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 (, or stop by at 4271 W. Waco Dr.

Compassion Waco announces new executive director — Amanda Samaniego

By Emily Iazzetti

For the first time in more than 20 years, the only transitional housing facility for families in Central Texas will have new leadership. Amanda Samaniego will become executive director of Compassion Waco in October.

Amanda Samaniego

The Compassion Board of Directors started the official search for a new executive director this summer after Executive Director Jill McCall announced plans to retire. Finding the right person committed to help homeless families was fundamental.

“Amanda’s work experience and her volunteer experience showed us she has a true heart for the work at
Compassion,” Board President Debbie Luce said. “She has a heart for helping others and understands how important Compassion is in our community.”

A Waco native, Samaniego returned to the Waco area eight years ago and brings corporate experience to the position, including five years at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. However, with a master’s degree in public administration, her heart has always been in the nonprofit sector. Samaniego said she has a calling to help reach struggling parents, especially women, and to help them find their potential.

After her husband died when her daughter was 3 years old, Samaniego spent 13 years as a single mom rebuilding her own life.

“I feel strongly that my personal story helps me understand the guilt and the shame that can come with
struggling when you are a parent,” Samaniego said. “When you have a child to raise, and you feel like you
don’t know how to do it, it is hard. I hope that I will be able to support the parents at Compassion as they
work to build better lives for their kids.”

McCall has led the Compassion organization since 1999 and oversaw the building and fundraising for Hope House, a 14-apartment facility, in the early years of her tenure. McCall will stay with Compassion in an advisory role through the beginning of 2023.

Compassion is a transitional housing program and facility for homeless families in Central Texas. Started in 1994 by a group of local pastors and community leaders, Compassion has worked to serve Waco’s
homeless community. In 1995, the organization began housing homeless families and became the only
transitional housing facility for families in the area. With on-site case management and a dedicated team of community volunteer “co-partners,” Compassion has a program to help families end the cycle of

AFP chapter inspires, connects to help fundraising professionals

By Kim Patterson

In recent months, the Waco Tribune-Herald has featured two articles about struggling Waco nonprofits that are changing their business models to merge with larger, outside organizations to ensure their sustainability. While their missions remain the same, these changes in local leadership mark a major shift for these groups that have worked tirelessly to serve critical needs in our community for decades. These organizations are not gone, but reading about their situations still feels a little like a death, or at least a serious illness, in the family. 

Do a quick Google search for “Nonprofits after COVID” and you’ll get a whopping 25 million results. For many, the fallout from the pandemic — closed businesses, skyrocketing unemployment, stay-at-home orders, eliminated fundraising events —  has exposed cracks in the underpinnings of the usual ways of doing business for nonprofit organizations. 

For those that provide direct services like food, clothing, and shelter, the pandemic spurred an increase in charitable giving but also a dramatic increase in need for services. For others that rely on fundraisers to fund operations, a return to in-person events brings hope but the stark realization that it may take years to return to “normal.”  

It is indeed a new landscape for organizations that rely on fundraising to support their work, and it is fair to say that those who work in the nonprofit sector have faced a difficult and unpredictable year. Fundraising is a tough job even in the best of times. When times are hard like they have been, support from peers is essential. 

To this end, the Central Texas Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals is extending its hand to those who seek support with a membership event on Thursday, Aug. 12: Cocktails and Conversation. Anyone who works in the nonprofit sector is invited to learn more about this organization that meets monthly for networking, creative inspiration, and educational training. 

Recent trainings have provided solid takeaways about “The Art of Making the Ask,” “Using Data for Successful Fundraising,” “Diversity and Equity for Nonprofits,” and “Virtual Fundraising Events.” Membership in AFP Global gives members access to resources and tools from top fundraisers from around the world, an online idea sharing platform, as well as the ability to pursue the Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) credential. 

If you are a fundraising professional, executive director, staff member, or volunteer working in the nonprofit sector, please join us for Cocktails and Conversation 4:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 12, at One Day Bar in Downtown Waco. Reservations are encouraged, and the first 25 registrants will receive a ticket for a free drink. That covers the cocktails — and we guarantee the conversation will leave you feeling welcome, supported, and inspired to move your nonprofit organization forward in this new day. 

Kim Patterson is president of the Central Texas Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and she serves as executive director of McLennan Community College Foundation and the Office of Institutional Advancement. Patterson is a graduate of Baylor University with undergraduate degrees in journalism and marketing and of Tarleton State University with a master’s degree in management and leadership. She and her husband, Frank, have two grown children and enjoy camping, fishing, and hiking.

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].

United Way helps us dig deep for our community

By Dan Ingham

For almost a century United Way of Waco-McLennan County has worked to address the needs and provide services for individuals and families in our community. In 2017 we centralized that work to focus on the areas of health, education, financial stability, and safety net services. 

This focus of need can come in many forms. It could be ensuring our most vulnerable families have access to food and nutrition, assisting victims of abuse, helping young adults who do not have a home to go to at night, counseling support for mental health issues, or a wide variety of many other services.

The work and commitment of your United Way has remained steadfast to core principles of community need, community investment, community will. We ensure philanthropic dollars are strategically invested in the areas of greatest need through high-impact programming, and that the granting of those dollars is led by Community Investment Councils and guided by rigorous standards of reporting and accountability. 

Responding to COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic surfaced this past spring the immediate needs throughout our community quickly became much more serious and wide-spread. Many families were suddenly put in the new position of not having the income they once had, and for many the needs spiraled out of control. Suddenly, there were a higher number of concerns about meeting the very basics of feeding a family, paying the rent and utilities, and finding childcare so that parents could work. 

By the end of April, United Way of Waco–McLennan County and Waco Foundation provided lead gifts and partnered to create the COVID-19 Community Response Fund. Within 90 days, the fund provided more than a quarter of a million dollars to support the work of our nonprofit community that was being asked, in real time, to quickly rise to the challenge of meeting these needs. Through the generosity of local companies and many individuals, our community rose to the occasion.

While thousands of people were helped, the pandemic continues, new needs arise, and long-term needs compound. The needs are greater than ever. That is what makes the success of this year’s United Way Annual Campaign even more critical.  United Way knows that our primary obligation is to ensure our nonprofit partners have the support they need to do the hard work we ask them to do and need them to do — every day.

Nonprofits need your support to continue providing services

United Way’s 22 Funded Partners and 33 funded programs rely on funding from contributions to the Annual Campaign to continue meeting needs throughout the coming year. These organizations have already missed out on numerous fundraising opportunities in 2020 and have lost critical operating dollars.  

Here is what we know to be true. In August of this year, 82% of Texas nonprofits reported to United Ways of Texas, our state association, that they were experiencing a reduction in revenue due to the cancellation of programs and events. Alongside that inability to fundraise, 62% of these same nonprofits reported an increase in demand for client services. These findings are in direct alignment to a local survey United Way of Waco-McLennan County commissioned this fall. 81% of McLennan County families say the pandemic has had a direct impact on their finances, and 63% are concerned about their mental health.  

These findings confirm what we know to be true—our trusted nonprofits are being asked to do more with less. Each agency has had to make financial adjustments to simply make it through the year. I understand quite well that this is no different than what many other businesses in our community are facing right now. Yet, when our neighbors, whose income is negatively affected because of business disruptions, find themselves in need of assistance, where do they turn for help?  Many look to nonprofit organizations like United Way’s Funded Partners.

Together, we can rise to meet this challenge

This year’s United Way Annual Campaign has faced many new challenges, much like our community at-large. Some of our long-time supporters are just not in the position to help as they have before. Others have stepped up their support because they are able. Through it all, United Way recognizes and appreciates every contribution, no matter its size.

Our community has risen to meet whatever challenges are facing us many times before. As one community we will persevere and find a way to take care of our neighbors in need. United Way and our Funded Partners must help those who have little hope for the future. United Way is needed now more than ever. Your support is appreciated more than ever, and yes, needed more than ever.

To give and learn more, visit 

Dan Ingham is resource development chair of United Way of Waco-McLennan County and vice president of communications & marketing at The First National Bank of Central Texas. 

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Ways to Give Back This Holiday Season

There’s no better way to spread holiday cheer than volunteering in your local community! Volunteering and donating are a great way to get into the spirit of giving. Read on for some ways you can give back to the Waco community this holiday season.

The Salvation Army Waco

The Salvation Army is famous for its ubiquitous red kettles and bell ringers outside of stores during the holiday season, and this year is no different, despite the challenges of COVID-19. The Red Kettle Campaign is the one of the Salvation Army’s biggest fundraising events of the year, and the money collected in the kettles goes directly to programs and services that help people right here in McLennan County. The Salvation Army needs bell ringers until December 24. To pick a date, time, and location to ring, visit To ensure the safety of bell ringers and donors, masks will be required at the kettles and touchless payment options like Apple Pay and Google Pay will be available.

If you’d rather stay at home, you can take the Virtual Red Kettle Challenge right from your couch! Set up your own kettle online, and you’ll receive a personalized link to share with friends and family so they can “fill” your kettle. Take the Red Kettle Challenge here.

Volunteers are also needed at the Salvation Army Community Kitchen now through January to serve meals, including the traditional holiday meal on Christmas Day. To help out at the community kitchen, sign up at or call 254-756-7271.

The Salvation Army Waco is also hosting the Rescue Christmas Run this year. Sign up for the run at here and run (or walk or bike) for good! 

You can also help out by shopping the Salvation Army Toy Registry and making Christmas special for Waco children in need. Take a look at the registry here, then ship or bring toys to The Salvation Army, 4721 W. Waco Dr, Waco, TX 76710.

Lastly, you can donate money directly to the Salvation Army Waco by visiting

Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry

Help make Christmas a truly joyful holiday for all Waco kids! Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry is hosting their annual “Toys from the Heart” toy drive and need donations to help provide for families in Waco. They need toys of all kinds for kids in grades K-12. For more information, click here or call 254-213-7833. For a list of drop off locations, click here.

Family Abuse Center

Make the holidays bright for survivors of domestic violence and their children! Family Abuse Center is working to make this holiday season feel special and comforting to survivors with their “Holiday Helpless Gift List.” They need toys for children and household and personal items for adults. A full list of needed items can be found here. Bring unwrapped items to Family Abuse Center now through December 18. For more information about donating and dropping off, call 254-772-8999.

Becca Muncy is an Act Locally intern from Dallas. She is studying professional writing at Baylor University and is completing her senior year.

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.

2018 Greatest Hits #9: Faith in Action Initiatives provides medical supplies & equipment for non-profits

(During these last few weeks of December we will be reprising the Top 10 Most Opened Blog Posts for 2018 from the Act Locally Waco blog. I couldn’t possibly pick my favorites – so I used the simple (cop out?)  approach of pulling up the 10 blog posts that got the most “opens” according to our Google Analytics.  It is an intriguing collection that gives at least a little insight into the interests and concerns of Act Locally Waco readers. I hope this “Top 10” idea inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… If you would like to see the Top 10 according to Google Analytics, here’s the link: Top 10 Most Opened Blog Posts of 2018.  Merry Christmas! — ABT) 

By Matthew Hoffman

Faith In Action Initiatives (FIAI) is the medical missions and humanitarian aid arm of Baylor Scott & White Health. FIAI is a source of medical supplies, equipment and furniture donations to nonprofit charitable organizations. My name is Matthew Hoffman.  I am the FIAI strategy coordinator in Waco who established the center following the merger of Baylor Health Care System and Scott & White Healthcare in 2013.

FIAI offers many programs, but one of its primary initiatives is its Second Life Resource Center at 3000 Herring Avenue in Waco. FIAI receives items from nonprofits, for-profit businesses, and members of the community. Items include wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and basic medical goods. Each week, shipments of medical supplies, equipment and furniture are processed, sorted and shelved by staff and volunteers for donation to local and international non-profit charitable organizations. Donation recipients include medical clinics, medical missions, churches, transitional living facilities, educational institutions, and humanitarian aid organizations. Our Second Life Resource Center serves the Waco, College Station, Temple, Austin and Hill Country regions.

Why does Faith In Action do this? We do this, first and foremost, because we care about people and we want to see people cared for. It is our hope to help elevate access to health care by coming alongside these nonprofit organizations and supplying their resource needs as we are able. When there are so many good nonprofit, charitable organizations within our communities who are bringing loving, compassionate care to others, we want to help resource their needs. By doing this, these nonprofits are better able to reallocate their funds to other projects and expand their own work when they aren’t having to pay for items that we are able to freely give to them. The end result of this is that we hope to help create healthier communities.

My hope is that Faith In Action – Central Texas will become increasingly recognized as a “one-stop shop” for resourcing nonprofit needs in the area. In its first year, FIAI’s Central Texas division was able to give away more than $250,000 worth of goods to local and international humanitarian aid efforts, and is on target to exceed $1 million in total donations.

The initiatives also help reduce waste. If we can give to a homeless shelter or a transitional living facility a perfectly good bed, or a pregnancy help center baby formula and diapers, or a charitable clinic basic goods that serve low income areas, instead of throwing these items away and filling up our landfills, we will give it away to good people every time.

Beyond serving local communities, FIAI also is heavily involved internationally. FIAI sends, on average, a 40-foot shipping container each month full of supplies to medical missions, hospitals or humanitarian aid efforts located worldwide.

If you would like to be part of FIAI by either donating goods or volunteering your time at our Second Life Resource Center, or if you are a nonprofit in need of resources, please contact me by phone at (254) 227-2640, or by email at [email protected].  

Matthew HoffmanMatthew Hoffman has over 25 years of experience in nonprofit leadership and development with community, health care, and faith-based organizations. He currently serves as the Strategy Coordinator for Baylor Scott & White Health’s Faith In Action Initiatives – Central Division, which he sees as a dream come true to be able to link larger organizations with the needs of the poor both here locally and abroad. He holds a bachelor’s degree in social sciences (emphasis on sociology and international relations) from the University of Houston and a master’s degree in theology (emphasis on community development and ministries to the poor) from Fuller Theological Seminary. He has two children and has been married to an incredible human being and best friend, Anna, for 25 years.  

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.