Waco MPO accepting comments on roadway, public transportation safety

The Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization is accepting comments on annual performance targets proposed for the Waco Metropolitan Area regarding:

1) roadway safety,

2) public transportation safety, and

3) public transportation asset condition.  

Transportation Performance Management is federally required by Congress through the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, according to a release from Mukesh Kumarm WMPO director. “It is a strategic approach that uses goals, measures, and data to make better informed decisions about how to invest transportation funding and improve the performance of the national transportation system.”   

The Waco MPO is proposing to support 2023 roadway safety targets established by the Texas Department of Transportation and to support 2023 public transportation safety and asset condition targets established by Waco Transit System, the release said. 

MPO is requesting public review and comment on the proposed targets. Information regarding these proposals is available on the Get Involved section of the MPO website: https://www.waco-texas.com/Departments/Metropolitan-Planning-Organization. Comments will be accepted for performance targets through 5 p.m. Feb. 8.  Comments should be submitted through the website or directed to the Waco MPO at [email protected] or (254) 750-5650. 

The MPO hosted a public informational meeting Tuesday, Jan. 31.  

If you were unable to attend the live meeting, a video recording and PDF of the staff presentation are available on the website listed above until the comment periods close.

“The Addams Family” to be featured at Feb. 23 Hearts in the Arts Theatre Gala

Reservations are open for the 21st Annual Hearts in the Arts Gala sponsored by the McLennan Community College Foundation. This year’s gala on Feb. 23 features a McLennan Theatre performance of “The Addams Family-A New Musical” at the MCC Ball Performing Arts Center. 

Tickets are $100 each and include drinks and dining at 6 p.m. and the performance at 7:30 p.m. Dessert will be served at intermission. Tables for eight are $800 and include preferred dinner seating.

Guests will be transported to the Addams’ ethereal Central Park mansion for an evening hosted by the most macabre family in the neighborhood. Wednesday Addams, daughter to the delightfully spooky Gomez and Morticia, has invited her new boyfriend, Lucas, and his parents over for dinner. There is only one catch: Lucas is a well-mannered suitor from Ohio who does not have a ghoulish bone in his body. Musical comedy carnage ensues as Gomez and Morticia try to persuade the family to act “normal” for Wednesday’s sake. Also appearing are familiar Uncle Fester, devious brother Pugsley, stoic butler Lurch, and the ever-helpful Thing. 

The McLennan production will be directed by Kelly Parker and choreographed by Joe Taylor and will feature elaborate costuming and sets to immerse the audience in the Addams Family vibe. Honorary Hearts in the Arts Chair Nell Hawkins will host the evening as the elegant Morticia Addams.

Hearts in the Arts is an affinity group of the MCC Foundation that supports the arts at McLennan. All proceeds from the gala benefit McLennan scholarships and special projects benefitting visual and performing arts students and faculty.

Gala reservations are due by Feb. 16. For more information, visit www.mclennan.edu/foundation/hearts. To make reservations, contact the McLennan Community College Foundation at 254-299-8604 or [email protected]

MCC unveils new logo through rebranding project

McLennan Community College has unveiled a new logo as part of its ongoing project to unify its brand and create an identity that portrays the value of an MCC education and the focus on student success, a news release said. 

The College partnered with World Design Marketing, “a firm with extensive higher education experience,” the release said. “WDM researched the college and held numerous workshops with students, employees, the Board of Trustees, and community leaders to gain understanding of the college.”

The new logo combines features that reflect MCC’s history, location, and values. “The outer ‘M’ represents the Bosque River, where the campus is nestled along the banks, and the greater Waco family. The inner ‘M’ signifies the culture of the college as the MCC Family. The chevron heart ties back to the McLennan Family Crest and represents the students and their families.”

Transformation Waco receives $2.5M Department of Education grant

Full-Service Community Schools Program grant will support expansion of school-wide wraparound services and creation of new programming to meet student needs.

By Josh Wucher

Transformation Waco announced Friday it is a recipient of a $2.5 million Department of Education Full-Service Community Schools Program grant for its Community Alliance: A Waco-Driven Solution to School Improvement project. The grant will enable TW to expand its community schools model and establish new programs to increase students’ and families’ access to social, emotional, mental health, and academic support.  

“From our inception, TW’s community school model has been foundational to helping students grow academically and improve their well-being,” said Robin McDurham, TW’s CEO. “We treat schools as neighborhood hubs that bring together academics, youth development, family and community engagement with an infusion of wraparound health and social services. The FSCS grant funding will help sustain our integrated systems across schools and help us fulfill our mission to educate all students through data-driven instruction and holistic support.”

Every TW campus has a coordination of care team that assesses a student’s holistic needs, provides direct services and makes referrals to community partners who bring services into school buildings. The Community Alliance project will see a consortium of six community partners work alongside campus teams to follow the four pillars of the FSCS model.

The six organizations are Communities In Schools of the Heart of Texas, Inspiración, Prosper Waco, Waco Family Medicine, Waco Housing Authority, and the Waco Police Department. Their work includes health, mental health, early childhood, housing, dropout and juvenile crime prevention, and adult education and employment.

“We are grateful for the vital support of these existing partners,” Dr. McDurham said. “Together with our campus teams and these strong community partnerships, we will use every tool at our disposal to meet the unique needs of the students, families and communities we serve.”

Grant funding will enrich the following programs and services:

1)    Collaborative family engagement groups led by Grassroots Community Development will expand from two elementary campuses to three schools. Staff-led parent focus groups develop family-friendly campus cultures and equip parents with resources to engage in their child’s education.

2)    Community Youth Development programs will continue providing juvenile delinquency prevention services to groups in middle schools and one elementary school through after-school programming.

3)    Early childhood programming for at-risk Latinos on the Alta Vista campus through Inspiración will add personnel and expand programming from four days to five days a week – providing programming to ten cohorts and serving an additional 12-16 children and families weekly.

4)    Telehealth medical and behavior/mental health services through a partnership with Waco Family Medicine will expand counseling and health consultations for students.

5)    An annual Vision Fest event to supplement the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Vision Center that provides free eye exams and glasses to all Waco ISD students ages 6+. Following a similar event in 2019, a new Rapoport Vision Fest aims to serve approximately 300 students with screenings, eyeglasses and any necessary follow-up referrals in a single day with collaboration from the community and optometrist offices.

6)    The National Police Athletic/Activities Leagues, Inc. (PALs) Pilot Program is an initiative through the Waco Police Department that provides mentorship, service, athletics, recreational enrichment, educational opportunities and resources in the prevention of juvenile crime and violence. This program will serve a single campus in year one and add a secondary campus in year two.

7)    The School Readiness Initiative will launch at the Estella Maxey Place Apartments East Waco housing complex in the fall of 2023. The program will use the “Parents as Teachers” curriculum to serve up to twelve families with children ages infant to four every week. Families will attend a weekly cohort training at a centralized apartment unit. 

8)    Service-learning projects are new enrichment opportunities that offer students experiential education. Students will design objectives to address a community problem, seek out community involvement and develop problem-solving skills. Thirty students at one elementary and one middle school will participate weekly in year one. By year two of the grant, projects will expand to all TW campuses.

9)    Prosper Waco’s UpSkill Employment Training Courses will be provided to TW families. UpSkill Waco is an initiative to increase equitable workforce training pathways in high-demand, high-paying occupations across McLennan County by offering skills training, credentials and job placement.

“This is an ambitious project with multiple goals,” McDurham said. “We will support students with integrated wraparound services and opportunities for enriched learning; provide comprehensive support and rigorous interventions to address chronic absenteeism and prepare students academically; operate school campuses in collaboration with family and community involvement; and utilize collaborative leadership to drive TW decisions.” 

This week, the Department of Education announced $63 million in new FSCS grants across 42 local educational agencies, non-profits or other public or private organizations and institutions of higher education to expand existing community schools or establish new programs. This year’s grant competition received the most applications in the program’s history, with almost half of the cohort being first-time grantees. 

Answering the call to jury duty in McLennan County

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.

McLennan Steinway Series to present Yoon & Terry in concert

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 to feature area artists in exhibition

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.

Now’s a good time to get involved

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.

Pediatric patients at Waco Family Medicine receive gifts for Christmas

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 donated gifts for pediatric patients of Waco Family Medicine.

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.

Salvation Army opens warming station, emergency shelter during cold snap

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.