Focus Magazine: Spring 2011

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+ Love Stripped to Its Core Alumna gives hope to local strippers through ministry

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+All Play Ball

The Challenger League allows special-needs kids to suit up and compete on the baseball diamond

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+Fulfilling the Dream Late founder’s volunteer tax program lives on at A.J. Moore Academy

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Spring 2011


Editors’ Letter T

hey may not be able to leap over the Alico building or run faster than Robert Griffin III, but these individuals serve the world and the Waco community in incredible ways. From Superman to Spider-Man, superheroes of childhood comics inspired us at early ages to live courageously for the good of the world. Now as adults, there are other superheroes we look up to. This is the vision of Focus magazine — to continue its mission to provide creative and intriguing insight to the Baylor/ Waco volunteer and nonprofit community. Individuals showing extraordinary effort to improve our community have exciting stories to tell like the comics we would eagerly devour. What inspired them to do what they do? What gives them strength? What can we do to help their efforts? The answers to these questions are important to our community. Our modern-day heroes can be found in many areas of interest. They could be the breakfast program volunteers who work extra early to feed the hungry. They could be the principals who work tirelessly to inspire students in and out of the classroom. They could be the women reaching out to lives in darkness. Waco and Central Texas are full of individuals dedicating their lives to others and asking nothing for themselves. They are our neighbors, our friends and our family. They are the essence of Focus magazine’s mission. This semester we invite you to dive into the lives of these people and see what this community’s dedication and service can do for the world. Heroes need reporters like Lois Lane and photographers like Peter Parker to share their stories and inspire others worldwide. Let us be your guide into the incredible lives that are making a difference. Sincerely, Jenna DeWitt and Lincoln Faulkner Editors


Photo By Stephen Green

Focus Staff: Spring 2011 Writers



Lela Atwood Chris Bloom James Byers Jessica Chia Wakeelah Crutison Grace Gaddy Lauren Theall Emily Underwood

Justin Chatham Jenna DeWitt Ashley Dunn Mary Katherine Leslie Maegan Moore Cortney Shedd Amy Stone Shanna Taylor Emily Underwood

Nick Dean Jenna DeWitt Nina McAllister Lincoln Faulkner Cover photo of Emily Mills, founder of Jesus Said Love. Photo by Emily Underwood.

Special thanks to: Julie Freeman, Paul Carr, Mike Blackman, Dr. Allin Means, Dr. Clark Baker and the Baylor journalism and media arts department.


On The Inside

Sharing the Secret of Life Named the world’s oldest woman, Eunice Sanborn lived 115 years for her Savior Page 28

Special Ranch Rodeo

Special-needs children learn the basics of rodeo fun

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4 | Feed my sheep 8 | Learning independence one game at a time 10 | In the name of LOVE 16 | More than memory 20 | Pay it forward 22 | When they need us 26 | A nonprofit providing a solid foundation 31 | Featured organizations



Feed my sheep

When the world gives up, Jeane Dick steps in Story by Lela Atwood Photos by Shanna Taylor

The basement of First Lutheran Church is packed with an unlikely combination of people. Baylor students. Homeless people. Workers from a diversity of income brackets. Even a small group of schoolchildren. Yet in this fellowship hall, all are welcomed, all are invited. For breakfast is about to be served. The murmurs of conversation fade away as a small 73-year-old woman with wheat-colored hair stands up to speak. “If this is your first time, we welcome you and hope you come back again,” she says in an expressive, friendly voice as if all 90 of those present are her dear friends. To Jeane Dick, the leader of Mission Waco’s Friday Morning Breakfast, all who come through the church doors on Friday morning are family. Larry Lenstra knows. A regular breakfast attendee who is homeless, he was hospitalized with a foot infection and heard from medical personnel that it could be amputated. Lenstra was happily surprised when Dick spoke with him because they were only acquainted with her through the breakfast. “She came up and visited, said a prayer,” Lenstra said. “I still have my foot, am still kicking.” At the next table over, Steve York, another regular attendee, relaxes with a table full of friends, his mind focused away from the daily toil of street survival as he listens to the announcements: a GED class, a job training class and a reminder for people to fill out the government form to be eligible for aid. “She is just a good lady,” he said. “It is good to come here and not have to worry about things, just sit around and talk.” Dick always had a heart for the downtown Waco area. She remembers her childhood living on Sixth Street, walking to school there, back in the days when the World Cup Café was a pharmacy and when West Elementary was West Junior High.

She spoke of predominant racism in the community and not understanding it. The only person she trusted with her bike was Marvin, an African-American boy who lived one block from her home. “I think the Lord was preparing me then not to be prejudiced,” Dick said. “It doesn’t matter to me what color your skin is, whether you’re smart or dumb, or what.” Dick said a lot of people have heard

matter. If you’re going to get shot somewhere, you can get shot in Woodway just like you can on 15th Street if that’s the case.” Sonia Maness, a Baylor graduate who has volunteered with Dick for a year and a half at Friday Morning Breakfast, said she wants to be just like her when she is older. “Jeane’s a tough little bird,” she said.“I think that if someone approached her and tried to mug her she would say, ‘Well,

The program’s new mission statement, crafted and signed by those who attend, is displayed during the breakfast, which begins at 6 a.m. every Friday. of Mission Waco but have no idea what the organization does. They didn’t observe Mission Waco’s hand in the “bad neighborhood,” the evolution of a pornographic theater to the Jubilee Theater, now used to show familyfriendly community entertainment. Nor did they observe the dilapidated drug houses being replaced by new homes that host neighborhood block parties. “Some people are fearful,” she said. “But I look at it like this: that regardless of where I am it isn’t even going to

listen here, sweetheart. Do you need money? Because I can tell you about Mission Waco.’” Often on Thursday nights, Dick barely sleeps. Though she drives to the breakfast even when the roads are slick with ice, she is concerned that one morning she will accidentally sleep in. And on Friday morning before any traces of a sunrise, she is already at the church, praying that God would prepare her for the upcoming breakfast. Although she has only been leading for


Participants are served pancakes by Mission Waco volunteers at the Friday Morning Breakfast Program.

six months, she has already made her mark on Friday Morning Breakfast, through her desire that all would be welcomed and loved. “When they come there I want them to feel like they come into a family situation, a place where somebody cares, not just a place to stop and eat,” Dick said. “And to some degree I think I’ve reached that with some of them.” More than handing out food, Dick has livened up the atmosphere through raffle drawings for hats and gloves, and through distributing crossword puzzles to all the breakfast guests. On Christmas she and all the other volunteers signed 20 cards for all the breakfast attendees. At least 15 of the people wrote her back. “I have found that these people have a lot more manners and are a lot more respectful to people in the business world,” Dick said. “They want to be thought of as your friend and I count them as my friends. I really do.” As a certified food handler who works at Chick-fil-A, Dick was not pleased about how the Friday Morning Breakfast kitchen was maintained. Maness, one of the other volunteers who had also been trained in


food preparation, agreed. They wanted a kitchen fit to prepare family dinners in. So they got to work. Dick was relentless in her war against grime and neglect. Even after the other volunteers had left to start their days, she would spend extra time tidying up the place. “We offered to help her,” Maness said. “And it’s not that she turned down our help. It was just an area of, ‘Well, you guys have to go to work and you guys have to go to class and I have nothing to do today,’ so she’s down on her knees with Simple Green scrubbing the tile.” Task by task, Dick has won the war. The kitchen is clean as could be, ready for their family of guests who grace the church halls. It is hard for Dick to get to know all of the breakfast guests. Some of the homeless guests who used to come regularly don’t come so often now. They have their own roof to eat breakfast under. When getting to know them, Dick and the other volunteers realized that many of these people were mentally capable of caring for themselves and possibly eligible for Social Security benefits.

After an evaluation, these former homeless people were referred to the resources to obtain housing. “It may not have a stick of furniture or anything but running water, but they are so proud of it, so that’s a good thing,” Dick said. Dick’s life is seldom dull because she has much to occupy her time. After the breakfast, she sorts mail for the homeless at the Meyer Center, a social service center operated by Mission Waco. Then, she makes some letters too, taking the time to write 15 to 20 prisoners regularly. Once she even wrote a job recommendation letter for a prisoner, a man she says has the best handwriting she has ever seen. John Cowan, the breakfast Bible study leader who has volunteered since 2002, is amazed about how much Dick does. “She seems to have a boundless set of energy in her bones,” he said. What keeps this woman going? Dick attributes her energy and her opportunities to the help of God himself. “I’m just available and willing and sometimes that is all God requires,” Dick said. “And I just love them. I look forward every Friday morning to seeing them.”

“Jeane’s a tough little bird. I think that if someone approached her and tried to mug her she would say, ‘Well, listen here, sweetheart. Do you need money? Because I can tell you about Mission Waco.’” - Sonia Maness Jeane Dick gives a Bible, a few words and a prayer to a man attending the breakfast for the first time.

The donation box for Louis, a Haitian child sponsored by breakfast attendees, stands at the end of the serving line. Participants, who have little by American standards, managed to find a few coins to support a child who has even less.

Participants add sugar to their morning coffee.


Learning Independence

One Game at a Time “Jesus loves the children, and one day he will make them able to run without hindrance. The Challenger League will have to be a tiny little piece of heaven until that day comes, and we could use all the help we can get.” - Coleen Ostrom Thomas bats for the Chapman’s Challenger Baseball team with help from buddy Jessica Bancale.

Story by Chris Bloom Photos by Michael Bancale At Lake Air Challenger Field, the outfielders are is drenched by sweat, soiled with red earth, but nevertheless showcasing their smiling faces while waiting for the ball to come their way. A mother screams with wild joy while her child wheels himself to the home plate with bat in hand. Her face gleams. Umpire Lupe Rosas stands ready atop the pitcher’s mound. While the boy at bat prepares to swing, Coach Colleen Ostrom shouts words of encouragement from the dugout. And for a moment in the sun, the Challenger League baseball team, for children with special needs, appears like a regular baseball game — because it is. People like Rosas and Ostrom reflect the nature of the Waco community and set a positive example for its youth. Despite having real-world responsibilities, these individuals make the sacrifices necessary to set aside time to adhere to the needs of others. “When I was in high school, I volunteered with the special-ed class and I knew that whatever I did with my life, I wanted to do something to help those with special needs,” Ostrom said. “I got involved in Challenger several years ago because I was looking for a way to get plugged in with children with special needs.” Ostrom’s household responsibilities include her 12-year-old son and husband. Yet she still finds a harmonic balance between


these two dynamics: family and service. Of course, Ostrom’s family fully supports her calling to aid Waco’s community, and thus provides her with ease of mind at home and at work. “My son Austin loves to volunteer with helping the players and the league as I do. He forgoes playing on a regular baseball team with his peers in order to be fully involved in Challenger. Many people think that a disability keeps you from being able to live a ‘normal’ life. That is so untrue. I long for the day when our community becomes knowledgeable that differences or disabilities shouldn’t divide us. We have so much to learn from one another. Everyone should spend a little time with the league and they will see there is nothing like a Challenger League game,” Ostrom said. “And, what is so amazing about the Challenger League is that the children get to be children. It is of course amazing to see the kids’ faces, but it’s amazing to see the parents too. Parents who never thought their children would play ball, but look at them – they’re playing ball.” The Challenger League provides these disabled children with a venue to showcase their talents and qualities. The severity and kind of disabilities vary greatly from child to child. One child may suffer from a hearing handicap, another child may not have any arms, and another child may suffer from Down syndrome. Regardless, the Challenger

League found ways to accommodate these steep ranges of disabilities. The Challenger League began locally in 1990 with three teams and played on Lake Air Little League’s Field No.2. Eventually, organizations came together and donated space from Lake Air Little League to alleviate the difficulties arising from the dirt base paths. Therefore, the specially designed Challenger Field was built. The field allows full access for all participants, whether they are wheelchair bound or use a walker. The league has grown to six teams, with “Buddies.” Buddies are volunteers, usually in college or high school, and are randomly placed within one of the various Challenger teams. Many students view the buddy program as a great opportunity to gather community service credits toward the various causes of academia, or simply partake voluntarily. Buddies assist the players on both offense and defense, but more importantly they bond and form positive relationships with the players. Breanna Cummings, a McLennan Community College freshman, volunteered for two years with the Challenger League and found great fulfillment. “It was so sweet to see the children playing together and working together without a care in the world of the hardships outside the baseball field,” she said. “The laughter and smiles alone makes helping these beautiful people something to look forward to every day.”

Coleen Ostrom, the coordinator of the buddies for the Challenger season goes to bat with Ciera, a player on the Richard Karr Challenger Baseball Team.

Krissa, of the Hope Challenger baseball team, and buddy Austin Amaro, a Baylor sophomore from San Antonio, wait to swing the bat. Cummings’ 12-year-old brother Brennen Cummings participates in the Challenger League as a player. “It saddens me to see, sometimes, Brennen at home, because children with Down syndrome cannot normally interact together without supervision outside a school, which means he has few peers he can hang out with,” Cummings said. “When I see him smiling, while playing baseball with all his friends, it makes me happy because he’s getting a chance to fulfill those social needs.” Likewise, Rosas, a volunteer for the Challenger League since its inception, cherishes his decades of memories. “Children often come out of the Challenger League with a greater sense of

self-confidence and serve as real inspirations to the community,” he said. Rosas said it’s very rewarding to work with the children and that this particular service teaches people that they can achieve so many things despite all the setbacks in their lives. “Seeing the kids overcome the obstacles that we take for granted can be humbling.” “One of our coaches, Jimmy Moreno, started as a wheelchair-bound player in the Challenger League. Jimmy now coaches every season, drives a truck, and holds down a full-time job. I’m in awe of people like Jimmy not only because of his large heart, but because Jimmy never complains. He’s a real hero. When Jimmy fell out of his chair, it scared me to death. But he

just dusted himself off and kept right on playing.” Moreno remembers well the mentoring he received decades ago from Rosas. “I remember Lupe always used to throw the ball at me when I was a kid to make sure I was alert. He’s really cool to hang out with and really great to talk to,” Moreno said. “He really cares about the kids and their safety. A lot of us really look up to him.” Bound to a wheelchair for life, Moreno made the most of his circumstances. “The Challenger League has made me more independent. Being in a wheelchair, I used to have people help me all the time. But now I do whatever I can do for myself, by myself. One of my kids, an 8-year-old named Jade Perry, looks up to me as a role model because he knows that I used to play as well. He’s one of my favorite kids.” Moreno urges the Challenger League to continue seeking out volunteers from across the Waco community, including from Baylor University.. Ostrom said, “Jesus loves the children, and one day he will make them able to run without hindrance. The Challenger League will have to be a tiny little piece of heaven until that day comes, and we could use all the help we can get.” Rosas said they would love to see the Challenger League grow into as large of a community as possible. “I hope that as we grow that our program grows too,” she said. “I would like to see more kids, more people involved with the program, more games and more volunteers. And the Challenger League could of course use any donations possible since it is purely nonprofit.”


In the name o 10


Photo By Emily Underwood

Cars filed one by one into the cramped and cracked parking lot off LaSalle Avenue as a slew of men slipped through the doors of Showtime Gentlemen’s Club, a Waco strip club.

LOVE Story by Emily Underwood Photos by Emily Underwood and Maegan Moore

Inside they sipped drinks and dreamed of anything but Jesus. This scene, formerly a foreign world, is now commonplace for Emily Mills, a Baylor alumna and founder of Jesus Said Love, a local nonprofit ministering to strippers. Jesus Said Love, founded in 2005, sends a team of women volunteers into Waco gentlemen’s clubs once a month to form relationships and share the Christian faith with strippers. “Our purpose is to not only meet their spiritual needs, but to provide them with basic resources as well,” Mills said. “Doctors, lawyers, counselors and accountants all volunteer through Jesus Said Love to help these women establish a well-balanced life.” Mills also opened Yarnivore, a knitting store, four months ago to help the dancers develop valuable knitting skills and provide them with the confidence to leave the clubs. The classes are also open to others interested in the skill. Mills, a traveling worship leader with her husband, began her journey into the strip clubs after singing at an Austin worship conference that focused on ministering to the marginalized in 2003.


“We are all imperfect. I am imperfect. The strippers are imperfect, but the imperfection propels us to love deeper.” — Emily Mills “It was then that I saw there was a disconnect between what we were singing in our songs and how we were living,” Mills said. “The words of the songs were talking about serving the brokenhearted and I knew we as a church weren’t doing it.” Her holistic view of Christian living came alive and took motion the moment she experienced her first night walking into a strip club two weeks after the conference. Jesus Said Love coined the phrase Jesus Loves Strippers. Splashing the phrase across the front of the purple volunteer shirts turned heads and provoked stares.


The shirts elicit varied responses from onlookers, Mills said. “When we wear the shirts in the clubs, men see the phrase Jesus Loves Strippers and immediately get up and leave the club,” Mills said. “However, the dancers love them and most of them ask if they can have one.” The shirts serve as immediate identification of the purpose of Jesus Said Love. When Mills went on an outreach on Good Friday in 2009, she met a beautiful, blonde exotic dancer who saw their shirts and responded, “I know Jesus and I talk to Jesus,

but I don’t think he hears me because of all the bad things I have done,” Mills said. Mills immediately refuted her claim and told her that Jesus hears all people when they pray no matter what our past looks like, a conversation that has led to the development of a special friendship. The stripper’s name was Laura and she calls Mills her best friend. The number of stories of changed lives, redemption and forgiveness abound as a result of the Jesus Said Love ministry, Mills said. Even the club owners have donated toward the ministry in appreciation for the ways it has improved the lives of the dancers. Laura, a former stripper of 28 years, had gallbladder surgery at Providence Hospital immediately after her first conversation with Emily at the club. No one had visited Laura during surgery and she was elated to know that someone, let alone a stranger, came to see her, Mills said. “Emily knew I was a dancer in the strip clubs and she still loved me. She showed me friendship and then showed me God,” Laura said. “I laid my body down, flat on my face at the foot of my bed and imagined myself at the foot of the cross,” Laura said. “It was then that I fully gave my life to Christ.”

Photos By Emily Underwood and Maegan Moore

Laura stopped dancing in the strip clubs after she became a Christian on Feb. 28, 2010. She previously suffered from multiple addictions but is now clean and comes over to the Mills’ home to pray while the volunteers go into the strip clubs. “I’m a prayer warrior now and I pray for the dancers,” Laura said. “God is my provider, my husband of my soul and my way out.” Laura walked into a prayer meeting at the Mills’ home Feb. 11, 2011, before the Valentine’s Day outreach, carrying a large, black trash bag over her shoulder filled with her old stripper outfits. “These clothes were my identity,” Laura said. “They were who I was and by giving them away, it is a representation of me being completely through with dancing.” Mills is confident in Laura’s ability to recover from the experiences in her past. “I truly believe that God is jealous for Laura and is committed to giving her an abundant life,” Mills said. “It has been a gradual healing process for Laura, but just as beautiful as Laura’s recovery process has been watching the body of Christ being a support for her.” Jesus Said Love’s most recent outreach occurred the Friday before Valentine’s Day. Through the eyes of a stripper, Valentine’s Day isn’t filled with the warmth from a dozen red roses and chocolate-covered strawberries, but with cold men longing to see nudity. The stripper’s heart on Valentine’s Day doesn’t simmer with the giddiness and innocence of a little girl, but instead is filled with loneliness, according to the Jesus Said Love prayer team that went into the strip clubs. “Our last trip to Showtime on Valentine’s Day is a relatively lonely day for strippers,” said Heather Burke, a veteran Jesus Said Love volunteer of seven years. “Our team made chocolate-covered strawberries, went into Showtime and talked with the dancers in the dressing rooms while they got ready to perform.” After talking to the girls and understanding their backgrounds, Jesus Said Love volunteers began to fight the misconception that strippers dance out of selfish conceit or vanity. “These women are dancing out of necessity. They are somebody’s mom, wife and daughter,” Burke said. “They need love. They need to be heard. They need to know that God loves them.” One single mom lost her job, had two rounds of cancer, experienced a divorce as well as a miscarriage and lost her health insurance. Dancing at clubs seemed like the only way to provide for herself. She was desperate and abused, Burke said. These types of women are not typical churchgoers and will not be the ones spotted at a women’s spring tea held at the church. Instead, Jesus Said Love brings the

(Clockwise from top left) Amy Butler, Kirsten Verett, Heather Burke and Baylor senior Lauren Holdsworth work with Jesus Said Love to rescue women from hopelessness.

“They need love. They need to be heard. They need to know that God loves them.” — Heather Burke message of Christ to the dancers. After seven years of building trust through the outreaches, the single mom consistently began going to church. Mills is a witness to the transformation in the lives of dancers, but is also keenly aware of the change within herself. “I have changed in the midst of all of this,” Mills said. “I didn’t realize how much of myself needed healing until I started this ministry.” Anytime one embraces the gospel, the changes are twofold, Mills said. When somebody embraces the gospel, the gospel embraces them. “I began Jesus Said Love because I knew that life was messy,” Mills said. “We are all imperfect. I am imperfect. The strippers are imperfect, but the imperfection propels us to love deeper.” Mills, mother of three children under the age of 8, graduated from Baylor in December 1999 as a communication specialist. While at Baylor, she was involved in Pi Beta Phi and was the lead singer in a worship band on campus. Her husband, Brett Mills, was a band member.

Brett Mills graduated from Baylor with a bachelor of arts in communication and began Touchstone Ministry, a ministry that resembles Vertical Ministries, while at Baylor and it is still the current studentoperated ministry at Baylor. The Mills’ jobs as worship leaders are intricately intertwined with their mission at Jesus Said Love. Emily and Brett Mills are releasing an album in the spring of 2011, where each song will feature a story of a specific dancer they have met through Jesus Said Love. “The songs can be played in a church or in a bar,” said Emily Mills. “They are versatile and embody redemptive themes, but are not necessarily worship music.” A ministry in the strip clubs is not a career one usually hears about at a career fair. However, Emily Mills, a woman with a gentle countenance and an even greater internal strength claims that as her career and vocation. “Whenever I tell people what I do, I get an interesting reaction,” said Mills as she smiled. “My ministry is a great conversation starter and an intriguing icebreaker.”


Just a Little Rodeo Photos by Amy Stone Cowboy hats, blue jeans and boots aren’t all that make these pint-sized buckaroos rodeo champions. Each child that competes in the Special Ranch Rodeo must overcome the challenges of having physical or mental special needs. The event is held each year during the Heart O’ Texas Fair and Rodeo at the Extraco Events Center. Last fall’s event was held Oct. 13, 2010.

The McLennan Community College Highlander baseball players, Houston sophomore De’Mario Thibodeaux and Beaumont freshman Connor McDonald recreate a bull ride for Daniel at the Special Ranch Rodeo.

Krissa leads around a dressed-up cowgirl riding a pony at the Special Ranch Rodeo at the Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo 2010.


One of the volunteers hugs a child at the Special Ranch Rodeo at the annual Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo.

Kids, family members and friends gather together at the start of the Special Ranch Rodeo for the annual picture.

Savanah Haley stands inside of a rodeo barrel at the Special Ranch Rodeo at the Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo.



Moore stands at the door greeting each student by name every morning. Parents said Moore knows each students’ family as well.

Story by James Byers Photos by Mary Katherine Leslie Cindi Moore has a talent: She knows everything about you. Mention anybody connected to the Waco Baptist Academy, and Moore, the principal, can tell you all about that person. Point to any of the school’s more than 160 students. Go ahead, pick one. Moore knows the student’s name, for starters. But it doesn’t stop there. Does the student have siblings? Moore knows. She knows their names too, even if they don’t attend the Waco Baptist Academy, the school for kindergartners through eighthgraders that she oversees. How is the student performing in school? Moore knows, but she might not tell you since that’s private.


Does she know the student’s parents? Do you really have to ask? But how does she do it? As it turns out, Moore’s uncanny ability to remember personal details isn’t so much the product of a prodigious memory as it is the natural result of repetition and a whole lot of caring. And that didn’t begin at the Waco Baptist Academy. Moore grew up in Richardson. After watching Baylor in the Cotton Bowl in 1975, she made up her mind about her future. “I told my mom, ‘I’m going to Baylor or I’m not going to college,’” Moore said. She did just that, entering Baylor in 1978 and graduating three years later with

a degree in elementary education with a reading specialization. Her first job was teaching first grade at a Catholic school in downtown Waco. At the school she observed good teaching, but she also watched things she didn’t ever want to do as a teacher. She learned how not to treat kids. She soon accepted a job at La Vega Elementary School, and after teaching for seven years, during which she earned her master’s in educational administration at Baylor, she became the school’s principal. As principal she was discouraged by how much time she had to spend disciplining unruly children. “I felt like I was spending so much time

result of her intentional, repeated interactions just on the first day of school, when all the on discipline that it was very hard for me to with students and parents – and caring kids clamor to take a picture with her, but be the instructional leader of that campus,” enough to remember the conversations. every day. Moore said. “To me it’s less the memory than the “She’s usually the first person I see In 1999 Moore received an opportune willingness to make the commitment of time at WBA when I drop the kids off in the call from a friend on the board of trustees at and energy and contact and conversation that morning,” said Brian Serr, a professor at the Waco Baptist Academy asking her if she makes her an intimate part in the lives of our the Baylor School of Law who served as would be interested in the school’s vacant students and their families,” Serr said. president of the Waco Baptist Academy’s principal position. Carl Gulley, college pastor of Antioch board of trustees in 2009-2010 and has “After my day of visiting with this Community Church and current president of three daughters at the school. “She’s usually school, I went home and told my husband holding the door open, greeting every family, the Waco Baptist Academy board of trustees, that night. … If they don’t want me to be said he’s always impressed by Moore’s their principal, I want to teach there,” Moore every child, as they arrive. And it’s not memory and friendliness. said. “In my wildest dreams, I wouldn’t have mechanical … she engages the children in “It’s like, ‘What database are you conversation, gives them a hug. She’s up imagined that there was a school like this.” referring to get all that out of?” said Gulley, to date on certain details about their life, or Moore said she was blown away by the who has three children at the school. “But it what their class is doing in school.” school’s Christian atmosphere and emphasis goes beyond that. That just shows you how Donna Beth Norman, kindergarten on academics. It was the kind of atmosphere much she cares for people.” teacher, taught with Moore at La Vega and she wanted to cultivate. Athletic director and physical education came to Waco Baptist Academy in 2001, two She was offered the position, and she teacher Holly Page arrived at hasn’t looked back. Waco Baptist Academy the In the 12 years since, Moore has been nothing less In the 12 years since, Moore has been nothing same year as Moore, in 1999. She said she was impressed than the catalyst of change less than the catalyst of more than a decade by how Moore is able to and growth at the Waco administer discipline without Baptist Academy. Enrollment of change and growth at the Waco Baptist alienating children. has increased by more than Academy. Enrollment has increased by more “She’s a good 66 percent under Moore. The disciplinarian, but she always school also added a middle than 66 percent under Moore.” does it in a loving and school in 2004, and a year gracious way,” Page said. later moved to its current “She’s able to do that. I don’t like being years after Moore. location at 6125 Bosque Blvd., a campus the bad cop but she’s able to do it, and she Norman marveled at Moore’s knowledge upgrade from 1.3 to 5.5 acres. never comes across as mean or unkind. She’s and affection for students. Three years ago Moore instituted the always loving.” “She would do anything for the kids; she University Interscholastic League academic Page said she was also touched by loves the kids,” Norman said. “She knows competition, a spring event in which the how Moore has grown to love athletics as every kid’s name at the school. She knows Waco Baptist Academy competes against principal, whether by attending the Waco every parent’s name. She knows every car other local private schools in such areas Baptist Academy Eagles volleyball games or the parents drive in the carpool. She can call as reading, writing, speaking, spelling, the kid’s name when she sees the car turn the Baylor Lady Bears basketball. mathematics and science. The students Moore even traveled to Indianapolis in corner.” from the Waco Baptist Academy are always 2005 to watch the Lady Bears in the Final Four. Norman also recalled Moore’s ability to among the top finishers. While in the stands she held a poster board that remember phone numbers. As principal, Moore must specialize in read “WBA loves the Baylor Bears,” hoping “I wouldn’t say she knows every phone a myriad of areas, whether it’s managing TV cameras would catch the sign, giving the number in the school, but she knows a lot,” the school’s finances, reviewing curriculum school a little bit of free publicity. Norman said. “It’s a God-given ability that or interacting with parents, teachers and “She’s always thinking about what’s best students. She still finds time to teach Latin to she has. But I think she really puts great for the school, and she’s definitely loyal to her effort in trying to get to know the parents seventh- and eighth-grade students. and trying to get to know the kids. She wants Baylor Bears,” Gulley said. Despite her lofty position as head of the One of Moore’s favorite parts of the job, to know.” school, Moore stands at the front door and she said, is spending time with the kids. The consensus of those who know Moore welcomes children — by name, of course — “They’re just funny,” she said. “They’re best is that her impressive memory is the into the school. She follows this routine not

A morning is not complete without a warm hug from Cindi Moore.

Students are never shy to embrace their friendly principal.

Moore admits it is one of her favorite parts of the day.


funny and inquisitive, and they’ll just tell you what they think.” She also loves the school’s teachers, and how she enjoys when everyone comes together once a week to worship in chapel. As much as she loves her job, Moore will step down after this school year, a decision prompted by a struggle that few have fully understood. In 2003 Moore was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a medical disorder characterized by chronic widespread pain in her neck, shoulders and back. Those closest to Moore, including the teachers, know about the pain she deals with daily. But many don’t. She’s never tried to hide the pain, but she doesn’t like to talk about it. In fact, when her retirement was announced in January, plenty of people came up to Moore and expressed their surprise that anything was wrong. “I’m glad they had no idea,” Moore said. “I’ve tried to keep this struggle to myself.” Gulley, for example, who has been on the board of trustees for three years, only found out about Moore’s struggle a year and half

ago when a board meeting ran late. “I think that’s a testament to her strength. She doesn’t want you to know,” Gulley said. “I meet with her almost every Monday morning. If I ask her, she’ll tell me. She’s not going to hide it. But she’s not going to walk in the door and be like, ‘Well, I’ve got a headache and I feel bad.’ Usually, most people don’t know that she functions every day with migraine headaches and terrible body pain. And she just smiles her way through it.” Moore credits the support of her husband, Brett, and two sons, Jordan and Collin, as critical to her ability to cope with the pain. She said she kept going “by the grace of God.” This summer, after quietly persevering for eight years, Moore will retire. “I feel like being an administrator, you don’t ever have an extended amount of downtime,” Moore said. “You know, you kind of just keep going all the time. A job like this is really just all-encompassing. I’ve really just lived and breathed this job for 12 years.” This year marks her 30th as an educator.

She’s spent 15 years as a teacher and 15 as a principal, making this the perfect time to retire. “I’ve had nothing but peace about this decision ever since my husband and I made this decision back in October,” Moore said. “What will be hard is to walk out of here and basically say goodbye to a lot of people who have been important to me for many years.” She plans to spend her time at home, but she’ll be available to the next principal of Waco Baptist Academy, whoever that may be, should he or she need to consult Moore. “This is the way I’ve explained it to everyone I’ve talked to: I need to focus on my health, my home and my husband. So it’s the three ‘H’s,” Moore said with a laugh. Now, Waco Baptist Academy faces the monumental task of finding someone to replace Moore. “There are people that have a job and there are people who live their job,” Serr said. “She’s one of those people who live their job, so much so that it’s hard to think of WBA without Cindi at the helm.”

“It’s a God-given ability that she has. But I think she puts great effort in trying to get to know the kids. She wants to know.” - Donna Beth Norman


Waco Baptist Academy kindergartners crowd their doorway while Cindi Moore visits with their teacher.

Cindi Moore visits with students in the Waco Baptist Academy library.

“There are people that have a job and there are people who live their job. She’s one of those people who live their job, so much so that it’s hard to think of WBA without Cindi at the helm.” — Brian Serr

Cindi Moore prays with a student during the morning announcements.

A group of energetic kindergartners congregate when they see Cindi Moore at their door.


forward High school students use finance lessons to serve low-income families

Enrique Chavira

“Mr. Smith’s legacy lives eternally through us. He is irreplaceable and will always be missed. ... That is why the Academy of Finance is now named after him.” - Anahy Cortez

Simona Tilahun and Sadie Walker prepare tax forms for low-income families.

Story by Lauren Theall Photos by Jenna DeWitt

Shiniqua Sheppard

Cesar Sanchez


Finance students of the A.J. Moore Academy sing a bittersweet song when telling of their experiences with the late Ron E. Smith, founder of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. These feelings propel students to excel and give back to the Waco community. High school students with intermediate certification by the IRS volunteer to directly help prepare tax returns at no charge through sponsorship. Students are prepared and constantly practicing their business skills in the classroom. Smith established VITA with solid intentions of “giving back to the community and helping students,” said finance instructor Marcus Walker. Smith had experience as chief financial officer of a major corporation and owned a financial consulting firm. Smith also traveled often. He brought his extensive knowledge, expertise and experiences into the classroom. “Mr. Smith always told us stories about when he traveled and how he succeeded, said academy senior Anahy Cortez. “He

gave us a glimpse of the outside world. Now this is what we dream about.” Smith served as chair for the finance department and taught at the academy for eight years. The VITA Program operates Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m., regardless of the school schedule. It is located in the A.J. Moore Academy Library. There are about 60 student volunteers in the program. A white 3-inch binder sits on the library’s bookcase. This binder contains IRS certifications for each student volunteer. Students may also document their hours served and their progress. All students have signed an agreement not to accept pay for their services. Students arrive promptly at 5 p.m., ready to put their business skills to work. The process begins when Wacoans enter the library’s right entrance. It is possible to hear the click of a computer’s mouse, clatter of keyboards and light chatter when entering the library. All recipients of the service must go through five “stop signs”, or departments. The stops create a horseshoe around the library. Citizens are first greeted with a student’s bright smile, at the front desk. Here a student,

Participants wait for help with their tax returns in the library of the A.J. Moore Academy. possibly academy senior Candiss Caballero, will take care of check-in and ask for the proper identification and documents. The second stop is interviewing. Here, a student such as sophomore Daniel Diaz, will politely chat to obtain information. If the wait is long, volunteers gladly walk around building relationships with others, making the wait as painless as possible. This allows students to interact more with the community. Tax prep is the next stop sign. Senior Joshua Shepard works in this department, among others, to organize information and enter it into the system. The tax return is then printed and sent to stop five, or quality assurance. This department double checks all the work that has been done, helping to minimize the number of tax return rejections. Throughout this process, students have learned to apply their business concepts with interpersonal skills. Finance instructors Walker and Angelo Ochoa “want the program to succeed under the focus of the students.” This vision has become a reality. Students are required to recertify at the intermediate level annually. “It is harder than doing taxes,” Shepard said. “For the [certification] exam, we must know the names of forms.” Students who do not pass the certification exam are not allowed to act as a tax preparer. The program has existed since 2003, and today students are aware of their success. “We do a good job and get hands-on experience,” said juniors Reggie Hatfield and Delicia Gibson. The program’s efficiency has grown from completing 300 returns in 2003, to now completing an average of 1,700 tax returns each year, Walker said. As of Feb. 23, the students completed a total of “1,044 tax returns in 12 evenings of VITA operation” this tax season, Walker said. A few of the program’s top volunteers include Amanda Resendez, Enrique Chavira, Jennifer Trimble, Brianna Riley, Gustavo

Gonzalez, Ebony Adams, Sadie Walker, Joshua Shepard and Cesar Sanchez. These students have individually completed tax returns.


the numbers



students in the VITA program

Over tax returns completed this year


average age of VITA student volunteer

Local tax companies see the VITA Tax Program as a threat, students said. “I left school and went to the store one day,” said junior Gustavo Gonzalez. “I was standing near a tax company, and a lady asked me to leave for soliciting another tax company. I was wearing my VITA SWAT, Serving Waco Area Taxpayers, T-shirt. I said we weren’t a company and it’s free.” Senior Briana Riley had the same experience as she stood near the window of another profiting tax company. The students in the program see program participants as their family. They care about each others’ success and well-being. “We are really close-knit,” junior Jennifer Reyes said. Senior Chris Behler agreed and attributed the feeling to the amount of time the students have spent together.

“Most of us have been together since middle school,” he said. All of the students said they plan to attend college. Behler plans to prepare for law school and pursue a business minor. Behler has also been offered a job with H & R Block, preparing taxes, upon graduation. In addition to the program, students learn business and finance through application. This helps students grasp the concepts and form a personable relationship with instructors. Many students feel this enables them to learn better. “Class runs smoothly, and there is less tension,” sophomore Daniel Diaz said. Students said they are interested and engaged in the material, due in part to the program’s teaching methods. “We use Monopoly a lot to learn. The academy isn’t boring, like many people think,” sophomore Ariana Berry said. In addition to the usual assignments, finance students also run an online eBay store, through the school. For the first time, the finance program will auction off a new car. Applying business concepts learned in class, students decide the price, shipping costs and mediate the return policy. The store serves as an extracurricular activity. “It is definitely better than reading or reciting a book,” Gibson said. Walker said this focus on unconventional teaching tools in the program has revealed students’ abilities and interests. “Without the tax program, we wouldn’t know that some students could excel as they currently do in the program,” he said. Cortez said this is because the program’s environment encourages students to give their all without becoming an obligation. “We never feel pressured to volunteer or do assignments. We enjoy what we do,” Cortez said. Through the program, many students have encountered memorable experiences. The students said they consider these to be unforgettable and life lessons. “At first I just really wanted to do something for the community and school,” Behler said. “I remember people used to come just for Mr. Smith. He was that warm of a person.” Finance students said they learn through realistic field experiences, but also from the life of their late mentor. “We learn based on real-life experiences. We also learned from Mr. Smith’s own experience in his career,” Cortez said. Before his death, Smith captured the students’ attention with his knowledge about the start of popular companies. Behler remembers, “Mr. Smith taught us about how the Nike Swoosh was originally bought for $5.” Students have learned to do things by the book, not compromising ethics. “Other people do taxes differently, but we do it right,” Gustavo said.


when they need us


Foster animals, rejected by all others, are Donna Hurst’s way to give back to society Story by Jessica Chia Photos by Justin Chatham

“I was 8 years old and I wanted to be a horse. I started showing dogs when I was 13 because I couldn’t have a horse in my backyard.” Donna Hurst, a 47-year-old Waco native, reveals her lifelong love of animals as three small black dogs and a very large black cat contentedly roam her living room. Hurst and her husband, Randall Stuckey, 54, have lived in Waco for seven years and have spent the past two years volunteering as foster parents for the Humane Society of Central Texas. “They take very difficult cases,” said Karen Froelich, the executive director for the Humane Society of Central Texas. “One dog, we thought was basically just going to go and die at their home. He was in such bad shape. But they really helped him and he’s still with them now.” The dog nobody expected to survive was Elvis, a senior chihuahua and schipperke mix, who was rescued during a puppy mill raid in May 2009, the only survivor of four maltreated dogs that warranted felony


Donna Hurst holds her most recent foster dog, Snickers, while Ollie and Elvis wait for their turn.

“You’ve brought an animal in and you’ve just so fallen in love that you can’t give it up. That’s the biggest challenge. It takes a certain kind of person to do it, because you know it’s temporary.” — Donna Hurst


charges against the owner of the puppy mill. “He was really an accidental,” Hurst said of her decision to foster Elvis. “I just couldn’t turn him down, you know? They expected three months, maybe five months, there wasn’t a chance of him living. He’s surprised everybody. He’s been with us a year and a half.” Elvis suffers from congestive heart failure, anxiety attacks, heartworms, the loss of all but three teeth, various bodily scarring and a lack of social skills. Because of the couple’s dedication, Elvis has shown much improvement both

physically and emotionally, but no amount of love and care can completely erase the damage from his many years in the puppy mill. “He’s learned that not everyone is out to get him,” Hurst said. “But something that didn’t bother him one day may cause him to take off the next. He’s very unpredictable. Most people I don’t think would be willing to take that on.” Elvis is fed each day at 8:15 a.m. and 6:15 p.m. and requires several medications to be administered regularly, with the occasional addition of Valium, which prevents his sporadic anxiety attacks from becoming fatal.

“The panic attacks kick off this tremendous coughing. With his congestive heart failure it’s awful. It sounds like he has COPD [Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease],” Hurst said. Far from considering Elvis a burden, Hurst and Stuckey regard the dog with fondness and accept his special needs as part of his individuality. Hurst said, “With all of his medical problems, he just couldn’t get adopted. Provided you take him on his own terms, he’s a really sweet boy. He was recently offered to us on a permanent foster. He’s a foster, but he’s not going anywhere, and that’s just fine. He’s not going to be a normal dog ever, but the time he has left, he can be safe, happy and loved.” Their experience with Elvis only left them eager to foster more animals for the Waco Humane Society. Ollie, an inky black 9-year-old oriental shorthair mix, became a new addition to their household in June 2010 after being surrendered to the humane society by his previous owner. “The most difficult animals to place in a home are the black cats, black dogs. I guess with black cats it’s, you know, the Friday the 13th bad luck,” Hurst said. One can’t help but link their concern for disadvantaged animals with the fact that all but two of the dogs and cats in Hurst and Stuckey’s home are black, although Hurst said it was completely unintentional. It seems that Ollie, however, beat the odds against him. He was officially adopted by Hurst and Stuckey in mid-February and clearly holds a special place in the couple’s hearts, even though he wasn’t exactly what they had in mind at first. “He was older than what I was going to bring home,” Hurst said. “We thought we were getting a quiet, laid-back, small cat. Here we get this big, black house panther. He is constantly talking. He talks and talks. When we first brought him here, most cats would just dive under the couch but he was just all over the room.” Ollie’s confident personality was evident as he lounged on a pillow, alternately gazing into the camera’s lens or dramatically turning away as the photographer snapped photos. Hurst was not surprised. “He’s very photogenic. He loves the camera. I have a blog for him called Black Cat Friday. I can always count on getting a good photo of him sometime during the week.” Hurst and Stuckey’s newest foster, a 10-year-old black and tan miniature dachshund named Snickers, has only been with them since January. Although he had little hope of being adopted in the neglected condition in which Hurst and Stuckey first received him, Snickers is now ready to be adopted into a loving home.

“You could smell his teeth from about 15 feet away. I have never seen teeth this bad. The vet they have at the shelter examined him and his gums were bleeding. We got rotting teeth and rotting food,” Hurst said of his health when they first met Snickers. Snickers now has a clean, healthy mouth and a friendly, laid-back attitude to match. “He’s going to make somebody a really nice pet. He’s ready to be adopted, but he’s a senior, which makes it harder,” Stuckey said. “He acts like he’s closer to 7 or 8. He’s very active, very playful,” said Hurst. Stuckey explained that any cat or dog above the age of six is considered a senior, although he is quick to point out that it really depends on the breed of dog how far along in their lifespan they actually are. Despite the greater difficulty involved with placing senior animals, Hurst and

Foster Facts |The Humane Society of Central Texas had 300 foster animals in homes as of January 2011. |The Humane Society is aiming to triple that number by the end of 2013. |More information can be found on the Humane Society’s website at http://www.wacohumanesociety. com/Foster_Program.php

Stuckey prefer to take in only adults. Although they embrace many factors that make animals less desirable to potential adoptive families or other foster homes, there are some aspects of fostering animals Hurst acknowledges are challenging. “Not knowing where the animal came from, even when you have an owner surrender. You don’t know what kind of a household they came from, what they’re used to, what they’re not used to.” Hurst also mentioned that one difficulty in the fostering experience is the emotional attachment to an animal that develops as she prepares the animal to be placed in another home. “You’ve brought an animal in and you’ve just so fallen in love that you can’t give it

Snickers sits on Donna Hurst’s lap. The 10-year-old dachshund acts years younger than his age, Hurst said. up. That’s the biggest challenge. It takes a certain kind of person to do it, because you know it’s temporary. But [if an animal gets adopted] you’ve freed up a spot for another animal at the shelter because you’ve made space.” Although she recognizes the emotional cost of fostering, Hurst did not consider fostering to be materially difficult since the Humane Society of Central Texas covers all medical expenses for the animals in their foster program. “Financially it really isn’t [a burden]. You’re pretty much paying for their food,” she said. “Elvis is on a half a dozen medications and the shelter takes care of that. Snickers with his dental last month, the shelter picked that up. Time-wise, and emotionally, the more you work with an animal the more you get emotionally involved with them. The time involved really depends on the animal, but they’re treated just like our own would be. This household has four or five animals steady, so it’s not really a burden.” For Hurst and Stuckey, animals are an integral part of their lives. Hurst spent her adolescence and young adulthood breeding and showing dachshunds, while Stuckey’s family raised Chihuahuas. Of fostering, Hurst said, “I don’t really think it’s been all that different. My showing and breeding days are long gone, but I’ve always had a large number of animals. It just takes different forms. There’s just not enough homes to around. It’s really a sad thing. I love animals, so fostering is just one more way I can help out.”


A nonprofit providing a financial foundation Story by Wakeelah Crutison Photos by Cortney Shedd Passing by the corner of Austin Avenue and Ninth Street, most people wouldn’t know that the ninth floor of the unassuming office building houses a light that makes Waco’s nonprofit community shine. Amid the insurance companies and doctors’ offices, the Waco Foundation, a $60 million enterprise, serves to help fund the community’s nonprofit organizations by giving grants and scholarships to organizations and students in the Waco community. Many Baylor graduates aspire to use their newly acquired skills to better the world. Ashley Allison, a 1991 Baylor graduate, gets to do just that as executive director for the Waco Foundation.

The Waco Foundation provided more than $345,000 for nonprofits such as Cameron Park Zoo, Family Abuse Center, Habitat for Humanity and Talitha Koum in fall 2010. Community centers vary from state to state and the Waco Foundation is Waco’s only community center, Allison said. “We are a nonprofit, but not the kind that most people think of when they hear ‘nonprofit,’” Allison said. “Most nonprofits focus on certain groups of people they can help. We are the helpers and the givers. We do all the little things in between to make sure that the groups are efficient, and we can be a go-between for them and nonprofits.” Allison, who joined the Waco Foundation staff in 2007, said helping donors connect with nonprofit groups in need in the community is a fulfilling part of her job at the foundation. “I get to work with two kinds of people: people who need help and those that are trying to help,” Allison said. “We get to


meet everybody doing all of the good in the community. We get to see the best in people, the best intentions and efforts. It’s humbling, inspiring and a privilege to be a part of. ” The Waco Foundation helps organizations around Waco by providing them with grants and provides leadership training for organizations to help them run more efficiently, Allison said. The Waco Foundation provided more than $345,000 for nonprofits such as Cameron Park Zoo, Family Abuse Center, Habitat for Humanity and Talitha Koum in fall 2010. The foundation also helps sponsor initiatives focused on education, such as Education Alliance and the Early Childhood Initiative and provides scholarships for students in the community. The MAC Scholarship helps ensure that all McLennan County high school graduates have access to financial aid to pursue higher education, according to the Waco Foundation website. The MAC scholarship provides aid for nearly 25 percent of the estimated 2,250 graduates. Angie Vega, a Baylor junior from Waco, received a MAC scholarship in 2005 that brought her one step closer to living up to a family legacy.

“It runs in my family. My mom’s a teacher and she’s been teaching for 17 years. It’s part of my faith and I think it’s my calling,” Vega said. Vega, an education major, aspires to teach elementary school, but until then, she has turned her focus to helping high school students get scholarships at the Waco Foundation. “As the MAC program assistant, I work students in the community and I help out the Hispanic community. I’m all about helping other people and doing something I know is worthwhile,” Vega said. Allison said the Waco Foundation looks at the big picture of the community’s needs as opposed to focusing on a single aspect of the community. “Instead of looking at one nonprofit group like the homeless or just the family centers, we see the community as a whole and how the organizations fit together in the community,” Allison said. “We look at it all together, so it’s a different perspective than most nonprofits have.” Allison said the foundation works with the other organizations to help the community. “So it works in that we’re doing our job

and they’re doing their jobs, and ultimately we get the job done,” Allison said. Erica Ancira, director of technology and administration at the Waco Foundation, worked for an attorney’s office for 12 years, but after having a baby, she decided to go in a different direction. “I wanted to do something where I could see what’s being done. It was more of an impact we can make and where we can see what we do for people,” Ancira, a part-time lecturer of real estate at Baylor, said. “The best part of working at the foundation is talking with nonprofits that we’ve helped. Getting follow-up calls and hearing what it is that we’re partially responsible for accomplishing.” Vega said the close-knit staff helps everyone do their jobs to the best of their abilities. “I like working with the people here [at the foundation]. Everyone is so knowledgeable and willing to put forth the extra effort to help people, especially the executive director. She really does a lot for the foundation,” Vega said. The foundation’s staff works better with a small office, allowing the staff to function and help people, Ancira said. “We can thrive on a personality and strength, and we can get things done,” Ancira said. “Plus, we have an understanding boss [Allison].” But having small numbers also adds pressure on the staff members, Ancira said. “Because we’re the only community foundation in Waco and because we’re a small office, we have a lot on our plates,” Ancira said. “So the length of the day is a challenge, and the most difficult thing is time and how to spend it.” Whether Allison is preparing for community meetings, keeping up with the business brought before the board of directors, receiving and signing donation checks, approving expenses, responding to constituents or managing and advising the staff, Allison ensures the foundation lives up to its responsibility to the community. “This is a position of leadership,” Allison said. “It requires engaging in the community and meeting with other leaders in the community. Thirty percent of my time is spent being a part of the bigger leadership community, and it’s not all during the work day — sometimes it requires evenings or the weekend.” It takes a lot to manage the foundation: overseeing the funds, other nonprofits and donors Vega said. “Especially establishing relationships with other leaders in the community. [Allison] works with the mayor and the former mayor, other Waco nonprofits and other leaders in the community. She works hard,” Vega said. Allison said managing the foundation and having other obligations can be difficult, but

Ashley Allison earned her Bachelor’s degree in Economics at Baylor and her Master’s degree in Political Science from West Texas A & M University. knowing she makes a difference makes it worth it. “I believe my doing my best will help someone,” Allison said. “It’s life work and not drudgery. I like knowing that I’m helping people, so my home life and work life are synergistic.”

“Instead of looking at one nonprofit group like the homeless or just the family centers, we see the community as a whole and how the organizations fit together in the community.” -Ashley Allison Allison said that the flexibility of working for a nonprofit is, at times, a double-edged sword. On one hand the unpredictability eliminates monotony, but it can also introduce an added pressure of the unknown. “There’s always some sort of change that’s happening,” Allison said. “You can’t be rigid, and you have to learn to adapt. But the very nature of flexibility that’s appealing can be stressful. With the community changing, it’s stressful to not really know what to expect.” As a committed member in the Waco community, Allison comes into contact with many other leaders in the community. As a community leader, networking is one of the most important things you can do, Allison said.

“Networking is how you expand your contacts and your horizons. You need to have good relationship with the board,” Allison said. Having a network of colleagues to turn to during a crisis is also important, Allison said. “As a community you’re very similar in the things you do, so if you run across a problem you’ve never had before, you can always find out what someone else did.” Allison advises students looking to go into nonprofits to learn business. “Lots of people don’t realize it or think about the business side of things when they think about helping people,” Allison said. “Even though profit is not the main goal, you still have to function. ... You have to break even or your organization will go under. The better business skills you have, the more people you can help in the long run.” Allison said community awareness is also a major part in the success of a nonprofit. “We’re more than you think,” Allison said. “We’re diverse in the types of things we do. We’re here to help and have lots of different types of help to offer. The foundation encourages the community to turn to us for help.” Ancira said a pitfall of working at the Waco Foundation is the fact that they could help more people if more people were aware of the foundation. “The sad part is that you can’t help everyone,” Ancira said. “People don’t know that the foundation’s here or how much we could help if they donated and what we’re capable of doing with the amount of money we have. We have the brain power and financial means to do lots of great things in the community.”


115 years

42,198 days 1,012,752 hours

1 life Eunice Sanborn, shown on April 26, 2010 at 114 years old, was documented as the world’s oldest living woman. Sanborn passed away at 115 on Jan. 31, 2011. What constitutes a meaningful life? It is the question humanity has pondered through the ages, one that touches the core of every human heart. So significantly weighs the subject — the quest for meaning and happiness — that it has birthed numerous experiments, years of research and a plethora of diverse philosophies. But is the answer really so indiscernible? Nestled inside a white two-story Victorian house in the heart of East Texas was one woman who observably grasped the answer. She held a special secret while cherishing what she knew to be a meaningful life — all 115 years of it. Her name was Eunice Sanborn. For three months, she was verified to be the oldest person in the world. The Californiabased Gerontology Research Group recorded her birth date as July 20, 1896, although her family claimed she was actually born a year earlier. Even so, her life had turned the pages of time to cross three centuries of history—from 20 presidents to world wars to groundbreaking discoveries that transformed modern civilization and society. Coloring those years was her one simple, yet extraordinary life, a tapestry woven with many memories, heartaches and joys of living. Surviving three husbands and her only daughter, she remained in the same house for the past seven decades in Jacksonville, Texas — just half an hour’s drive from my house. With mounting interest, I sought the opportunity to meet her. After contacting David and Rena French, close friends, caretakers and “adopted children” of Sanborn, the couple graciously bestowed an opportunity for me to


tag along on Rena’s next visit. In doing so, I discovered a person with a truth so incredible that it has forever left a mark on my life. Sanborn nurtured a secret that she relished to reveal. While it pleased her to hear on Nov. 4, 2010, that she had achieved the landmark status of “world’s oldest person,” to which she responded, “Oh, think of that!” her deepest zeal rested not in her length of days or witnessing of momentous historical occasions. Rather, she hummed of a great love within her soul, one that she said made life worth living. As the press picked up her story, reporters poured in to ask her advice and insight concerning her longevity. In reply, she could only speak of one thing that defined her days and captivated her heart. “My secret is my savior,” she said in 2007. “A lot of people don’t know Him, but I do. I love Him. He’s going to keep on being my secret.” Actively mobile until age 107, her latter days were spent resting peacefully with round-the-clock care. On my own visit, I watched as Rena approached the bed where her “Aunt Eunice” was relaxing to shout a greeting into her ear. The aged countenance lit up with a glowing smile adorning radiant humor. Though her speech appeared limited to one-word answers of questions — mainly due to her waning hearing — Sanborn displayed a personality that swelled beyond conventional verbal communication and punctuated her presence. Gushing with love that would often erupt in distinct hearty laughs, her dynamism billowed through the room, reverberating with each listener. When she did speak, it

Story by Grace Gaddy Courtesy photos

was loud and clear — usually an enthusiastic “Yeah!” or an affectionate “Honey!” — her name for everyone. As Rena caught her up on the latest news of friends and loved ones, Sanborn listened thoughtfully and remained silent for several moments upon hearing about a friend’s cancer.

In 1996, Eunice Sanborn enjoys the holiday season with the French family. “She’s probably praying,” Rena said, adding that she always prayed for others, calling her a true “prayer warrior.” “If she told you she was going to pray for you, she would pray for you.” Prayer and dependence on the Lord characterized Sanborn’s outlook on life. “She always would say, ‘The Lord brings me through it,’” Rena said. “She had such a sweet testimony about how the Lord can get you through anything. I mean, living through three husbands and your only child—she just really had a great loss to lose everybody.”

“I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but I’ve enjoyed it. I’m thankful. Life is a wonderful thing if you make it that way. If you don’t make it right, it isn’t wonderful. If you do things right and love the Lord, you’ll be all right.” - Eunice Sanborn

David French, whose memories with could be written of all the experiences she Sanborn weave further into the past, had known, witnessed or taken part in. I corroborated his wife’s sentiment and affirmed gazed at heirlooms including handmade sets of furniture her father-in-law had intricately their friend’s faith and trust in the Lord. “[Her witness] is for the Lord in whatever carved and a piano dating back to the Civil she does,” he said, describing the legacy of War that was brought down the Mississippi River on a steamboat from St. Louis. I listened one he called a “living history book.” to a record of her family David remembered history, in which she spoke earlier days growing up of Indians and wagon trains, down the street from “She’s going to ask, her voice choking with Sanborn’s house. He often ‘Do you know the emotion as she praised the would see her on the porch or in the yard working with Lord?’ and she’s going Lord for His protection and faithfulness to her family. flowers while on his way to tell you that her Everywhere I turned, I was to school or to the Palace Theater. He especially greatest amazement is reminded of her devotion to God. remembered going to Christine Bunn, her the large swimming pool that the Lord died for neighbor and best friend that she and her husband her sins.” of more than 50 years, operated at the time, a part affirmed her friend’s strong of a popular recreation - David French faith while recalling special area known as “Love’s moments of their friendship. Lookout.” Nested atop a “We used to go to the same church,” Bunn scenic forested ridge, the park was originally opened in 1937 and featured the county’s first said. At one point, the two even shared the concrete-bottom swimming pool, a dance same roof. “She could say the most beautiful prayers. You’d go in sometimes — she could pavilion, snack bar and other attractions. “That’s where I remember most of my childhood—visiting, talking, getting to know her. I can’t remember much not knowing her,” he said. Years later after grade school and college, | Sanborn almost died at age 3 after the same 5-year-old boy down the street grew up to become an attorney who would manage being struck with scarlet fever, the Sanborn’s financial and personal affairs. It same illness that claimed the lives was during this season that their friendship of two of her sisters. significantly blossomed, in which David came | At 18, she married her first to know Sanborn as his “Aunt Eunice,” who husband, Joe Orchin, in 1913 — fondly called him “my boy.” just a few years after his father “We’ve prayed together and talked about helped design the boilers for the the Lord many, many times,” David said, adding that she genuinely cared for each Titanic. person she met. | Orchin died in a tragic car accident “She’s going to ask, ‘Do you know the in 1928. Sanborn later married Lord?’ and she’s going to tell you that her Wesley Garrett. The couple moved greatest amazement is that the Lord died for to Jacksonville, Texas, in 1937. her sins.” After Garrett’s death, she married As I walked through the house, connecting Grant Sanborn, who died in 1979. the dots to a life filled with both heartaches and triumphs, I imagined the volumes that



At 99, Eunice Sanborn helps around the house while staying with the Frenches for a week after the birth of their daughter. just talk to the Lord, like [it would] break your heart to listen to it. You’d just want to cry because it was so sweet.” Bunn went on to speak of the many memories the two had harvested. Like a true rare gem, their friendship was one of sisterly love and selfless consideration. When one would experience hardship, the other was there to comfort and console, even to the point of opening each other’s homes. There were also lighter times comprising a multitude of funny incidents — quirky remarks, social traditions, and traveling excursions across the country. Bunn chuckled as she recalled Sanborn’s fervent joys in traveling and eating good food like fried chicken. The memories are something she will not forget. “I enjoyed every minute of it, being with her,” she said. “[I am] glad we could


live together, then live beside each other.” As I asked more questions and researched Sanborn’s life, it became apparent that everyone had garnered the same conclusion: She loved the Lord with all of her heart, and she testified as only wanting to bring Him glory. He was her life. He sustained her, gave her breath and energy and filled her innermost being. Her heart beat for Him. Everyone I spoke with relayed examples of the visible fruit in their friend’s life. As a faithful member of The First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Sanborn served as a choir participant and worker for the Women’s Missionary Auxiliary. She also gave money to help young men — her “preacher boys” — attend theological school in training for the ministry. Aiding both old and young, she supported the children’s home in Waxahachie and “practically lived” at the local nursing home visiting others. In April 2010 at 114, Sanborn said,

“I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but I’ve enjoyed it. I’m thankful. Life is a wonderful thing if you make it that way. If you don’t make it right, it isn’t wonderful. If you do things right and love the Lord, you’ll be all right.” Seven months later on my own personal visit, Rena leaned over the bed to again ask the question that I had my pen and paper ready for: the advice she would give to a young person. Sanborn’s response was simple but complete — carved from 115 years of laughing, crying and living. “Think of the Lord,” she said. Two months after my interview, Rena contacted me to inform that our dear friend had gone home to join her savior on Jan. 31, 2011. Hours before her death, her caretakers described a stirring shift in her mood. With wide eyes and hands reaching in the air, Sanborn was praising the Lord as the angels came to take her home. Without a doubt, I imagine she’s praising God right now as her testimony is proclaimed as an eternal anthem to the king. Eunice Sanborn celebrates her 100th birthday.

Jesus saith unto him,

I am the


the truth and the


John 14:6a 30




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