When new executive director, Kevin King, told the residents at Breckenridge Village of Tyler that they’d be having a pizza party, the room exploded — clapping and cheering, some jumping out of their seats.
“These guys (are the most rewarding part of this job),” he said with a smile. “They celebrate life. I say all the time, ‘Paperwork is not why I’m here.’”
King has been executive director of the faith-based nonprofit home for the last three months. March is National Intellectual Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, and King said there are a few things he feels the public doesn’t understand about Breckenridge’s residents, who have mild to moderate intellectual disabilities, such as Down’s Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy or Traumatic Brain Injury.
“People have a misconception that their skills are limited and they aren’t able to contribute,” he said.
The residents and those who participate in the day program volunteer with all sorts of agencies — for example, they help deliver meals with Meals On Wheels. One resident was inspired to create a program where pet owners sign a pledge to keep them from neglecting their pets, after watching a story of a neglectful owner on the news.
The residents also create art regularly, some of which is sold to support the nonprofit.
“I love BVT,” said Linda, a 43-year-old eight-year resident, who enjoys art and poetry. “They welcomed me like a family. I am free to be myself.”
The organization started with the tenacity of Jean Breckenridge, said Linda Taylor, the organization’s director of development.
“She was an incredible lady,” Ms. Taylor said. “She was passionate about these special people until she died (last year).”
Jean and her husband, Robert, taught children with developmental disabilities. When their son, Jimmy, was born with a developmental disability that would prevent him from ever being able to live on his own, the Breckenridges thought about plans for his future once they were no longer able to care for him. They also began to think about other families facing the same dilemma.
“She used to say, ‘I would go to bed every night and wake up every morning wondering, ‘If something happened to me, what would happen to Jimmy?’” Ms. Taylor recalled.
The Breckenridges purchased 70 acres near their home in Tyler to serve as the site of what is now Breckenridge Village of Tyler. Built by the Texas Baptist Men, the campus has six cottage-style homes, in addition to a chapel, greenhouse, swimming pool, fishing pier, health center and activity centers. The campus has about 40 residents who have their own rooms in the cottages, and about 10 more attend the day program.
While some residents’ families pay tuition, government support and scholarships also are available.