Casey Waits

Loaf’N Dog owner Casey Waits prepares deliveries during last year’s annual Christmas Feast. This year marks the ninth year for the Cleburne event, which is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 25 at Winston Patrick McGregor Park.

Returning for the ninth year running, Cleburne’s annual Christmas Feast is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 25 at Winston Patrick McGregor Park, 1628 W. Henderson St.

All are welcome. The food is fresh, hot, delicious, plentiful and, more importantly, free.

Event organizer Michelle Moralez, Times-Review’s 2021 Woman of the Year, hit upon the idea behind the Feast a decade ago while thinking of ways to reach out to those forgotten and/or left behind at Christmas.

“So it’s a free Christmas feast with all the trimmings for anybody and everybody who wants to come,” Moralez said. “Whether that’s because you don’t have enough food to eat or you’re all alone or you’re simply hungry all are welcome.”

Having been held at several locations through the years, the feast returns to McGregor Park for the second year running.

“We used the location last year because of COVID-19,” Moralez said. “Because of that, most of the meals we served were delivered or curbside pickups. This year people can come in to sit down and eat again. All of our volunteers and servers will be wearing masks, face shields and gloves, of course. We will also continue to have curbside pickup and delivery.”

Loaf’N Dog owner Casey Waits will once again oversee delivery operations.

“Thank God for Casey,” Moralez said. “He makes my day so much easier.”

Waits jumped on board to help with deliveries three years ago.

“Just wanted to get involved after seeing how invested Michelle and everyone else involved are about this,” Waits said. “They all have such good hearts and the fact that they are able to feed so many every year just blows my mind. I love seeing how everyone involved puts so much into the Christmas Feast and it’s really become one of my favorite things about Christmas now.”

Cleburne businessman Fernando Rodriguez, who has helped Moralez with locations and other event logistics since the beginning of the Feast, agrees.

“Yes, myself and my family will definitely be there again this year to help just as we have every year,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a day we all look forward to.”

As in past years, Rodriguez is collecting toy donations at Apos Boot Outlet, 110 E. Chambers St. in Cleburne, and Apos Flooring, 4740 U.S. 67 in Alvarado.

“Christmas is about giving and sharing love with others,” Rodriguez said. “So I think of kids who will not otherwise have any toys or presents this Christmas but who, thanks to donations from people, will get a toy this Christmas Day.

“And so I think it’s important for everyone who can to donate knowing that everything we collect is going to be given out this Christmas Day during the feast.”

Moralez added that she’s thrilled beyond belief over that fact that her idea to reach out to others on Christmas Day has grown into a Cleburne tradition thanks to help through the years from Rodriguez, Waits, Randy and Becky Hightower at the Bread Connection, the Cleburne Fire Department and countless others.

“It’s grown beyond anything I ever imagined 10 years ago,” Moralez said. “The best part has been seeing that desire for helping and reaching out to others by so many people and the fact that, working together, we’ve been able to help so many people and make a difference to their Christmas holidays.

“It’s been great to see so many businesses, churches and groups jump in to help out every year. Especially I always love to see parents who show up with their children to help out. They get to experience the true meaning of Christmas as a family.”

But help is still needed, Moralez added.

“Last year we served about 900 meals but that was a little on the low side because of the pandemic,” Moralez said. “In the couple of years before that we had surpassed 1,100 meals each Christmas.

“So yes, all of the above, we need donations, money and volunteers.”

To volunteer, donate or request a meal delivery, call Moralez at 817-933-8168. Donations may also be dropped off at The Bread Connection, 409 W. Henderson St. in Cleburne during operating hours.

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