Arrow Child and Family Ministries

By: Hope Middlebrook

There is always something exciting going on in the foster care world! And fall is especially busy. If you’ve been wanting to get plugged in, now is the time to hop in!

Arrow is a child-placement agency for foster kids. In McLennan County alone, there are around 800 children in the foster system. When there are not enough homes for them, they are referred to as a CWOP (child without placement) and are often housed in CPS conference rooms or hotel rooms. Here at Arrow, we believe the best place for a child to grow up is in a family. We work each day to make sure that every foster child is placed in a loving and healthy home, one where they can grow and heal!
Does this sound like something you might want to know more about? Join us for our next Orientation, this October 26th at 6 pm. This low commitment Zoom class will tell you everything you need to know about foster care and Arrow.

Need more information first? Arrow Child and Family is pleased to announce we will be partnering with Nightlight Christian Adoptions for a monthly book club. Our kickoff meetup is at 1 pm on October 23rd at Glory Bell Coffee. We will be discussing the first half of Foster the Family.

Additionally, Waco’s Families and Foster Care Coalition will be hosting a multi-agency informational meeting on November 2nd. We would love to see you there!

It’s a great time to learn more about foster care! Contact Hope Middlebrook at [email protected] to learn about how to get involved. Whether you want to be a foster parent or get more information on how to donate to the kids in our community, we can all do something!

Arrow Child and Family Ministries is a child-placement agency committed to finding quality, loving homes for foster children. They were established in 1993 and have been a leader in the field ever since.

Be sure to tune in to the “Act Locally Waco” podcast! In their latest episode, they delve into the state of foster care in the city of Waco, shedding light on crucial insights and discussing ways you can make a positive impact. For a full and informative interview on Waco’s foster care system, featuring Hope Middlebrook from Arrow Child & Family Ministries, check out the podcast here! It’s an excellent resource to learn more about this important community initiative.


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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.

There is a secret password to Waco engagement

By Ferrell Foster

Raise your hand if you know Ashley Bean Thornton. OK. That’s virtually everyone who, over the past 14 years, have worked to make Waco its best self.

2019 photo of Ashley just being herself

I had lunch with Ashley the other day, and that’s always fun and enlightening. Ashley is the “birth mother” of Act Locally Waco. She has pushed ALW out of the “house,” but it still has her community DNA.

Ashley reminded me of something. She always wanted ALW to be about “informed engagement.” It was not to just be a bulletin board of what is going on in Waco; it was to help people learn ways to get engaged in our community.

I’m going to lead ALW for a while, once again, and I want to keep Ashley’s words uppermost in my mind. Anyone leading ALW only has a limited amount of time to devote to it, and that goes for me, as well. So, while we can’t do everything people might like, we want to push forward information that promotes community engagement. 

And ALW is not the only local source for such info. We love our local newspaper, KWBU 103.3 FM, and a bunch of local websites and media outlets.

From ALW’s start, people in the community have helped contribute content. I encourage you to help us out. Send information, especially suggested blog posts, to us at [email protected].

Please partner with us. The secret password to Waco engagement is “Ashley.”

Ferrell Foster is president of Kortabocker LLC: Communications Built on Caring. He is a former member of the Act Locally Waco Board of Directors and has helped post information to ALW at different times. He is also the former care and communications specialist with Prosper Waco. Contact ALW and Ferrell through [email protected]

The Best Way to Share Your Events to Act Locally Waco

Ashley Bean Thornton started Act Locally Waco with the mission of being a central hub of information to help spread awareness of news and events. So what do we feature and what are the best ways to be featured by Act Locally Waco?

What kind of events does Act Locally Waco share?

  • Free or low cost events that are family friendly
  • Educational opportunities
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Charity events
  • Live music, trivia nights, & festivals

What kind of events will not be approved by Act Locally Waco?

  • Political events
  • Sales for private businesses
  • Events located outside of Waco
  • Events that are not family friendly

Ways to be featured

  • Act Locally Waco Blog
    • How to be featured: Email our Director of Communications at [email protected] any event details and ideally an event link to either a website or a landing page. We need to be able to copy the text so short press releases are helpful but PDF documents that can’t be highlighted and copied are not helpful. JPG or PNG files are also not helpful because we can’t easily copy the text.
  • The Whole Enchilada, The Act Locally Waco email newsletter
    • How to be featured: Email our Director of Communications at [email protected] any event details and ideally an event link to either a website or a landing page.
  • Act Locally Waco Facebook Page
    • Make Act Locally Waco an event co-host so that we are informed of the event and so it shows up on our profile.
    • Email our Director of Communications at [email protected] with a Facebook event link, we can’t share PDFs or long press releases on Facebook.
  • The Act Locally Waco segment on KWBU
    • How to be featured: Email our Director of Communications at [email protected] any event details. We will share a few events that are going on that week.

We can’t always feature your events if we don’t receive the right format. If you need help with sharing your event information, please email our Director of Communication at [email protected].

Jillian Ohriner to lead Act Locally Waco communications

The Act Locally Waco Board of Directors has contracted with Jillian Ohriner to serve as communications director for at least the next six months. This is great news for ALW and for the thousands of Wacoans who depend on ALW to stay up to date on what is happening in our community.

Jillian Ohriner

Jillian is a co-founder of We Grow the Co, a local website design and social media management firm specializing in small businesses and nonprofits. She previously served as manager of operations for Start Up Waco and marketing manager for Merck Assets. Jillian has also been highly involved with ALW in volunteer capacities, including as a founding member of our board. She stepped down from the board in order to take this position.

As ALW communications director, Jillian will coordinate all ALW communications efforts, including our website, social media, and newsletter, The WHOLE Enchilada. She will also supervise the work of our other contract worker, Debbie Wright, as well as various volunteers. 

ALW Board Chair Cuevas Peacock said: “Jillian is true asset to our city. Through her work with We Grow the Co and other community efforts she has greatly enhanced the multimedia presence of a host of Waco businesses and nonprofits. We are excited for her taking this role with Act Locally Waco, and the growth she will bring to the organization.” Cuevas is an assistant director in Baylor’s External Affairs office.

Act Locally Waco continues to build on the foundation of its founder, Ashley Bean Thornton, who still serves as an advisor to the board. Ashley birthed ALW and built it into a leading source for information about what is happening in our community and how to get involved. Ashley retired as ALW executive director at the end of 2020, and Ferrell Foster served as acting executive director this year through October.

“It has been a pleasure to serve Waco through Act Locally Waco this year,” said Ferrell, care and communication specialist with Prosper Waco. “Ashley provided ALW with one-of-a-kind leadership, and now the board of directors is working to sustain and develop ALW’s role in our community. I will continue as an ALW volunteer and member of the board to do my part in supporting this important work. We are very fortunate to have Jillian in this new role.”

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 Ferrell Foster.

Act Locally Waco seeking temporary communications director

By Ferrell Foster

It has been a privilege serving as acting executive director of Act Locally Waco since January, but it is time for me to step aside from this volunteer leadership role.

The ALW Board of Directors, I’m happy to announce, has decided to secure a paid Communications Director to work on a contract basis in order to oversee the daily operations of the entire ALW platform — newsletter, website, and social media. The role is expected to require about 10 hours of work per week and will be temporary until the board determines its long-term direction by mid-year 2022.

Here are ALW’s expectations for the role:

The Communications Director will coordinate all ALW communications efforts as listed in the following “deliverables”:


Provide direction to all ALW communications efforts

Coordinate work on ALW website and newsletter

Cultivate relationships with a diverse group of contributors in order to identify ways that ALW could provide support in strengthening their platform

Guide content development and approach, including deciding what is or is not appropriate for use on ALW platforms

Guide the work of ALW’s volunteer social media and blog administrators

Direct and facilitate the work of the Communications Services contractor

Evaluate messages and photos for appropriateness with respect to balanced viewpoints and an emphasis on community engagement

Recommend potential items for inclusion in The WHOLE Enchilada newsletter

Edit the “Happy Friday” copy written for the newsletter

Approve release of each newsletter as shared via a MailChimp test

Approve any changes to the newsletter format

Send to CS contractor raw copy for “Events” website page

Send to CS contractor raw copy for “Jobs/Jobs Related’ website page

Send to CS contractor raw copy for “Announcements” website page

Direct and facilitate blog posting on website

Recruit blog writers

Anticipate needed topics

Edit blog copy as needed

Support blog posting by ALW’s volunteer blog administrator

Facilitate ALW social media efforts

Support social media efforts in conjunction with ALW’s volunteer social media administrator

Promote community engagement:

Arrange or support in-person attendance at community events as possible

Recruit subscribers to The WHOLE Enchilada and followers of ALW on Facebook and Instagram

To apply:

Interested persons should send an email and resume to ALW Board Chair Cuevas Peacock at [email protected]. The Board is planning to move quickly on this appointment. Resumes should be submitted by Oct. 27.

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior specialist for care & communication with Prosper Waco.

Service to others brings all kinds of joy

By Ferrell Foster

The murmur of the television filtered through the wall separating me from it, but another noise tickled my soul. My adult daughter, Tabitha, spoke over the TV voices. Music to the soul has a different rhythm and cadence than music for the ears; my daughter spoke to my soul because she was speaking to my mother’s ears.

My 92-year-old mother is virtually blind, seeing what I suspect are only hazy images. She can see enough to walk around our house with a little bit of guidance, but she cannot see the images on a television. 

During Thursday night’s Dallas Cowboys football game, my mother sat with focused attention gazing at the TV. Every once in a while when the camera zoomed in on a helmet, she blurted out, “There’s the star,” but mostly she sat staring at the screen’s brightness.

In the midst of this, Tabitha provided the necessary play-by-play commentary so Mom would know what was going on. TV announcers speak with the assumption you can see the basics of what is happening; a blind person needs more.

Mom has been a Cowboys fan for about 57 years, almost as long as they have been a franchise. One year, about 1964, we attended the State Fair of Texas and the Cowboys were playing a game that day at the Cotton Bowl, which was inside the fairgrounds. Dad and I were able to beg Mom and my sister to go to the game with us.

The Cowboys were just becoming good; they were a long way from becoming America’s Team. But mother became a fan that day. We ended up attending virtually every home game, and we even met Don Meredith, a distant cousin, and his dad after one of the games. 

Mother was and is a super fan. As a kid I would see my mother jump and scream and clap for the Cowboys as she would for nothing else. She still came close to jumping and screaming Thursday when she caught a glimpse of the now famous star on the helmets. She’s blind, but she still wants to “watch” Cowboys games.

So Tabitha gave Mom a great gift by telling her all that was happening in the game.

Virtually all of us need help with something, but we don’t always have someone to help us. There are needs throughout this community that are crying out for residents to help meet them. No one of us can help with all of those needs, but we can plug in to make a difference in one challenge.

Ashley Bean Thornton started Act Locally Waco to help residents enjoy Waco and get involved. We are still trying to do that. We share fun things, but we also tell other things that are happening so residents can get involved and make a difference.

If you see some community need on Act Locally Waco or elsewhere and your heart strings tug, get involved. If we all did one thing for others on a regular basis we would make a huge difference in the lives around us. And all of us need help with something either now or in the future.

It may not seem like a big deal to do the play-by-play for a blind person, but for a sightless person who cares about the Cowboys, it can mean the world. Little things can do that. And my daughter will always remember helping her grandmother enjoy the simple pleasures of “watching” a football game. Shoot, Tabitha, a Green Bay Packers fan, even used the “we” in talking about Mom’s team. Now that’s saying a lot, but little things matter.

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Act Locally Waco brings people together

By Ferrell Foster

This has been a shocking week in our national history. Act Locally Waco is focused on Waco, but most of us have been a bit stunned this week as Americans.

In such divisive times, a communication tool like Act Locally Waco is more important than ever. Those of us involved in ALW — the board members, volunteers, and interns — believe in Waco and the people of this great city. We are so committed to Greater Waco, that we invest our time in service to it and want to help it achieve its great potential.

Waco has its various neighborhoods, religious bodies, businesses, and nonprofits, but we also need to promote our connectedness as we pursue the common good. Act Locally Waco is committed to that common good.

This has been the first week in ALW’s history that Ashley Thornton has not been at the head of Act Locally Waco. She has stepped down as executive director, but she is still our founder and very much a part of the heart of ALW.

I will serve for a time as acting executive director, and all of us involved with Act Locally Waco will be working to uphold its trusted place in our community.

So, while some things divide people, I’m confident we can also come together and continue the work of building the best Waco possible. 

It is the community members who contribute to ALW that make it what it is, so please help us tell the stories and share the information about what is happening in our town. I’m an email away — [email protected].

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

New Year – New Beginnings: You can help!

By Catherine Haynes Bauer

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

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

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

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

With gratitude and hope,

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

Thank you for letting me give you a little something from my heart

By Ashley Bean Thornton

It’s a cliché to say that the giver receives more than the getter when it comes to community work – but despite the best efforts of dozens of English teachers in my life – I can’ think of any better way to start these musings than to acknowledge that universal truth.    If you are reading this post you are no doubt at least familiar with Act Locally Waco, hopefully you are one of our dedicated readers! I started Act Locally Waco in 2008 and it has been my main form of “community service” ever since.  I hope you are enjoying it! I doubt you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you.

Ashley Bean Thornton with one of the scholars from the Transformation Waco AfterSchool Academies

In January I am stepping back from leading Act Locally Waco.  Don’t worry – ALW is not going anywhere! I am leaving it capable hands!  I’m not going anywhere either.  I am excited to be able to focus my energies on the Transformation Waco AfterSchool Academy – a part-time job that has become a passion.

Even though I am looking forward to handing over the reins to ALW, I hope you will indulge me in a little reminiscing and a little philosophizing as I turn the page on one chapter and look forward to the next.

My family moved around quite a bit when I was growing up – I had lived at 18 different addresses by the time I was 18.  Although we lived for quite a while in Baytown, Texas, where I graduated high school, I never really felt like I had a hometown.  Maybe that’s why I didn’t get involved in any particular community until pretty late in life – in my 40’s.  When I did finally start getting involved, that community was Waco.  I’ve now lived here far longer than any other place I have lived in my life.  It’s not technically my hometown – but it’s the closest I will ever have to one!

Until I started getting involved in Waco, the communities and cities where I lived were just backdrops to my life.  I might not have liked everything about a particular place, but it never occurred to me to care enough to try to build or change things to make it better.  I was a consumer of community – if I didn’t like something, well, that was someone else’s fault.  “They” needed to fix it!   The biggest thing I have learned through Act Locally Waco is that there is no “They” — only “We.”  If WE want our community to be better in some way, then WE need to get moving.   Loving a community comes from taking responsibility for it, from looking at it as a creator, not as a consumer.

When I moved to Waco, now more than twenty years ago, Waco was a different place.  You can see some of the differences – think back to the Austin and Elm Avenues of 1996!  But for me the biggest difference is less tangible. Then I saw Waco as OK, but maybe boring.  Now it hums with energy, creativity, friendship. I think what changed is my perception of my community.

It is my nature to be an observer more than a do-er.   Maybe that’s why when I finally decided to get involved in my community, I chose to do something that allowed me a panoramic view.  Through Act Locally Waco I’ve had a front row seat to observe artists, entrepreneurs, city council, the police, the Public Health District, the schools, a jillion non-profits – and that’s just part of the list!  I’ve observed people giving every kind of gift from picking up trash, to painting a mural, to starting a business, to writing a 40-year comprehensive plan for the city.    It has opened my eyes to the glorious complexity of 138,183 people living and working together.   

As I shift my focus from Act Locally Waco to AfterSchool I want to remember some of the things I have learned.

Do something – We all need the superheroes who do amazing things – the mayors and elected leaders and superintendents and presidents and executive directors – but in addition to that we need the collective power of everyone doing something: picking up litter one Saturday, tutoring one child, buying art from a local artist, eating at a local restaurant.  A couple of thousand of us doing a little something gets more done than any one person could possibly get done on his or her own.   

Start small and keep going – Think about the kind of community you want to live in, then do the smallest thing you can think of to move Waco in that direction.  The smallest thing we actually do is more powerful than the biggest thing we daydream about, but never start.   If you want a walkable community, take walk, then read a book about walking, then go to a meeting about walking, then, then, then.  If you want better education, run through some flashcards with your kid, then tutor another kid, then read an article about the school board in the paper, then vote for a school board rep, then join the PTA, then, then, then….

Get to know people who are different from you – Get to know people who are richer and poorer, people with skin a different color from yours, people with different political beliefs, different jobs, a different church or a different kind of faith.  You don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but a healthy network of loose connections that cross boundaries is the secret sauce to being able to get things done as a community.

Say thanks more often than you complain – People are working hard and putting their heart into our community.  “They” are not “they” – they are us.

And with that final point in mind, Thank you!  Thank you for all you are doing to make our community great!  Thank you for reading Act Locally Waco and getting involved! Thank you for writing blog posts and sharing Facebook posts and standing with me under a tent when it was 100 degrees outside signing up subscribers. Thank you for donating. Thank you for coming to book club and going on walks. Thank you for coming to events because you heard us talking about them on KWBU. Thank you for talking to one of our interns. Thank you for BEING one of our interns. Thank you for buying and wearing a T-shirt. Thank you for getting your picture taken in the Big Orange Frame. Thank you for all the gifts you have given me!  Thank you for being my community!   Looking forward to seeing you in the New Year!

Beginning January 1, 2021, the Interim Executive Director of Act Locally Waco will be Ferrell Foster. Ferrell’s “day job” is being the Content Specialist for Care and Communication at Prosper Waco. He is a graduate of East Texas State University in Commerce, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, where he earned his doctorate focusing on African American perspectives on justice. A native of Dallas, Dr. Foster has spent most of his professional life as an ethics and justice advocate and communications leader, including time as editor of three publications. His email is [email protected].

This Act Locally Waco blog post is by Ashley Bean Thornton, she founded Act Locally Waco in 2008 and now works for Transformation Waco helping to coordinate afterschool programs.  She likes to walk and write highly questionable stories about Waco History. She spends an outrageous amount of time at Whataburger.   

 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.