My wife and I, and our 6 month old son Grant, came to the Brookwood Community 34 years ago thinking we could make a difference in adults with disabilities. My wife had a Child Development Degree from University of Texas at Austin so I knew she could make a difference and I had a Radio, Television, Film degree also from UT (people always asked me if I could fix their TVs).
When we interviewed with Yvonne Streit, the founder of Brookwood and mother of Vicki, her daughter with disabilities, Yvonne asked my wife, Andrea, many questions and I think Yvonne was quite impressed with her answers. She then looked over at me and said “What can you do?” I almost told her I could fix televisions, thinking that the INN, where the first Citizens were going to live, would have televisions but instead said “I would do anything asked” (I am glad I did not tell her I could fix TVs because later she said she hoped there would not be TVs at Brookwood but rather a robust and busy activities program). I had worked at Camp Longhorn up in the Hill Country as Boys Camp Director and I immediately told Yvonne about all these “outrageous activities” we did at camp. I could tell by her look these activities would not be suitable for the Citizens at Brookwood so I just made up a fun activity and exercise which included BIKE RIDING and told her of the benefits of riding bikes. It must have “caught her attention” because she smiled and went back to my wife to discuss child development.
After the interview, Andrea and I walked to our car and she said how much she would really like to work at Brookwood. In my mind though I was sure I ruined the interview with my silly answers so I rushed back inside and asked to see Mrs. Streit for just a moment. I told her I could drive a bus (there was an old bus in the driveway that brought the Citizens to Brookwood from Briarwood School) and I could start up a BIKE CLUB. I would have never imagined I would get the job and be driving buses for 34 years, but even more I could have never imagined we would have over 100 bikes: 2 wheels, 3 wheels, tandem, side by side, crank bikes, and now a tandem with a three wheel back section. We also have a new first class Bike Pavilion that rivals any building I have ever seen to store over 100 bikes with Yvonne Streit’s input and approval!!
This young lady has really become courageous living at Brookwood. It took Susan awhile to join in the different events thinking she couldn’t do it but then she saw her peers at Brookwood get involved and she came to realize that perhaps “I can do it too” (joining handbells, being in plays, supporting other Citizens in the shops, and bike riding). She has just begun to reach her peak in long distance bike riding. She is one of several Citizens that rides her bike to work and activities. Since she rides a 3 wheel bike, Susan wanted to participate in this bike event and she is one of reasons we are purchasing a tandem bike with a 3 wheel bike attachment on the back of the tandem. Susan is very excited to be a part of the Bike to the Beach team.
Our first resident, first bike rider, first to try anything! Buddy has probably gone through 3 bikes (a new bike every 10 years) and will always be the first ready to ride on Saturdays. I think he has ridden over 3500+ MILES on the Fondren Circle at Brookwood. 5 miles will be nothing to him. I hope I can get him to give the others a turn to ride. Buddy is what Brookwood is all about… to have opportunities every day and to change the way the world thinks about adults with disabilities.
Vicki came to Brookwood almost 33 years ago and we were not quite sure if she could stay here. She fought us every step of the way for what we were asking her to do. Then one day she came to Mrs. Streit during a tour and thinking Vicki was going to tell her “I quit” wanted to tell Mrs. Streit what an outstanding job another Citizen was doing at her task. At that moment we realized Vicki turned a corner, thinking of others and not just herself, and since then has been a true Brookwood team member. I am glad to tell our visitors of Vicki’s great accomplishments in her jobs, ringing handbells, wanting to help others, and of course bike riding. She grew up with my son, even helping my wife take care of him when Andrea was busy supporting other Citizens. Vicki sang lullabies to Grant 33 yrs ago and will now be riding with him in the “5 miles Ironwoman”!
Kim has had so many “ups and downs” it is amazing she keeps moving forward every day. I think she moves forward because at Brookwood we learn that these “challenges” are actually lessons on how to be the best, without the “downs” and how can we really enjoy the “ups”. Kim teaches all us the great joy of never taking anything too serious but at same time puts great effort into what is asked of her but always has a funny comment on the side to say “loosen up”. Being part of the bike team she knows there will be “ups and downs” but I never know for sure if she is talking about the road we will ride on or if it will be tough to ride a full 5 miles.
My name is Becah Butler. I have been working with people who have special needs for the past 29 years some might even say it is my biggest passion. I previously worked at Briarwood and in Klein ISD before starting my journey at Brookwood. I dearly love the Citizens at Brookwood and what they add to my life everyday. It is immeasurable joy. As a runner, I believe that fitness is essential for mental and physical health. I am a little scared to Bike to the Beach but I will cling to my Citizen friends and my family for inspiration. Let’s do this!!!
Tears filled my eyes as I drove back to Houston on FM 1489. My thought…EVERY individual deserves a life filled with meaning and purpose, dignity and respect and adults with disABILITIES deserve no less, the opportunity to live equally fulfilling, purpose-filled lives.
It was 1999 and I had just completed my first site visit to Brookwood Community as a Grant Officer from a Houston Foundation. My experience that day left me in awe of God’s hand in the development of this amazing community. What I saw that day changed my heart in ways I will never forget. Individuals with autism, down syndrome, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, and other disABILITIES, happy and working at their level of ability. They worked side by side, helping each other, creating exquisite handcrafted ceramic and stone casting products. They also worked in horticulture growing beautiful flowers and cheerfully serving guests in the Brookwood cafe or retail store where they sell the products they make. Citizens were happy to have a job, proud to tell you about their work, felt they were making a contribution, and expressed what it meant to receive a paycheck. They also shared what they did after work enabling them to demonstrate their talent whether it was playing in the Brookwood Handbell Choir, volunteering for meals on wheels, practicing for an upcoming play, preparing for a 5K walk or even training for a long distance bike ride.
Life for the Citizens of Brookwood is filled with meaning, purpose, dignity and respect. For the next 14 years, through ongoing site visits with the foundation, I had the opportunity to continuously observe the life changing experiences this community offers adults with all levels of disabilities and fell in love with the heart and authentic Spirit of each one.
In 2013 I joined the Brookwood Community as a full time community/staff member, and as I drive to Brookwood from my home near downtown, I feel that same feeling I felt 20 years ago in 1999 on my first site visit….there is something very different and special going on here. There is truly a Spirit in this place!
I’m proud to blend my passions for Integrative Nutrition and adults with different abilities on this ride with Brookwood Citizens to Bike to the Beach. Movement is as important as food when comes to overall wellness and this is an amazing opportunity to be involved in such a purpose filled and pleasurable event. Thank you for your support!
God made the heart to expand – that’s what I think when I think of Brookwood Citizens. Just when I thought my heart could not grow any bigger, I began to meet the Citizens at Brookwood. I did not even know what I was missing! When I am sharing a moment with a Citizen, sometimes it feels like I’m going to explode from the joy they give me. I can’t wait to ride with Citizens this year and share a day with them, riding our bikes and celebrating with them as they achieve their goals on the Bike to the Beach ride. For me, every day at Brookwood is an unexpected adventure, but God is not surprised!
When this wonderful lady came to Brookwood she liked to curl up in her bed and read adventures. I told her she could have her own adventure and stories here at Brookwood and encouraged her to come ride bikes. She has participated in every 25K Bike Rally we have held at Brookwood. Carrie and I are the same age (61 yrs) and I couldn’t be more proud of her. We are both still riding bikes and she and I will ride together for a full 5 miles. Carrie teaches us every day that no matter our problems, concerns, or disabilities we can overcome them together. You just need a good Team! She has that at Brookwood!