Fall 2008 issue
Malaria NO More
Story By Johnathon Graves
The ONE Campaign-Baylor is sponsoring a competition that will continue through Dec. 14, between Baylor student organizations to raise funds for Malaria No More, a national partner of the ONE Campaign. The organization that raises the most funds will have a joint press release issued from the ONE Campaign and Malaria No More sent to their national headquarters. Malaria No More is an organization dedicated to raising money to buy bed nets for those at high risk of contracting malaria in Africa. If you have questions or would like to participate, contact Jaime Bates at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story By Sarah Learman
Reigning winner of Waco's "Best Charity Event," Fuzzy Friends Animal Rescue will host its eighth annual Barkin Ball to usher in the New Year.
The ball will be held from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Dec. 31 at the Heart of Texas Fair Complex and includes catered food and a champagne breakfast at midnight. Silent and audible auctions will be held. Tickets are $150 per person or $1,500 to reserve a table of 10 and can be purchased by e-mailing Fuzzy Friends your contact information and the number of tickets you would like.
More than 50 percent of Fuzzy Friends' funding is raised through this event. The organization receives 70 calls a day but does not believe in euthanasia. Therefore, the funds raised at the Barkin Ball are necessary for satisfying the high need for supplies.
World Hunger ReliefStory By Noelle Yaquob
World Hunger Relief Inc. helps some of the world's poorest families support themselves while educating Waco residents about hunger and social injustice.
These families sell their products in the World Hunger Relief Village Store. The store carries both food and artisan-crafted items. The food items range from meat, dairy and poultry products to coffee, tea, and chocolate. Other items in the store include glassware, tea sets, clothes, notebooks and toys. The store is located in the educational building at the World Hunger Relief farm and is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
"The Village Store's products are made around the world and are produced in safe, humane conditions," said Dale Barron, development director at World Hunger Relief Inc. Most of the products hold the Fair Trade or Equal Exchange labels. These organizations make sure the artisans are paid fairly for the cost of labor and are able to support their families. Other products are made in areas where World Hunger Relief alumni are working. By purchasing items from the Village Store, customers are helping to create a trade environment that benefits everyone.
Each of the products at the Village Store has a story behind it. For example, the hand-painted scarves found in the Village Store are made by a group of about 36 women in Bolivia. These women are single mothers or wives of husbands who are not able to work. By selling their scarves at World Hunger Relief, they have the ability to support their families. The products range from less than $1 to more than $100, but most products are from around $5 to about $20.
"People think that fair trade is expensive, but it isn't if you cut out the middle man," Barron said.
Cutting out the middle man benefits the artisans by allowing them to keep more of the money earned from selling their products, Barron said. Fairly traded products are cheaper and sold faster without the middle man. The products in the Village Store help shorten the time that the families wait to be paid for their work.
World Hunger Relief Inc. also has other ways to help out and learn how to prevent hunger. Some ways to get involved are the Spring Farm Day, gardening workshops, tours, and movie nights on social injustice. Volunteers and donations are also needed to keep the farm running.
The World Hunger Relief Inc. farm was created in 1979, three years after the organization was chartered. The farm is located in north Waco near Connally High School at 356 Spring Lake Road. The goal of the organization is to be a Christian mission that trains people on how to help communities better their lives in every possible way. It does this by teaching farming techniques that allow families to use the land without damaging it as well as conservation.
To contact World Hunger Relief, Inc. for more information call (254) 799-561, email email@example.com, or visit the website at www.worldhungerrelief.org.
Summer 2008 issue
Kids with special needs find friends, fun at Camp John MarcStory By Melanie Hoo
Camp John Marc, a year-round camp located in Meridian, serves children with disabilities or chronic illnesses. This summer, the camp will play host to more than 1,300 special-needs children from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Each week, groups of children with different disabilities or chronic illnesses will attend. The camp alters what it offers to cater to each group. David Aycock, an alumnus of Baylor University and the current camp director, said one of the camp's goals is to build relationships among campers with similar conditions.
"We also want them to grow and try new things and develop new talents and hobbies they have never discovered," Aycock said.
Children suffering from kidney failure, burn injuries, asthma, childhood cancer, heart disease, hemophilia, juvenile arthritis, muscular dystrophy, sickle-cell anemia, and spina bifida will all attend camp this summer.
"There are kids that come out to this camp that are actively dying and it makes me realize how selfish I am," Aycock said. "I realize that I'm not taking the time to enjoy the life that I've been given."
The children leave the camp with arts and crafts they have made, as well as many life-changing memories and experiences.
"As soon as camp is over, they start counting down the weeks till next summer," Aycock said.
Camp John Marc is a nonprofit organization running solely on donations. A team of Special Camps for Special Kids board members hold drives and an annual fundraiser each year.
The board, made up of more than 70 members, raises enough money each year that the families of the campers pay little or no cost for their children to attend. The camp depends heavily on volunteers. Alise Sams, a church-recreation major at Baylor University, first volunteered to fulfill a requirement in one of her classes.
"I loved it so much that I keep going back," Sams said. "It's not so much what it does for the volunteers as it is seeing what happens to the kids when they are put in an environment with others struggling with similar issues, where they are free to be themselves."
To volunteer at Camp John Marc, you must be at least 19 years old and have completed your first year of college.
For more information on how you can join in their efforts to ensure that every camper has the right to discover adventure in nature's world, and get the chance to see, touch, play, and feel better, visit www.campjohnmarc.org or contact David Aycock at 214-360-0056.
Legal assistance project lends a helping handStory By Kate Williams
For Waco citizens who can't afford legal counsel, information about the legal system is available through the locally run nonprofit Legal Assistance Project. The program offers citizens references on a variety of civil issues.
The main goal of the program office, administrator Corinna Lumbard said, is to "make sure people who are needing assistance but can't afford services are helped."
Lumbard explained that the program does not give legal advice, but provides education and information about legal proceedings "so people are more prepared to represent themselves because you can't ask legal questions once you're in court."
Many people cannot afford an attorney to legally represent them and choose to represent themselves, Lumbard said.
Residents needing help with divorce, child custody, living wills and landlord issues can go to the Legal Assistance Project office from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for free legal information. The clinic is located at 1008 Jefferson Ave. and paralegals are available to assist and educate citizens on legal issues.
First Lutheran Church of Waco formed Legal Assistance Project as part of an "experimental ministry" in November 2004, but it quickly grew to something much bigger, director of Legal Assistance Project Francine Lumbard said.
"It was thought it would act as a ‘transformational ministry' expansion of the social ministries already conducted by members of First Lutheran Church," Francine Lumbard said. "However, it quickly became apparent that the need for such a ministry far exceeded what could be accomplished by a small group project."
The project's mission has remained the same since its founding in 2004: "Strive for justice, peace, compassion for all persons no matter their race, gender, creed, or economic circumstances, through social action projects."
In addition to the informational clinic, Legal Assistance project is host to free senior law forums every month. Senior citizens can get information about living wills, Medicare and adult guardianship.
Attendance varies at each forum, with "as many as 100 and as few a six people," Corinna Lumbard said.
Presenters at the forums include the Heart of Texas Area Agency on Aging, Friends for Life, and area attorneys.
In the coming months, the Legal Assistance Project will be organizing a tenants' rights forum so Waco residents can become more informed about the laws and rights regarding landlords and tenants.
The nonprofit group can be reached at (254) 757-3401 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Waco Friends of Peace protest for change in Central Texas
Story By Hanna Brooks
Waco Friends of Peace hopes for significant changes to occur after the general election in November. Though the group has not endorsed a presidential candidate, it urges citizens to "Vote for Peacemakers, Not Warmongers," a message that has been presented on a billboard in Hewitt since May.
Waco Friends of Peace is a group of people in the area who work for peace and justice through education and nonviolent activism.
The organization started in 2002 by a group of peace activists who noticed the lack of any such group in Central Texas.
The group's goal is to bring issues to local awareness, prompt mature discussion, and influence others to choose peace. In this election year, that means opposing Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the expected presidential nominee of the Republican party.
"We have not endorsed a candidate officially, but certainly as individuals our members oppose McCain as a warmonger and an imperialist," Alan Northcutt, organizer of Friends of Peace, said.
"I would say that more support [Illinois Sen. Barack] Obama at this point, but none of the candidates meet our desires for complete withdrawal of all troops and mercenaries from Iraq and closure of all military bases there."
Waco Friends of Peace is not a partisan organization. According to Northcutt, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are truly devoted to ending militarism, but a Democratic president would be better than four years of a McCain administration that group members think would continue President Bush's policies.
"We're about peace and justice," said Kay Lucas, a member of the Friends of Peace who also runs the Crawford Peace House. "If there was a Republican candidate who was about stopping the war, improving education and the economy, health care for all Americans and protecting the environment, then I don't think we'd have a problem.
"We are not partisan. We're about issues."
Northcutt predicts that Obama will win the presidency. He supports Obama because he opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning and is the candidate most likely to end the war. Also, Obama says he will begin dialogues with countries considered to be enemies of the United States.
"It's impossible to be sure, but I am hopeful that the disaster of Iraq will cause the U.S. to avoid imperialist wars in the immediate future," Northcutt said.
The billboard in Hewitt, "Vote for Peacemakers, not Warmongers," will stay up through the election season, funded by members of Friends of Peace.
"Our actions have raised issues that otherwise would never be mentioned," Northcutt said. "We have expressed the outrage that thousands feel in Central Texas but are afraid to express.
"The fear of speaking out and being different is oppressive in Waco, but we help people see that it's OK, that it's right, and that the truth needs to be spoken."
The group meets the second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at Poppa Rollo's Pizza on Valley Mills Drive to watch documentaries and discuss current issues. This film-lecture series draws 30 to 60 people monthly.
Films shown at the meetings have included documentaries about torture practices, global warming, homosexuality and the church, the war in Iraq and election fraud. The films serve as a catalyst for discussion.
"It's crazy that we should not be able to have discussions about these issues," Lucas said. "The group is about awareness."
The community's reaction to the Friends of Peace has been mixed. Northcutt said over the last several years the group's protests against the Iraq occupation have received a greater proportion of positive responses.
"It seems there is fairly widespread recognition in the community now that Waco has a peace group," Northcutt said.
Members of the Friends of Peace have protested in the streets of Waco, in Chet Edwards` office, in front of the Waco federal building, at the Bush Ranch checkpoint, on a bridge above Interstate 35 and in downtown Crawford. Organizer Alan Northcutt says the group has brought important issues to the attention of the general Waco population through its peaceful actions. To learn more about the Waco Friends of Peace, visit friendsofpeace.org.
NeighborWorks provides home buying guidanceStory By Amanda Molleur
Waco's homeownership rate falls 20 percent behind the national average, but one community organization is on a mission to change this. NeighborWorks Waco is a nonprofit organization and over its existence has helped more than 1,500 families in Waco to become homeowners.
"We are in the business of helping families purchase their first home," executive director Roy Nash said. By helping people help themselves, NeighborWorks' goal is to establish long-term financial security.
With economic difficulty in the housing market, NeighborWorks Waco is actively working to ensure that families are not forced out of their homes.
"When we heard that foreclosure was going to be such a big deal nationally, we went ahead and trained our staff in that area," Nash said. "We now have two full- time foreclosure prevention counselors."
The free service offered by NeighborWorks has a 30 percent save rate for people facing the threat of losing their home. In January, the Waco Tribune-Herald highlighted the efforts of NeighborWorks, and many attended the foreclosure prevention clinics as a result of the article.
"We want to keep people in their homes," Nash said. "However, people generally come to us way too late." In addition to the help the counseling services offer, NeighborWorks hopes that soon state and national legislation will be passed, allowing more money to be appropriated for rescue funds.
This spring, NeighborWorks was host to its annual NeighborWorks Week. Each year the group selects a neighborhood in Waco where restoration occurs through painting, tree planting and trash pickup. Volunteers from churches, schools and clubs in the Waco area come out to help every year.
NeighborWorks is host to another project in October called the Revivalation. This word was created by NeighborWorks to appropriately describe both the revival and revitalization that occurs during the event.
The Pastor's Painting Challenge is the highlight of the Revivalation. The man who inspired the Pastor's Painting Challenge is the Rev. Wilbert Austin, who was the recipient of the Good Neighbor Award at last year's Annual Breakfast Banquet. Roy Nash described him as one of the organization's most enthusiastic supporters.
Austin serves as pastor of Peaceful Rest Baptist Church in Moody and is a member of Waco City Council. He serves as the representative for District I and became involved with NeighborWorks three years ago.
"I was just impressed with them," Nash said. "They're trying to make a better community and give homes to those who never thought it possible." He can identify with the people who come to NeighborWorks for help because of his life experiences and because of the financial burden his family had while he was growing up, Nash said.
As an active member of the community and as a leader on the City Council, Austin is determined to work for change in East Waco.
"I refuse to leave with it looking like it does now," Austin said.
In addition to events and outreaches, NeighborWorks' main objective is to provide financial assistance to its clients.
"We don't turn anyone away," Nash said. "You work at your own pace, and if you want to be a homeowner, no matter how bad your credit has been, we can help you make it happen."
Most people who come to NeighborWorks for help have credit issues, but the organization works with each client personally to develop a plan of action.
"Our organization is a strong believer in education," Nash said. All clients are required to take eight hours of financial literacy training along with eight hours of homebuyers' education. If the client purchases a home through NeighborWorks, there are also post-purchase classes available to help the homeowner with maintenance and budgeting issues.
The biggest challenge is to get low-income families qualified for a decent home mortgage, which comes from improving credit.
Since its beginning, NeighborWorks has provided well over $1.8 million in down payment loans, and the group works to get clients high-quality, prime loans without adjustable rates.
After the financial counseling comes the purchase process. NeighborWorks has 12 homes at different stages in the construction process and by the end of the year there will be almost double that amount, Nash said.
Some of the homes built are speculative homes, meaning they are built and then put on the market. The majority of houses, however, are custom homes built for a certain family, Nash said.
"We're here to assist the community and to make it better," Nash said. "We hope that people will not only help their family but help their neighborhood by referring friends and increasing our home-ownership numbers in Waco."
For more information about NeighborWorks Waco, please call 254-752-1647 or visit www.nw-waco.org. You can also stop by their location at 922 Franklin Ave. in downtown Waco.
Central Texas educators battle childhood obesity
Story By Laura Rivers
There is a problem in Waco that service organizations have yet to effectively answer, a problem that can affect every family in the community. Childhood obesity has profoundly increased over the last 20 years and Central Texas educators are working to try and solve this crisis.
Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index at or above the 95th percentile for the child's age and height. The American Obesity Society warns that a child who is obese by age 12 has more than a 75 percent chance of becoming an obese adult.
"Fitness needs to start at home, and parents need to be aware that they are responsible for their child's health," Blake Schrader, the chairman of physical education for the Waco school district, said.
Senate Bill 530 was written to help the state respond to the devastating effects obesity has on children throughout Texas schools. The new required program is called Fitness Gram.
Fitness Gram promotes physical activity for youth in schools. This program incorporates finding an activity that each student can feel comfortable doing.
Schrader goes the extra mile in his classroom at A.J. Moore Academy. He likes to run his classes more rigorously with two to three days of physical fitness required each week.
A.J. Moore Academy also offers an ROTC program along with P.E. classes. This gives students the option of a more thorough physical fitness regiment. There are also innovative programs for physical fitness and health.
Schrader incorporates nutrition into his core program. He said that Texas should require nutrition instead of leaving it as an option. A.J. Moore Academy is doing something on its own by offering nutritious options in vending machines, creating more positive choices for students.
Students are taught lessons in good decision-making, self-worth and self-esteem. These are often the first things children are at risk of losing when they fall victim to childhood obesity.
"We have become a society of obese people and we're just now realizing how detrimental it is to the human soul," said Bob Colon, health administrator at A.J. Moore Academy.
Waco is also working to implement better nutrition choices for students. The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District was awarded grant funding to participate in the data collection and survey administration for the School Physical Activity Nutrition Survey (SPAN) project. These efforts allowed the Health District to create a baseline of data on childhood obesity and behavioral risk for children in McLennan County.
Over the last 30 years, Americans have had to come to terms with how important physical fitness and dieting and exercise are. Yet, according to Schrader, Texas legislators still allow things like recess to be taken out of student's schedules.
"Recess is actively seen as a time for children to get a break and play outside, but legislators have decided that isn't necessary," Garson Skelton, a physical education major at Baylor University, said.
"This is a bad idea because it's a proven study that after physical activity, children have a better attention span and that it is conducive to learning."