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There is a place just outside of Houston that was built out of a dream.  A simple spark of humanity, a glimmer of hope and infinite love have made Brookwood Community a sacred place for many.  If you’re not familiar with the story of how Brookwood came to be, let us start by introducing you to Yvonne Streit.

Like many native Houstonians, Yvonne grew up here and attended River Oaks Elementary School and Lamar High School.  While attending SMU, she recognized the first of many paths presented to her.  This particular path was a professor who convinced her to add education to her psychology major. She did and following graduation,she went into teaching while her husband, David, attended law school.

Yvonne and David stayed on this path together for some time until the second path presented itself.  Their third daughter, Vicki, became ill with the mumps.  She suffered complications and developed  encephalitis and meningitis at the age of 12 months. Both diseases can be treated and in some cases, as in Vicki’s, the sufferers can develop severe brain damage. This path led to numerous physicians saying there was nothing that could be done - the brain damage was too great. The standard medical opinion was simply to “put her away”.

Yvonne and David knew they were put on this path for a reason.  They weren’t about to be so easily defeated. After an exhaustive search, the Streitsfinally located Dr. Newell Kephart, professor of psychology at Purdue University. Dr. Kephart agreed to see her daughter and the Streits headed to Indiana. Where many had been unable to get Vicki to respond at all, Dr. Kephart had Vicki sit on a trampoline and by gently bouncing her,it generated a response. Upon seeing these techniques and learning a lot about the doctor’s techniques, Mrs. Streit now wanted to improve the lives of others.

It all started at  Memorial Drive Baptist Church where a school would be formed and become the precursor to a school for children with disabilities and the Brookwood Community. With the number of new students increasing, they quickly outgrew Memorial Drive Baptist. Fortunately, St. Philip Presbyterian Church  offered more space, but it came with a three year limit. Knowing that time was of the essence, it was not long before Yvonne received her first donation of two hundred and fifty dollars from a sorority friend. Little did she know she was about to embark on a third path.

 Following that initial donation, Yvonne received a call from The Fondren Foundation. A gift of $100,000 changed lives forever.  What was a small program at a local church began its journey to expand into the facility it is today.  With this, Yvonne and David formed The Briarwood School for handicapped and disabled children in Houston in 1967. The success and reputation continued to grow and soon, Briarwood began to enroll children with special needs and learning disabilities. Since it’s opening, over 10,000 students have attended and benefitted from Briarwood.  As with many paths, sometimes you are met with a fork in the road.  Briarwood was a huge success and was helping countless children live a fulfilling life.  This new path was the recognition by Yvonee and David that the need didn’t end at age 18, but continued on into adulthood. In 1985 this new path led them to Brookshire, Texas just west of Houston. The Streits opened the Brookwood Community for adults with special needs. Thirty years later, this 475 acre campus is a thriving community where amazing things happen and new paths are discovered every day.

About The Brookwood Community 

The Brookwood Community serves 110 residents and roughly 80 day guests as a home for disabled and handicapped adults. The range of disabilities include autism spectrum disorders, intellectual developmental disabilities, brain injuries, dual diagnosis along with aging care needs. Brookwood accepts no government funding and relies on tuition, donations and sales from their entrepreneurial enterprises. All of their equipment including the building, furnishings and vehicles were donated. 

A few of the funding enterprises are the Horticulture and Handcrafts Enterprises and The Cafe at Brookwood. The Cafe is open seven days a week for lunch and serves hundreds of customers a week while providing jobs for the citizens of Brookwood. Chef Michael Fernandez studied at The Culinary Institute of America in New York and offers a gourmet dining experience. The facility is also available for weddings and parties and can handle up to 350 people. All for a good cause.

The teachers serve as friends, counselors and teachers while provide a feeling of independence for its members of the community. Sports and physical fitness play a huge part in the activity at Brookwood. The Brookwood Eagles participate in six Special Olympic sports including basketball, bocce ball, bowling, cycling, golf and swimming.

 Brookwood is responsible for an outreach program that shares innovative concepts and techniques with other professional caregivers throughout the nation and worldwide. Not far from Brookwood, the Willow River Farms was spawned through the Houston based Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation, a United Way Agency.

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             Drone Aerial with Citizens