By Ferrell Foster
Call me impressed with a lot of McLennan County employees. I arrived early for my first summons to jury duty since moving here in 2020. There were about 200 of us in the pool of potential jurors, and every employee we encountered was polite, professional, and sometimes even a little humorous (which was welcome).
I was also impressed with my fellow county residents. Most people don’t seem to want to be called for jury duty; we’ve got plenty to do. It’s understandable that some people cannot serve for this or that reason, but it’s really impressive that so many people are willing to step up and provide this important service to our justice system.
My number was not called for the 12-member panel for which I was considered, but I have every confidence in the group chosen.
Among all of these positive experiences only one thing bothered me — juror compensation. Many of us donated to a nonprofit what the county was paying. Of course, it wasn’t much. Here’s the county’s juror compensation from its website.
- For the 1st day of service, you will be paid a minimum of $7.50 for the day that you present yourself willing to serve and you will receive $15 if you serve on a jury the 1st day.
- For the 2nd day and subsequent days of service, you will be paid $40 per day regardless of whether you are actually serving on a jury.
That’s really amazing. Most of us were at the courthouse from 8:30 a.m. to about 3 p.m., and some were there longer. I suspect that level of compensation put a real burden on some, but I do not know.
It just seems to me that a great county like ours could more fairly compensate people for their time. Yes, we all would pay for it in our taxes, but it seems better for all of us to pitch in for this important service.
People are generally willing to pay for what they value. I think we should value jury service more. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we residents should be willing to do this for free, and many of us did this week. But the current compensation seems to create a deterrent to all members of our community serving, and that’s not good for our justice system.
That said, I want to return to what I began with — our great McLennan County employees. Thank you for doing all you do to make this a great place to live and work. Thank you for your expertise, for you patience, for your care. It makes a difference.
Ferrell Foster is director of communications for Act Locally Waco.
The McLennan Steinway Series presents Drs. Angela Yoon, soprano, and Jason Terry, pianist, in concert at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23 at Ball Performing Arts Center on the McLennan Community College campus.
The concert titled, “Broken Harmony: Reconstructing Art – A Musical Journey through World War I,” will be a multimedia production outlining the effects of WWII on the arts and society. The concert will include MCC professors Kelly Parker as narrator and Jon Conrad as trumpeter.
Tickets are $5 and may be purchased through the MCC Box Office at 254-299-8200 or [email protected].
Art Center Waco is hosting an exhibition by Professional Artists of Central Texas Jan. 19-March 11. The “collective exhibition” will boast artworks from 17 artists are exhibited in one place.
PACT promotes the arts in Central Texas. Founded in 2016, the juried membership of artists also work as individuals: creating, selling, and showing their art. The collaborative group aims to “strengthen, improve, and promote the artistic, professional, and economic success of its artists,” an ACW release said.
The 17 artists are from Waco and surrounding area. The artists are: Joanna Burch, Karen Cruce, Joel R. Edwards, Linda Williams Filgo, Carol Fox Henrichs, Hailey Herrera, Cory Lind, Kevin Malone, Kimberly Merck-Moore, Kay Reinke, Judi Simon, Susan Sistrunk, Susan Sterle, Chesley Smith, Melanie Stokes, Charles Wallis, and LaJuana Westerfield.
ARTá la Carte!, the name of the group show, showcases a variety of styles, as varied as the 17 personalities of the artists.
The community is invited to an Opening Reception 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19. The show will be accessible during regular Art Center hours Jan. 19-March 11 when several free demonstrations, gallery talks, docent-led tours and family-friendly activities for viewing art will be available from the PACT artists. The gallery will feature hands-on Creation Stations for children 10 a.m.-2 p.m. March 11 as the show closes at the end of spring break.
Contact Art Center Waco, 701 S. Eighth St., or Professional Artists of Central Texas on social media for a calendar of events and activities taking place Jan. 19-March 11.
By Ferrell Foster
Act Locally Waco, from its start, has sought to promote involvement in our community. The below screenshot is of the City of Waco’s public meetings page. If you would like to get more involved in or knowledgeable about our city, this is a great place to start.
Many people do not attend a public meeting until they have a complaint or a personal financial reason. Good government requires much broader involvement.
If you go to the City page you will notice there are a lot of meetings. No one can attend them all, but you can pick out one or two of special interest. It could be parks and recreation, building standards, zoning, libraries, civil service (police and fire), the city council, or something else.
When you go to your first meeting you might be a little lost, but if you go a few times you will be surprised at how quickly you become something of an expert on the subject. And if you show genuine interest in the common good of our community, you may even be asked to become more involved officially.
Also, if you or someone you know is thinking about running for a city council spot, be more than a candidate — be a knowledgeable candidate. And the only way is to look under the covers of city government and find out what is really going on.
Anyone who looks closely at how are city operates is liable to be impressed by the dedication and hard work that so many people are bringing to the task of city government. That doesn’t mean you will agree with every decision, but you will learn even more by listening to those you disagree with.
Please don’t go to these meetings with an attitude of “I know more than these people” or “I could fix this if they would let me” or some other negative approach. Go with a desire to listen and learn so you can be highly informed when the time comes for input.
Also, you don’t have to be a professional journalist to “cover” a public meeting. Anyone can attend and write about what they hear and observe at meetings. Do that “reporting” through your own social media or you can even share it with Act Locally Waco and we will consider publication. If you write for ALW, just be careful to get the facts right and keep your opinions out of it. Just share the facts.
Texas law protects the openness of public meetings to keep decisions from being made in the proverbial “smoke-filled rooms” of the past. If the public doesn’t attend, our officials might just as well be behind closed doors.
Another note, the law allows some items to be discussed in closed or executive sessions. They usually consist of legal, personnel, property, financial contracts, and security matters. That may seem like a lot, but usually our public officials do not want to be seen as trying to act secretly. They know their integrity is at stake.
And, by the way, if you live in one of our neighboring cities, please get involved in their meetings. Or in county government. Our governmental bodies have to operate separately, but our region will become an even better place to live in all of our officials are operating in the public interest for the common good.
Ferrell Foster is director of communications for Act Locally Waco and president of Kortabocker LLC: Communications Built on Caring.
By Rae Jefferson
More than 100 pediatric patients at one Waco Family Medicine location opened presents this Christmas thanks to the generosity of donors, including local school children.
Students at Waco Montessori School, clinic staff, and other supporters contributed to a toy drive for patients at WFM’s Martin Luther King, Jr., clinic. WFM serves many patients at or below the U.S. Federal Poverty Guideline.
“Many of the children in our area do not have a Christmas,” said Shelly Barry, a licensed vocational nurse at the clinic. “Not because the parents don’t want to but simply because they do not have the means.”
The second annual toy drive included gifts like Hot Wheels, card games, and books. So many gifts were collected that many young patients received two presents during their visits to the clinic in December.
Dr. Floyd Barry, a pediatric physician at the clinic, said the mission of the toy drive was personal.
“When I was young, there was no federal funding for us during this time of year, but the doctor’s office and the church gave gifts,” he said. “Now, when I give gifts, I still remember the feeling I had as a young child receiving those presents. It’s visceral. I still feel that after almost 55 years.”
Providing gifts to pediatric patients began last year when clinic staff purchased items on their own. Barry said the clinic decided to expand the drive this year to include friends and family of staff. Waco Montessori School caught wind of the drive and wanted to contribute. In a newsletter, school officials said the drive was an exercise in teaching students “the importance of contributing to our community.” Some students even spent their own money to purchase gifts.
The clinic staff said they are beyond thankful for the efforts of donors, especially the youngest ones. “We were overwhelmed with gratitude that Waco Montessori School would be adopting us as the drop off for their toy drive,” Barry said. “We had no idea the outpouring of support we would receive. I was in awe of the number of toys they provided. We had children — and parents — become emotional when handed the gifts.”
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 WFM 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.
Rae Jefferson is communications director at Waco Family Medicine.
As much of Texas braces itself for several days of sub-freezing temperatures, the Salvation Army in Waco is working to help those experiencing homelessness and provide a warm, safe place to get out of the cold, not just at night, but during the day, too.
The Salvation Army shelter is at 300 Webster Ave. in downtown Waco. It provides overnight shelter for men, women, and families all year round. “On freezing cold days like this week we make arrangements for our building to be open and available during the day as a warming station so that people can come in off the streets and get warm,” said Major James Taylor of the Waco Salvation Army. “They don’t need to register to stay the night and there is no charge for any services at The Salvation Army. We just want those in need to be safe during this cold snap and for them to know that The Salvation Army is here for them.”
Salvation Army also makes plans to accommodate additional overnight guests when the weather is particularly cold. “It is inevitable that more people will come to us for assistance this week, especially seeking overnight shelter from the bitter cold,” said Taylor. “We make emergency beds available in our shelter during inclement weather, in addition to the beds available year-round, and will do our best to make sure everyone has a warm place to sleep. We currently have several people staying in our shelters, including men, women, and families.”
The annual Red Kettle Campaign ends on Christmas Eve and Salvation Army officers, staff, and volunteers are working hard to raise essential funds that make basic services including shelter, meals, and emergency financial assistance possible all year round here in Waco. “The practical, financial support of our community makes it possible for us to help those in need every day of the year, not just at Christmas,” said Major Taylor. “Your support means that The Salvation Army is there to keep the lights on for a family struggling to pay the bills, we can provide a hot meal and cup of coffee to a first responder working during times of disaster, and we can provide a warm, safe place for someone experiencing homelessness when temperatures drop below freezing.”
To make a donation, or for more information about the warming station and inclement weather shelter, please call Salvation Army at 254-756-7271, visit the online at Waco Corps (salvationarmy.org), or stop by at 4271 W. Waco Dr.
By Josh Wucher
Stephanie Marsteller was not expecting a personal call from a popular Instagram personality with millions of followers after submitting an entry to the influencer’s holiday challenge. The G.W. Carver Indian Spring Middle School sixth-grade math teacher entered The Bucket List Family’s sneaky elf challenge to help give away thousands of dollars to help someone in need.
“The mother just really loved what I wrote,” Marsteller said about her submission, which explained the circumstances around the middle school’s merger after a fire destroyed the G.W. Carver campus in the summer of 2021.
“These are the kids I work with every day, and of course, I want to do anything I can for them. She Facetimed me to say how much she loves our story and wants to be part of it by helping our students.
Marsteller knew a perfect fit was to have the Gee family, the actual Bucket List family, sponsor 10 students in the school’s Winter Village program. Communities in Schools runs the adopt-a-student event, which aims to alleviate some of the stress of the holiday season by taking care of students’ gift wish lists.
“We know that the holiday season can be a difficult time for families in need,” Stefanie LeBlanc, CIS site coordinator, said. “For me, the holidays have always been about the kids, and I want our parents to know we are here to support them. My thought behind the Winter Village name is the quote, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’”
The program asks sponsors to provide at least one basic need and one want for a student. Requested items have included sheets, backpacks, clothes and food, with wants spanning skateboards to sports equipment, sketchbooks, books, games and puzzles. The program served six students when it started three years ago, then 26 students, followed by 36 last year.
“We’ve had a lot of support from the community and our teachers this year. It’s been awesome,” LeBlanc said. “When Mrs. Marsteller reached out about Instagram, I was so excited! With the help of staff, community partners, friends and family, we helped 50 kids. Everyone who applied was served.”
Doug McDurham, District 1 trustee, has resigned from the McLennan Community College Board of Trustees effective Jan. 1. The Board officially accepted McDurham’s resignation at its monthly meeting Dec. 8. McDurham was first elected to the Board Aug. 17, 2015, and resigned from the position due to moving out of the district.
“Board member Doug McDurham will be missed,” said MCC President Johnette McKown. “From his commitment to the success of our students to his advocacy of our employees, Doug has made a difference. His leadership is much appreciated. I wish him well in his new adventure.”
“Doug’s background as a social worker and professional experience in the food insecurity field made for terrific insight to the improvement of student services. We will miss his keen insight,” said MCC Board of Trustees’ Chair K. Paul Holt.
McDurham said it has “been an honor to serve” as a MCC trustee. “MCC is the best opportunity for many people in our community to improve their quality of life. My focus has been to support the college’s efforts to address the unique needs of diverse populations, as well as the needs of students who struggle to afford college. Our staff, faculty, and administration excel in providing a quality education that is also affordable and obtainable. I’m humbled to know I’ve been able to contribute to that effort.”
District 1 includes parts of North (including the area around the college) and East Waco. This includes the following precincts: 1, 9, 10, 12, 14, 17, 38, 39, 41 (partial), 42, 45, 46, 47, 54 (partial), 48, 88, and 89.
To hold the office of trustee, one must be a qualified voter, hold residency in the State of Texas for at least 12 months, reside in District 1 for six months before the day on which the appointment is made, serve without compensation, and take the proper oath of office before taking up the duties thereof.
The person appointed to fill the unexpired term by trustees for District 1 will serve until the expiration of the term in May 2023.
Applications will be available for download on the MCC’s website. Applications should be returned to the president’s office in person or electronically by email to Lindsey Vanek ([email protected]) no later than 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23. Interviews with current trustees will take place Feb. 13, and consideration and appointment of the new member will be Feb. 28.
By Baylor staff
The list of schools to make U.S. News‘ top 25 for both undergraduate teaching and undergraduate research is a short and impressive one – Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Duke, Elon, Michigan, and Baylor.
In their latest rankings, U.S. News put Baylor at No. 16 nationally for undergraduate teaching and No. 21 for undergraduate research/creative projects. No other Texas or Big 12 school made the top 25 in both categories; in fact, only Rice (No. 4 for teaching) and Texas (No. 19 for research) cracked the top 25 in either listing.
The teaching honor is nothing new for Baylor; undergraduate education has long been a hallmark of the university. Baylor’s growing research effort – as seen in the university’s recent R1 status – is making that undergraduate education even better, as professors bring cutting-edge knowledge gained in their research into the classroom, and undergrads get hands-on opportunities in labs across campus.
“It’s rewarding to have our peer institutions and others recognize Baylor’s high-quality undergraduate programs and how much we deeply value the undergraduate student experience,” said President Linda Livingstone. “Baylor is a Christian Research 1 university with a distinct and compelling mission, including providing our students with a transformational academic education and co-curricular experience that prepares the whole person for worldwide leadership and service.”
By Angela Daly
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and in the spirit of giving St. Jerome Catholic Church has teamed with H-E-B and Hello Bello for a free family-friendly Christmas giving event. The event, It’s All About a Baby, will be 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at the church campus.
Diapers, wipes, and sanitizer are among the giveaways to help families.
This inaugural event is open to the public and will feature photo opportunities with Santa, a surprise landing of the Airlift Waco chopper, festive treats, a bounce house, and complimentary supplies to celebrate the Christmas season at home.
Preparations for Christmas can be demanding for young families, so we wanted to bring them together for some family fun that is totally expense free.
Families are encouraged to attend the event for a day of entertainment along with giveaways of infant essentials – perhaps offering a little extra wiggle room in the family budget for treasures under the tree on Christmas Day.
Hello Bello has graciously contributed 350 packages of diapers, 1,000 packages of wipes and more than 1,000 bottles of hand sanitizer (‘tis the season for cold and flu)!
Texas grocery chain, H-E-B, is no stranger to philanthropy and generously donated $2,500, which the parish then used to purchase 350 more units of diapers and festive treats for attendees to enjoy at the event.
Giveaways will be available until supplies run out. St. Jerome Catholic Church is at 9820 Chapel Road, Woodway. For more information, visit StJeromeWaco.org or call 254-666-7722.
Angela Daly is director of preschool ministry at St. Jerome Catholic Church.