By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer
The Waco ISD board of trustees awarded the Waco ISD Rise award for outstanding community partners Thursday night to McLennan Community College and Texas Hunger Initiative/Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty.
The Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty was launched in fall of 2019, and it is an umbrella entity under the Texas Hunger Initiative that provides meals to families without food.
Executive director of communications for Waco ISD, Joshua Wucher, said the theme for the school year was “rise,” meant to inspire Waco ISD families, employees and the community to rise over challenges together.
“Waco ISD rises when families, employees, and the community join together to realize their shared hopes and dreams for the district students and their future, never so more true than in the last few months,” Wucher said.
The school district announced on March 13 that schools would not be reopened the following Monday due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the help of the THI/BCHP, the initial 12 curbside meal pick-up sites were organized by the time schools were closed.
Wucher said the THI staff continued to evaluate meal site options and made adjustments as needed. 110,405 meals were distributed to area children in the first four weeks of curbside meal pick-up.
THI regional manager for child hunger outreach, Craig Nash, BCHP executive director Jeremy Everett and AmeriCorps Vista, Chelsea Strawn accepted the award virtually.
Nash oversees the Waco ISD and La Vega ISD, along with a dozen other school districts in the Heart of Texas region.
He said THI is a connector between local school districts and their community partners.
“The award is special because it recognizes our sweet spot, which is this middle between these organizations that operate the technical aspects of child hunger programs, and on the other side, community organizations who do not operate those programs but want to help,” Nash said.
Nash said the hardest challenge to overcome during this crisis is getting people to see they can’t do business as usual.
“Social distancing has changed a lot more than where we go, it has changed how we work,” Nash said. “For many of our volunteers who have helped out at the community sites it is a change in mindset, to not hug or high-five kids at the sites. All of that human interaction that makes us feel good whenever we are helping people is taken out.”
Everett said he was humbled to be recognized by Waco ISD, but it was a team endeavor.
Additionally, Everett said, “we have folks working all-day, everyday, they probably haven’t had a day off or an hour break for five weeks, they have been responding locally and nationally.”
Baylor graduates and undergraduates, especially in social work and public health disciplines have volunteered their skills from hunger and poverty studies and research. Nash said, “we’re really big on making sure everything is research-based and evidence-based. The skills of a public health major is really helpful because they see both the importance of the academic side and practical side of it.”