United Way launches annual campaign

By Wendy Ellis

United Way of Waco-McLennan County launched its Annual Campaign on Friday, Aug. 27. This yearly tradition is a community-wide effort made possible with over 100 businesses, as well as thousands of local individuals who give personally to support the programming impacting residents in and around McLennan County. In its 98-year history, United Way has raised over $100 million through its campaigns.

Funds raised through the Annual Campaign support United Way’s grant making, which provides funds for projects aimed at improving health, education, and financial stability for area residents, and support for safety-net services programming. Local nonprofits are invited to apply each year for funding. In addition to grant support, the Annual Campaign provides resources for United Way’s child well-being movement, a community-wide effort to understand and improve the quality-of-life indicators for both families and their children. 

United Way provides the mechanism for individuals to easily and effectively give through their workplace and support numerous local nonprofits through one simple donation process. Whether it be $5 per paycheck, or $25,000 a year, our local workforce continues to unite in support of their community. It is United Way’s privilege to sustain this bridge between the businesses and individual employees who want to give and the nonprofit who serves on the frontlines of addressing the most challenging hurdles our communities face. We are proud to help put local dollars to work supporting local people.

In 2020, the top five workplace campaigns were by H-E-B, Texas Farm Bureau, Caterpillar, Atmos Energy, and Central National Bank. Dan Ingham, our resource development chair and VP of marketing & communications for The First National Bank of Central Texas, Dan Ingham said:

“It has been my experience that the employee wants to know that their dollars are making a difference, and United Way makes that happen. The grant process is rigorous  and ensures the nonprofits eligible to receive funds are truly making a positive impact in our communities. I’m proud to be part of such an important effort. United Way’s ability to collect thousands of individual donations to support dozens of local nonprofits is a unique service we’re proud to offer for McLennan County and the surrounding areas.”

There are currently 43 local organizations that are eligible to receive funding from grants or designations through United Way . The opportunity to participate in this year’s campaign will continue through the end of the year. To learn more about how you and your business can get involved or to view the full list of partnering agencies from 2020, visit UnitedWayWaco.org.

United Way of Waco-McLennan County strengthens the community by mobilizing resources to measurably improve lives. We envision a community where all people have the education, health and financial stability needed to achieve their full potential.

Wendy Ellis is chief executive officer for United Way of Waco-McLennan County.

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 releases report: ‘Are the Children Well?’

By Tiffani Johnson

United Way of Waco-McLennan County is releasing a child well-being report. It is a research study to support the improvement of well-being for McLennan County’s children and families.

The McLennan County Child Well-being Movement is facilitated by United Way and is a partnership of 25 organizations or local residents. Collectively, this movement has identified community priorities to measure the well-being of children and their families. The research has found that roughly 14,000 McLennan County children are believed to be living in communities with low or very low child-well being scores.

Over the past seven months, the Child Well-being Movement has surveyed or interviewed over 600 parents, direct service providers, community members, stakeholders, and advisory committee members in an effort to better understand the child well-being landscape. This includes residents of varying race ethnicity and zip codes within McLennan County.

“The most striking theme we saw from the community conversations is that there are a number of underrepresented communities that have vanished from civic conversations as some have come to believe that their voice is unwelcomed”, stated Tiffani Johnson, senior director of impact and engagement. “The Movement is committed to championing the inclusion of residents within these communities to take part in decision making affecting their health and well-being.”

The organization’s CEO, Wendy Ellis, stated: “We want to extend our sincere thanks to Waco Foundation for funding this work, and for their initial first steps taken with the 2009 Childhood Quality of Life Index report.  There is a long-term, demonstrated commitment from this community at-large to truly understand how our children and their families are faring. Our production of this 2020 report is just one step in the journey. We will now move into the next phase of the work, which is to invite those who lent their voice for this research back to the table so that we can collectively build our community’s action plan.”  

The City of Waco is one entity that has had a seat at the table from this work’s inception. Deputy City Manager Deidra Emerson said: “COVID has only compounded the disparities and inequities in our communities of low or very low child well-being scores. The City applauds the McLennan County Child Well-being Movement’s effort to truly listen to what the communities have to say. If we are going to implement sustainable change, we need to give sincere credence to the voices of those we seek to serve.” 

To learn more about the research findings and key partnerships, visit www.unitedwaywaco.org

United Way of Waco-McLennan County strengthens the community by mobilizing resources to measurably improve lives. We envision a community where all people have the education, health and financial stability needed to achieve their full potential.

Tiffani Johnson is senior director of impact and engagement for United Way of Waco-McLennan County.

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 announces Wendy Ellis as new CEO

By Stephanie Mabry 

United Way of Waco-McLennan County Board of Directors is proud to announce Wendy Ellis as the new chief executive officer.

Wendy Ellis

Ellis joins United Way with over 16 years of experience in community development and executive leadership in both private and public sectors. She has leadership experience most rooted in city government, serving as a city administrator, economic development director, and city manager. In addition, she served as executive director roles for Hillsboro and Brady/McCulloch County chambers of commerce.

The Board’s Search Committee conducted a six-month search for the next generation of leadership for United Way. Andrew Pick, United Way Board chair and plant manager for Caterpillar stated: “Wendy has a demonstrated work history in strategically improving economic outcomes for small business owners, non-profit organizations, and their respective communities. She is passionate about amplifying community voice to affect change. This background and perspective is especially critical as United Way moves into the public launch phase of our Child Well-being research, which will take hold late May 2021.”

When asked about United Way’s future and the work in child well-being, Ellis stated: “Quality of life for our children is key to the economic well-being of families, the business sector’s future workforce, and the overall success of the community in which we live. It’s not every day you have the opportunity to join an organization with almost 100 years of service dedicated to strengthening the community and improving the quality of life for everyone. I am honored to join United Way at such a critical time and look forward to sharing more with the community as we launch the research findings in understanding the child well-being indicators for our youngest residents.”

Wendy has family roots going back several generations in Hill and McLennan County and said she is honored to be living and working in the region. In addition to her professional accomplishments, Wendy is the daughter of retired public educators. Her husband, Daniel, is a small, local business owner, and they have an 8-year-old son.

United Way Board and staff have begun introducing Wendy to key stakeholders in McLennan County and Wendy has committed to spending her first 90 days on a listening tour hearing from interested community residents. To contact Wendy, you may email her at [email protected]

United Way of Waco-McLennan County strengthens the community by mobilizing resources to measurably improve lives. It envisions a community where all people have the education, health, and financial stability needed to achieve their full potential. 

Stephanie Mabry is senior director of resource development & communications for United Way of Waco-McLennan County.

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].

Former CEO of United Way Waco values community

Editor: In honor of Women’s History Month, we are featuring interviews with local women leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media.

By Molly Farris

Barbara Mosacchio said one of her favorite things in Waco is the drive she takes past Lake Waco. Being a Chicago native, she said it brings back memories of her drive past Lake Michigan on her way to work. 

Barbara Mosacchio

“It’s so gorgeous. I love driving past it. It just makes me happy to do that,” Mosacchio said. 

Mosacchio was the CEO of United Way Waco for just over four years. After living in cities such as Chicago, Dallas, and Atlanta, Mosacchio has “not looked back” since taking the United Way position in Waco. United Way is an organization that works alongside the community to address needs. 

“This opportunity came along, and it was such an incredibly enriching and exciting opportunity,” Mosacchio said. “It was the opportunity to really come in and help rebuild its presence in this community.” 

Leaving a big city for a small town is an unusual move, and Mosacchio said people did ask why she would want to come to a small city like Waco to work. 

“Because in Waco, you can touch and feel the work that you are doing,” Mosacchio said. “You can see the impact of it. You can make a decision, you can make a strategic plan, and you can see it in action. And it is very hard to do that in a big, large complex organization.”

During a conversation, Mosacchio continually brought up how important this community is to the United Way. The organization encourages involvement among the people that live in the area. Mosacchio said this is one of the factors that brought her to Waco and that keeps her in Waco.

“You see it every day with COVID and you see the way people are supporting each other and the way people are looking out for one another, and checking in on each other, and being respectful by wearing their mask when they’re in the grocery store,” Mosacchio said. “And you don’t see that in a lot of communities. That really is a big part of what I love about Waco.” 

Baylor University is a part of that strong community that Mosacchio often talks about cherishing in Waco. During non-COVID times, the university helped with awareness for United Way events. She described a time when there were big rallies and Baylor President Linda Livingstone would speak. Typically, every year one of the football games would be dedicated to the United Way.

“We would all go down on the field, we’d talk about the campaign kicking off, we’d inspire people to give, and we’d show our video. There would just be this high level of energy and enthusiasm,” Mosacchio said.  

Most people tend to see COVID as something that has ruined a lot of good things. Mosacchio said she does not see it that way, but rather she sees COVID in a positive light. 

“I think that COVID really brings out, in an unfortunate way, but it brings out the best in what a community is. I think that there has been a lot more intensity in terms of interaction with people,” Mosacchio said. 

Molly Farris is originally from Petal, Miss., and is a freshman journalism student at Baylor University. 

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].

Tiffani Johnson enjoys Waco & its people

By Erianne Lewis

On any given day, Tiffani Johnson could be found doing something to enrich the Waco community, whether through her job at United Way or in her free time as a Wacoan.

Tiffani Johnson

Johnson, senior director of impact and engagement for United Way of Waco-McLennan County, has held this position with United Way since January 2018. After graduating from college, Johnson was undecided on what she wanted to pursue — due to her various interests — so she decided to serve in the Marine Corps for four years. 

“It was one of the most gratifying experiences and has greatly contributed to the person I am today, the leader I am today,” Johnson said.

Not only does Johnson care for the city, but she cares for the people within the community. Prior to working with United Way, Johnson worked for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District and as a teacher in Waco Independent School District. She became teary-eyed when reminiscing on her days as a teacher in WISD. 

Her work with United Way, “allows me to do that work in a different way” with health and education. “But I am still able to connect with the community again to understand what it is that the community wants,” Johnson said. “To help convene local people to make sure that we can begin to help support families in a way that will benefit them and help them to thrive in the county.”

The complexities of Johnson’s position cause every day to be a different experience, which she said that she enjoys.

“There isn’t really a normal day, which I’m excited about,” Johnson said. “I think what draws me to the community is that no day looks the same.”

Johnson has lived in Waco for the last 17 years, having lived in major cities beforehand. She said she enjoys that the people of Waco are unlike people in other cities; they have a strong willingness to dream.

“I think the people of Waco have a vision for who we can be and where we can be, and I see people working towards that, that’s exciting,” Johnson said. “I continue to see people from various communities across the county come together.”

Johnson said she spends her time off enjoying Waco’s outdoors or being with family.

“My favorite places are really outdoors. If it’s not hanging at home with my kids, which is my absolute favorite place, it is being somewhere near water. If I can go sit by Lake Waco at Woodway Park, I will do that,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s love of Waco is evident in the way she lights up when speaking about it. One of the many things she enjoys about Waco is how accessible community leaders are, Johnson said. 

“[They are] really open minded, and they are of one accord about how we can make greater change here,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she tries to use her job to help the people of Waco to feel appreciated and loved. 

“It’s vitally important to me that there is an avenue with which people from various communities and neighborhoods throughout Waco can speak how they feel. They can speak their aspirations for what they want this community to be,” Johnson said.

Erianne Lewis is a freshman journalism major at Baylor University and hopes to work in print journalism after college.

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 UnitedWayWaco.org/donate. 

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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