Armed with multicolored sticky notes, residents of East Waco gave input on the Prosper Waco goals regarding education, finance and health during Tuesday’s community engagement meeting.

Prosper Waco Executive Director Matthew Polk invited the approximately 25 attendees to explain what they thought would improve the lives of residents in their neighborhoods.

Residents recommended night child care for people who work late shifts, providing programs that teach parents how to educate their own children and forums that connect parents to resources for toddlers in preparation for pre-kindergarten.

“They need a safe place for their kids,” South Waco resident Gloria Rogers Harris said.

Prosper Waco is a nonprofit community initiative committed to mobilizing local residents to eradicate poverty in the area.

Some of the overarching goals of the group 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.

The evening included subdued but lengthy conversation that lasted beyond the two-hour schedule at the city’s multipurpose community center in East Waco.

The conversation regarding health care stemmed around Polk’s suggestion of a community health advocate, which residents supported.

Polk explained Prosper Waco is contemplating training community members on the local resources for health care and enabling those individuals to connect their neighbors with the resources they need.

Other residents recommended a mobile health van with nurses and professionals who could visit people at homes and “under trees.”

But, they said, the services need to be free. Many of the residents of East Waco are unemployed and without health insurance.

“Waco is not poor by any means,” Deatre Y. Jackson said. “If we can afford that (McLane) Stadium. If we can afford those horses. Bring some of that money over here.”

Polk also suggested employment training programs, which were not as well received by the group.

Harris countered Polk’s programs with an idea about an entrepreneurial program. People need to know how to build something for themselves to pass on to their families, she said.

There aren’t the businesses, such as a cleaners or office supply stores, that are needed in East Waco either, Harris said.

“This community will only come back if the people who live here, work here,” Harris said. “These people need to be taught to support themselves.”

Two more community meetings are planned. The first will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Maranatha Church of Waco, 2200 Ross Ave. The second will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 10 at Greater New Light Baptist Church, 925 N. 18th St.

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