Several business leaders have come together to host “A Christmas Feast in the East” this week with free meals and a little Christmas spirit.

The event is open to anyone to attend from 2 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the Waco Multipurpose Center at the historic Paul Quinn Campus, 1020 Elm Ave.

Organizers are seeking donations to ensure there’s more food than needed for people who need it.

The event started with a Facebook post.

Rocky Miller, who was born and grew up in East Waco, said he put up a post inquiring about doing something for his hometown to provide hope.

Numerous comments and correspondence later, a movement was born.

“We’re going to do as much as we can with what we have,” Miller said. “The more we have, the more we do. The goal was to provide a meal for 500 people and hats, gloves, scarves, jackets, coats for those in need. It’s not just for the people who live in East Waco. It’s anyone in need in the Waco area.”

The importance of past and future will come together as the community breaks bread together, said Rachel E. Pate, assistant to the president at the Cen-Tex African-American Chamber of Commerce.

The Paul Quinn Campus is an important place in the area’s history, Pate said. Before Paul Quinn College left Waco in the 1990s, the area was booming with educated blacks, and the campus regularly brought in influential speakers, she said.

As the college left Waco, that cultural center left with it, and since the reopening and re-establishment of the campus as a charter school, a home to the chamber and a multipurpose center, the location has once again become the gathering place and heart of East Waco, said Pate, who also owns Red Aisle Events.

The location is sacred ground for East Waco, she said.

Pate said she hopes the event brings a sense of gathering and bounty to the area.

“A lot of events that happen in Waco are, of course, open to the public just like this, but they are usually across the bridge or on the other side of town,” she said.

Hosting the event at an accessible location to East Waco residents will allow people without transportation to attend.

Born and raised in Waco, Pate said she has watched the city transition over the years, and one of her biggest goals is to ensure progress is carried throughout the city and not limited by geography or money.

“That everyone sees their ship rise when the tide rises: It’s more than just a meal,” Pate said. “It’s empowering the neighborhood.”

Anyone interested in donating to the event or volunteering can go to or contact Miller at 315-6233.

Short of goal

Miller said the campaign is at almost $2,500 of its $10,000 goal, but he’s not discouraged. He said he’s an eternal optimist.

“I just believe that the people of our community will donate and be charitable, and we’ll have an abundance of items to give those people in need,” he said. “If 1,000 people donate $10, we can do so much. We have a lot of time for people to make a $10 sacrifice.”

Miller, who owns Prosperity Tax Service and Prosperity Travel Group with his wife, said he often passes by East Waco and recalls fond memories.

“I realize that neighborhood had a stigma, too negative a stigma,” he said. “I always tell people it was one of the best places to grow up in the world.”

Neighbors knew one another growing up, he said. Increased poverty for some in the area has led to the neighborhood’s stigma, he said.

“It’s a really special place,” he said. “I’m proud to be from East Waco.”

Menu for event

Guests will enjoy a meal of barbecue, brisket, smoked hams, turkey breasts, green beans, baked beans, dressing and potato salad, said Bobby Touchstone, owner of Eatery, 821 Clifton St.

For the past four years, Touchstone has hosted an event to feed veterans during the holidays. This year he’s teaming up with Miller and others to help make the Feast in the East a success. Touchstone started offering free meals to veterans in 2012, which attracted 45 people, and last year’s event peaked at 96 individuals, he said.

Touchstone, who has lived in Waco most of his life, said he’s blessed to be a little more fortunate than others and he believes in giving back.

“I believe in paying it forward,” he said.

Miller said charity is something he wants to be part of and something he wants to pass on to his family. His college-age children, wife and 13-year-old will be on hand Thursday to help with the festivities.

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