Feedback from three community meetings this month assured Prosper Waco officials that the working groups’ focus is pointed in the right direction.

Between 20 and 35 people came to each of the meetings held in the East, North and South Waco neighborhoods.

They provided avenues for residents to ask questions about the Prosper Waco initiatives and allow for suggestions on additional efforts.

Some of the overarching goals of the nonprofit agency include increasing the number of people with postsecondary degrees, the number of families living above 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines — or $48,500 annually for a family of four — and the quality of life for all Waco residents through better health.

Worksheets were provided that asked specific questions about education, health and employment, such as the best ways to contact people with children prepping for kindergarten and whether a community health worker would be desired in a neighborhood.

Prosper Waco Director of Communications Christina Helmick said each group offered unique advice specifically relevant to their area of the city.

The East Waco residents asked for more childcare options at night, while North Waco focused on having information available in Spanish.

Prosper Waco Executive Director Matthew Polk said he was surprised by the directions conversations took during the meetings.

He thought residents would ask for more or better services, but what people are telling him is that it’s simply about connecting people to the right program or information to help them.

For example, each group widely supported the idea of establishing community health workers within their neighborhoods, he said.

The community health worker would be someone with already-established relationships in an area who would be trained in how to guide people to social services and healthcare options.

If Prosper Waco’s board of directors decides to officially approve that program, Polk said, the next phase would be finding funding to enroll people in the Department of State Health Services’ 160-hour training program.

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“Our role as the Prosper Waco backbone was never to go out and provide additional services,” he said. “The idea of collective impact is that there are assets and organizations in the community that are doing good work, but it takes someone to foster a conversation where everybody can be talking to each other and talking to the community about what really needs to be done.”

North Waco resident Kathy Wise attended Thursday’s meeting. She said the discussion was insightful and it was obvious that the Prosper Waco staff and volunteers wanted residents’ input.

Wise said her desire from the initiative is to reach people who aren’t already associated with a social service and recommended putting fliers in grocery bags and at restaurants.

Wise said she’s going to reach out to her neighbors and invite them to the next meeting that Prosper Waco has in her neighborhood.

“It was really nice. The room was filled with people from all walks of life,” she said.

Overall, Polk said, he was pleased with the attendance at the meetings and thinks progress is being made.

“For me, personally, I kind of expected the answer to the question to be, ‘Well, we need different programs, or better programs or more programs,’ ” he said. “Some of that may be true, but what I’m hearing from the community is it’s not so much about needing more or different or better. It’s about helping people understand what’s out there and giving people the information they need.”

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