A Love Letter to the 254

By Michelle Leatherwood

Finding community and making memories in Waco

I’m just a woman who came to Baylor, fell in love with Waco, and never left. I’ve now called Waco home for longer than my native city of Houston, and the more people I encounter in our community, the more I find that many of you are just like me. Often, you’re from a larger city, or even another state, simply seeking connection and following your desire to create beauty in the heart of our charming small town.

Waco is beautiful that way — it provides a vibrant, familiar culture that holds on to the city’s roots while simultaneously paving the way for new ventures full of passion and purpose. The beautiful story that runs through the fabric of everyone who has ever called Waco home is what draws me back in, every day.

Walking around BU as a fresh-faced Chi Omega, I had no clue what was in store for me just 200 miles away from what used to be home. I quickly realized that community was around every corner — and even if it hadn’t been, I could build it for myself. Post college, getting plugged into the Antioch Discipleship School is what led me to meeting my future husband and some of my closest friends to this day.

I never imagined Waco would be my forever. And I’m sure my husband, who was living in Amman, Jordan prior to putting down roots in this city, didn’t either. Now, I write this on a perfect fall Saturday morning with Baylor football playing on TV. Our two older kiddos are running around chanting, “Go Bears!”, while our sweet newborn naps. We have our balcony doors open, on a house we recently built. A life that felt so dreamy in ways is tangible in a place like Waco.

I know it’s rare to land in a place where you love your work, your house and neighbors, local businesses and lovely scenery — but our paths led us to find these blessings in Waco. I thought I’d get married and move to California but instead, I have been given the opportunity to do things like walk to local shops: shoutout to Pinewood Coffee, Harvest on 25th and For Keeps Coffee. I get the chance to jog through Cameron Park with my sister and be connected to friends who are like family from our Sanger Heights home and in our newly built Bosqueville community! It’s a gift working alongside friends at The Snider Team – SWBC Mortgage, and being part of Waco Moms.

In the past 15 years, Waco has changed tremendously — experiencing this growth has been nothing short of magic. This city wasn’t even on the map when I chose to attend Baylor; I’m proud of how far we’ve come! Much of the change has happened due to the impact of our community leaders. Their hard work radiates through the pulse of the people and the stewardship of Mayor Dillon Meek and Police Chief Sheryl Victorian has taken us to great heights.

I’m grateful that days I’d otherwise spend navigating traffic jams in a big city are instead filled with trips to Homestead Heritage, walks along the Brazos River followed by local shopping trips and afternoons at the perfectly curated Silos grounds. Falling in love with Waco has been easy. So seamless, in fact that when we went to buy land and build our dream home, I panicked when I thought we might have wound up without a Waco address. I couldn’t imagine calling somewhere else home, no matter how close it was.

So, this is my encouragement to you … go grab a friend, raise your drink and say cheers to our beloved Wacotown. Spend the day remembering why you fell in love with this city in the first place and start writing your own love letter to the 254!