assess the behavioral health needs of students and provide access to mental health services. 

Event partners, expecting 80 attendees, hope to bring in even more educators, mental health providers, police officers, counselors and emergency services personnel. Advance registration ($45) is requested at: txr12.escworks.net/catalog/session.aspx?session_id=297715. Schools in the Counseling Services Membership may send staff at no additional fee. For more on ESC Region 12 Counseling Services and School Support, visit bit.ly/2023ESC12
Additional event supporters include the Central Texas Regional Advisory Council, Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network, Heart of Texas Regional Advisory Council, Heart of Texas Suicide Prevention Coalition and VOICE.




Family Abuse Center is aiming to raise $20,000 by August 1 to build a pet shelter on their property so no domestic violence survivor who seeks their services has to leave a furry friend behind. 

As many as 48% of domestic violence survivors delay leaving an abuser out of concern for their pets, but when emergency shelters like theirs can welcome animals, that barrier to safety is eliminated. At this time, though, only 17% of domestic violence shelters accept pets.1 They’re ready to be one of them.

The Human-Animal Bond

There’s no denying that the human-animal bond is special, but most importantly for their clients, animals can play a critical role in healing. According to Johns Hopkins, “Research has shown that simply petting a dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol, while the social interaction between people and their dogs actually increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin.”2

When the Urban Resource Institute asked survivors about the role pets played in their healing, “91% indicated that their pets’ emotional support and physical protection are significant in their ability to survive and heal.”3 Having an animal nearby helps clients talk through tough conversations, teaches trust and empathy, encourages a sense of responsibility and provides a feeling of security. 

Keeping Pets Safe

Finally, welcoming pets to the shelter protects them from the unsafe person. What is often referred to as the Link tells us that there is a significant connection between human and animal violence. Especially in a domestic violence situation, abusers might target pets to maintain terror and fright, eliminate a source of support, force the family to return home or gain more power and control. Simply put, ensuring pets have a refuge keeps survivors and animals alive. 

The Family Abuse Center Mission

For these reasons, building a pet shelter is an important step in their mission to eliminate domestic violence in Central Texas by sheltering victims of domestic violence and by preventing abuse from occurring through intervention and education. If you’d like to be a part of giving survivors and their pets a safe place to heal together, donations can be made by visiting FamilyAbuseCenter.org/Donate.

If you or someone you know is at risk, please call Family Abuse Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-800-283-8401.


  1. https://www.purina.com/about-purina/purple-leash-project/the-issue 
  2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-friend-who-keeps-you-young 
  3. https://www.thehotline.org/news/pets-are-critical-priority-for-survivors-seeking-safety/