Top 10 “Most Opened” Blog Posts of 2019

by Ashley Bean Thornton

One of my favorite things to do in the world is edit the Act Locally Waco blog.

December is a wonderful, but hectic, month for most of us. Because of that, it has become our tradition to give our beautiful bloggers a month to focus on family, friends and the joys of the holidays rather than on meeting our blog deadlines.  So, for the month of December we will have one or two new posts, but mainly we will be reprising “2019’s greatest hits.”

I couldn’t possibly pick my favorites – so I used the simple (cop out?)  approach of pulling up the 10 blog posts that got the most “opens” according to our Google Analytics.  It is an intriguing collection that gives at least a little insight into the interests and concerns of Act Locally Waco readers.

I hope this list inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… but of course they couldn’t all be in the list of the 10 most opened. I would love for you to reply in the comments or on the Facebook page with a note about some of your favorites.

We will be reposting these in the next few weeks between now and the new year — but I know some of you are “list” people who would like to see them all at once.  So, I offer the list below, with thanks to everyone who has written for the blog this year, with pride in what we have created together, and with no small amount of wonder at the beautiful complexity that makes up our beloved community!  Enjoy!

Think of it as a Christmas present from your community to you, and invitation for you to write in 2020! – ABT

10. I Make Kids Cry by Michael Jeter

9. Runaway Rock Star by Kamayah Miles

8. The MCC Cosmetology Salon is Getting a Makeover by Mandie Meier

7. The Tool Shed thrift shop: a new Waco store to benefit Friends for Life by Easton Preston, MSW

6. Reflections on Leadership Waco by Austin Meek

5. Eating Gluten Free in Waco  by Ellie Triplett

4. On Rivers and Rye: a Farmers Market Update by Bethel Erickson-Bruce

3. A letter from a First Generation Mexican Immigrant, Naturalized Citizen, US Patriot by Reyna Reyes

2. MCC Alum Sweetening up the Neighborhood!  by Phillip Ericksen

1. Thinking about how Waco would respond to an influx of immigrants by Grecia Chavira

Top 10: MCC Alum Sweetening up the Neighborhood!

Top 10  “Most Opened” Blog Posts of 2019: # 2

By Phillip Ericksen

Eddy Garcia is bringing some sweets back to the neighborhood.

The 23-year-old McLennan Community College graduate is opening Helados La Azteca No. 2 – a Mexican dessert shop – at the intersection of Colcord Avenue and North 15th Street.

The shop opened Saturday in the growing North Waco area primed to celebrate local business and the Hispanic culture of the neighborhood.

Garcia was born in Los Angeles and moved to Waco with his family when he was 8 years old. He earned his associate of arts degree from MCC this Spring, on top of a certificate of completion from the MCC Fire Academy in the Fall of 2017.

“A lot of doors open up with school,” he said. “You’ve got to find the right opportunity and take it, and that’s what I did. As soon as I got my associate’s degree, this is what I’ve been doing since.”

Garcia thanked Bradley Turner, an associate professor of environmental science, who especially motivated him.

“I was taking his class while I was opening this up,” Garcia said. “He motivated me so much.”

Garcia’s family operates the original location of Helados La Azteca at 3302 Franklin Ave. This new shop will sell Mexican ice cream, paletas, fruit and other Mexican desserts. It will also carry Blue Bell ice cream, a Texas favorite.

World Cup Café and Fair Trade Market, Jubilee Food Market and D’s Mediterranean Grill surround the area that also includes Baked Bliss Baking Company, West Avenue Elementary School, Grassroots Community Development and Family Health Center.

Mission Waco, a local nonprofit, owns Garcia’s space known as The Colcord Center. Garcia credited the strength of the neighborhood and the support of all involved in the project.

He also plans to partner with the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and participate in events with other local businesses.

The location of Helados La Azteca No. 2 is just a short drive from MCC, where thousands of students are on their pathways to either a new profession or a promotion in their current field.

Potential students may explore courses and register at mclennan.edu.


Phillip Ericksen is the marketing and communications specialist at McLennan Community College. For about four years, he was a journalist at the Waco Tribune-Herald covering higher education and local government. He enjoys following the news, reading books and drinking coffee. As a San Antonio native, he is an avid fan of Mexican food and the Spurs basketball team. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University.  He can be reached at pericksen@mclennan.edu.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Top 10: On Rivers and Rye: a Farmers Market Update

Top 10  “Most Opened” Blog Posts of 2019: # 4

By Bethel Erickson-Bruce

Right now the perennial question for the Waco Downtown Farmers Market is:  WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO MOVE BACK TO THE RIVER? I answer by deflecting, like a good politician.  (If you really want the answer to the question of the river, please continue reading about all of the projects related to local food we are actually excited about – the river is addressed at the end).

First off – if you haven’t been to Market since we relocated to the Courthouse, you’re missing out.  Yes, it’s hot in summer. But we have more space for more vendors than we did down by the riverside. And much higher visibility than down by the good old riverside.

Second, we started a new thing.  Can’t make it on Saturdays to buy groceries?  We’ve got you covered. Now you can pre-order through our online store called Market in a Box.  We have all the local things – from honey to heavy whipping cream, mini loaves to mushrooms, peaches to purple hull peas.  We even have conveniently packaged $15 produce bundles – featuring 1 seasonal fruit and 4-5 seasonal veggies. Think of it as a multi-farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box without a subscription. Through this new online system we are able to work with local producers who are unable to participate at Saturday market – while reducing time expenditure of the producers and increasing everyone’s access to local produce and carefully crafted artisan food goods.  We hope to expand to more convenient bundles (like a Breakfast bundle with coffee and breakfast sausage) – and add more items like gristmill grains and bread subscriptions. Take a gander at our current offerings at: http://waco.localfoodmarketplace.com.

Third, we now distribute WIC vouchers to be used for locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables for families currently receiving benefits.  Without getting too high up on my political soapbox, let it be known that the amount of fresh produce (or canned) that a family on WIC receives is ridiculous.  Like $11 for the month for a family of 2 eligible WIC recipients. (I speak from my personal experience.) Through our partnership with Grow North Texas in Dallas, the Texas Department of Agriculture sponsors $30 in WIC vouchers for each eligible family member.  We can only distribute the vouchers once person Market season (defined by TDA as April-October) but as most families know, every dollar counts. As a recovering social worker, I’m delighted by any and all opportunities to increase access to – and affordability of  – locally grown fruits and veggies while at the same time supporting livelihoods of the farmers and their families growing our food.

Fourth, the rye bit.  If you love the market but: A) can’t wake up early on Saturday or B) can’t remember to place your online order by Monday at noon – we’ve got just the opportunity for you.  Join us at Balcones Distilling on Thursday, August 8th from 6-8pm for “Grains & Growers, a farmers market friend-raiser.” It costs $40 but you’ll receive a free cocktail a la Balcones or a mocktail a la Luna Juice.  And we have all the tastiest of finger foods from our friends at Milo All Day, Brazos Valley Cheese, Falk Bakery, Heritage Creamery. You’ll also be supporting the work of the Waco Downtown Farmers Market to strengthen our local food system – from the farmers to the folks on a food budget and the friendly faces opening fancy food establishments.  Tickets can be purchased through our Square page here: https://squareup.com/store/wdfm.

And now for the answer, you’ve all been waiting for – MAYBE IN TWO YEARS. MAYBE NEVER.  And you know what, that’s okay. We’ll happily keep running the farmers market each Saturday between the corners of 5th and 6th street in the shadows of the iconic Courthouse and ALICO buildings until some magical, farm-friendly, family-friendly opportunity presents itself.


Bethel Erickson-Bruce likes to eat and grow vegetables, run around with her wild little humans – Jasper Jack and Angus Augustus, and star-gaze with her husband (and Rapoport teacher) Jonathan.  She also runs the Waco Downtown Farmers Market.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Top 10: A letter from a First Generation Mexican Immigrant, Naturalized Citizen, US Patriot

Top 10  “Most Opened” Blog Posts of 2019: # 3

By Reyna Reyes

I was always that kid.  The one who was in everything, or at least tried to be.  I guess it’s always been that way with me.  I’ve always been very passionate and 100 percent all in.

My parents brought me here to the US in 1979, I was a 3- year old toddler.  Early on into my pre-teens, we visited Mexico often.

I always knew to prepare because the walls at my grandparents were see-through, dirt blew everywhere, with dirt floors, a random concrete slab, no electricity, no running water, and no bathroom.  Still is the same today.

It was always amazing to me how a family of 8 could cramp into one room with a couple of mattresses on the dirt floor and manage to cook and eat outside in the elements.

We stopped going as frequently as crime with the cartels increased and it was no longer safe for us to go to “la frontera.”

I would hear my uncles talk about the dangers the family faced and how us visiting there could make it a greater risk for them.

Ten years ago, my husband and I were quickly ushered back by family across the US border when we attempted to go to my cousin’s funeral in Mexico.  We were warned by family that tensions were high, and we would be at risk for danger.

My grandfather passed away and we were advised to stay away.

My uncle passed away and more of the same.

Over the years, my family, like many others, has suffered loss due to the crime that has gone on unchecked at la frontera.  Daily living is sometimes near impossible without becoming a casualty of the war on the streets.

Bloodied bodies across the front page of the local paper serve as notice to families, including mine.

I am so grateful my parents immigrated to the US.  And while there is definitely a desperation in Mexico and further South, and a very real humanitarian crisis at the border; most Mexicans can appreciate the efforts of the US administration to keep this country safe.

My cousin, a professor at a school in Mexico expressed to me how they wish their leaders would do the same on their behalf.

Personally, growing up in the US as a Mexican immigrant, I was often stereotyped and racially attacked.

I was called a wetback and was often bullied in school because of it. 

It could have been because I was that girl who wore the folclórico dresses and sang the Tejano songs with a conjunto band and the Mariachi Band at school.

It didn’t help that most of my friends were teachers and administrators, and I often sold tamales to them to help mom with money.

As a result, I was often pushed around and ridiculed.

But it wasn’t by who you may suspect.

It wasn’t those “racist white people” who hated Mexicans as I often hear about today…I didn’t meet any of those people and didn’t really hear about them back then that I can remember.

No.  My attackers were the very same Latino kids who are now adults who continue to do the very same thing to folks, including me; except using today’s platform that is now social media.

I was very recently publicly stereotyped and attacked.  I was called an ignorant whitewashed entitled chicana by an immigrant advocate.

A community member mocks me with memes and uses bullying tactics online to try and intimidate me, as recently as today.

I think it to be completely ironic.

It takes me back to those days in middle school and high school when we often had little to eat, no electricity or running water, and were often on the verge of being evicted; dealing with an alcoholic for a father, protecting my younger brother from seeing his state, dealing with my epilepsy (We didn’t always have the money for the meds or specialist visits, not to mention money for a translator and transportation), and still working to keep my grades up in school to ensure my mother’s sacrifice did not go in vain.

As a conservative Latina, I am often accused of being a traitor.

If leaving my home country to make a better life here is being a traitor, then maybe I am. Although I didn’t choose my path as a child, I guess I could have returned to Mexico to make it work.

If I’m a traitor because I didn’t go back to fight so that the Mexican government would do for its citizens as it should, then maybe I am.  I guess it depends on how you define it.

But if that is why I am a traitor, then would it make hundreds of thousands of Mexican immigrants traitors because they didn’t stay to fight the corruption in their homelands?

No.  Of course we are not traitors.  No matter where we stand politically.  We have all fled and continue to flee countries who have cared little for their own citizens.

We are here because the US government’s structure allows for freedom and opportunities.

I was naturalized very recently as a US Citizen and I am scheduled to attend a swearing in ceremony in a couple of months.  I couldn’t be more excited.

Let us stop attacking the leaders of this great nation.  Let us stop playing into the media for ratings and politicians for the vote.

Instead, let us join forces to focus on immigration reform and raise money to help manage the efforts at the border and help organizations that are on the front lines working to help families reunite.

Let’s join forces to raise money to cover attorney fees and legal processes for those seeking asylum and a path to citizenship.

Let us raise money to send US ambassadors to Mexico to work on a solution to address the root cause of the crisis.

Let’s work together to address this very real crisis affecting very real families.  Some who may be our very own.


Reyna Reyes is a 40-year Wacoan. She is a first generation Mexican immigrant and a first generation high school graduate. She is a Licensed Vocational Nurse with an Associate’s degree from McLennan Community College and a Bachelor Degree from Tarleton State University in Business Management. She co-chaired Care Net Waco’s very first Style Show fundraiser last year featuring Care Net moms and their children, an organization very near and dear to her heart.

She is a not-so-anonymous shopaholic who loves to shop the locals and encourage her social media followers to do the same. She is 22 years married to her amazing husband, Joshua and they have a 10-year old son, Jordan.  They enjoy watching Baylor Football and Lady Bears Basketball together.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Top 10: Thinking about how Waco would respond to an influx of immigrants

Top 10  “Most Opened” Blog Posts of 2019: # 1

By Grecia Chavira

I am a DACA-mented teacher in Waco.

By that I mean I’m a beneficiary of “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”, or DACA. This executive action was implemented by the Obama administration in June of 2012. DACA provides protection from deportation and work authorization for young immigrants, often referred to as DREAMers, who have completed high school and arrived in the United States before their sixteenth birthday. This benefit gives me protection, but it often feels like an undeserved privilege.

Lately I’ve felt that my “privilege” didn’t start with DACA, it started when I began my journey as an immigrant into the United States almost 20 years ago. I realize now that the start of my story as an immigrant is starkly different than most.

When I was 8 years old, I arrived in Waco on a charter bus with my family by my side. I didn’t need to cross the desert with a coyote (a human smuggler who leads immigrants across the border illegally). I was never in danger of being raped, trafficked or lost. I wasn’t separated from my parents at the border. I was safe.

I vividly remember arriving to Waco after midnight at a yellow and green gas station. I remember running off the bus and hugging my aunt, who was anxiously awaiting our arrival. During my first year in the States, various family members graciously shared their home with my family. I didn’t live in an overcrowded detention center- I didn’t endure sexual abuse from prison guards. I was safe. I was home.

These memories arise with a sense of guilt as I read recent news of immigrants traveling thousands of miles in search of a safer and better future for themselves and their children. My parents had the same goals, but we were lucky. We were fortunate enough to have family connections, resources and a church community. We were welcomed.  We were not considered a burden or a punishment.

Things couldn’t be more different for the 50,000 immigrants who have been released into San Antonio from December to March after being processed and detained at the border. The influx that occurred at the end of March included about 500 hundred asylum-seeking immigrants arriving in San Antonio. Many of these had traveled from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador fleeing violence, in search of safety.

Thankfully, local non-profit organizations such as American Gateways and Catholic Charities came together to rally around the immigrant families. These groups coordinated hundreds of volunteers who helped the families book tickets to travel to their final destinations or to contact family members.

Recognizing the magnitude of the situation, the city of San Antonio set up a resource center in an empty store to help the local non-profits provide enough food, clothing, and medical services to the immigrant families. City staff provided children books to read while the adults sought out legal services. As an immigrant, my heart hurt for the hardships that my immigrant brothers and sisters suffered in their search for a better life, but my Texan heart beamed with pride as San Antonio stepped up to meet their needs with love and dignity.

As I discussed these events with my good friend and local immigration attorney, Anali Looper, we wondered how Waco would handle high numbers of immigrant arrivals. Would the City step in and help our local non-profits meet their needs? Would churches show love and compassion by opening up their facilities to be used as temporary housing? Would volunteers rally as they did in San Antonio? I would hope so. But hoping isn’t enough.

Living in Waco, Texas, has never felt scary to me. I remember a childhood filled with security and love. I attended Waco public schools, where teachers loved me, motivated me and led me toward success. My teachers advocated for me and broke ground with me as an undocumented Valedictorian at University High School. As a child, I attended a small Hispanic church where I was shown to appreciate my community and to love my neighbor as myself. Now I attend a large multi-cultural church that focuses on missions around the world.

As a Wacoan, I would like to see the City of Waco and the community prepare a contingency plan for treating immigrant families with the same dignity and respect that would be awarded to US Citizen families who have been displaced by floods, hurricanes or fires. I would like for my students, many immigrants or children of immigrants themselves, to learn the value of human life and the power of community. I would like my students and their families to feel safe and loved, just like I did growing up, just like I do now.

I want to have faith that my adoptive hometown would be as welcoming and generous should we have to respond to a situation like San Antonio. I would hope and pray for a similar response, but would it be done?


For more information about American Gateways please refer to the website: www.americangateways.org.


Grecia Chavira is a 2nd grade teacher in Waco ISD. She grew up in Waco and graduated from Baylor University. She always dreamed of being a teacher for English Language Learners. She is a part of the community advisory committee for American Gateway, a local non-profit that provides low-cost immigration legal services. She enjoys working out, practicing yoga and visiting local restaurants with her husband, Enoc.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.