Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT) celebrated the grand opening of three new residences on its campus, offering a long-term home to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
At the celebration on Friday, May 17, around 500 guests witnessed the official opening of the homes, including Les O’Farrell, BCFS Board of Trustees Chairman, and Dr. David Dykes, Pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church.
This phase of the BVT campus construction, which began in 2017, is the culmination of work from diligent BVT staff, support from generous donors, and help from countless volunteers – including contractors, builders, and suppliers – coming together to create something that will last for generations of residents to come. A notable and stable source of assistance throughout the building process has been the Texas Baptist Men (TBM), led by Bill Pigott, who was a member of the TBM 22 years ago when they built the first six homes and the Robert M. Rogers Chapel in 1997.
Pigott and his family were present for the grand opening, where one of the three homes was dedicated and named in his honor. The other two homes were posthumously dedicated and named to Pierre de Wet and Paul Powell, whose families were both present at the dedication to take part in the ribbon cutting at the homes that bear their names.
“It was amazing to see how this community came together to commemorate this important moment in our history. For the presence we feel from donors, supporters, and family to be fully realized and to have everyone here with us,” said Steven Campbell, Executive Director of BVT, “we simply could not be more proud and grateful.”
In addition to the ribbon cutting at each residence, butterflies were released at the homes. After the residences were officially opened, guests were able to tour each at their leisure before attending an outdoor lunch on the BVT campus.
“I stood here alongside Jean Breckenridge and Jimmy 21 years ago when we first broke ground,” said Kevin Dinnin, President and CEO of the BCFS System. “I know she would be as proud of this accomplishment as I am, and prouder still that we are answering the question she had so long ago – ‘What will happen to my child when I am gone?’ – for so many other families.”
Learn more about how Breckenridge Village of Tyler provides a loving home for so many in East Texas.
The family of Paul Powell stands in front of the home named posthumously in Powell’s honor.
The family of Pierre de Wet cut the ribbon in front of the home named in his memory.
Jimmy Breckenridge (left) and Kevin Dinnin discuss the latest.
Guests tour one of the newly opened homes.
Beverly Flynn, BVT's Special Events Coordinator, stands next to Grace Community School's Cougarettes from Tyler, Texas.
The kitchens in the new residences have the latest appliances and a healthy amount of space.
Attendants of the grand opening enjoy the day. (credit: SP7 Studios)
Each of the homes is outfitted with unique furniture in shared spaces, while the bedrooms are left for resident's to decorate as they wish.
Tammy (left), a BVT resident, delivers a message to a crowd of around 500 while standing next to Steven Campbell. Tammy has been a day-program participant for years but will now be able to live at BVT permanently thanks to the new homes. (credit: SP7 Studios)
Outdoor dining areas on the back side of each residence offer seating for up to eight and a wonderful view. (credit: SP7 Studios)
Dr. David Dykes, pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church, remembers riding around the empty lot that would become BVT with Kevin Dinnin in a small Nissan car. The two men met in the late '90s.
BVT residents had a front row seat at the celebration.
A trombone quartet plays while attendants enjoy lunch. (credit: SP7 Studios)
Roughly 500 guests came out to witness the grand opening of the new homes at BVT.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes an
anniversary as “the annual recurrence of a date marking a notable event.” This
year, Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT) celebrates its 20th anniversary,
commemorating an event that occurred on April 4, 1998, in the piney woods of
East Texas, when BVT’s doors opened and the future brightened for a special
group of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
The story, though, did not begin that sunny, spring day two decades ago. It began years earlier in the hearts of Jean and Robert Breckenridge. The Breckenridges had two sons – Robert Jr. and Jimmy – each as precious as the other. When they first envisioned what BVT might become, they thought of Jimmy, who was nine years old at the time, living with Down syndrome. Not only did they want to provide a safe and loving home for their son, they envisioned creating a community for other adults like him.
In 1972, Robert and Jean purchased 78 acres near their Tyler, Texas, home, raw land that would become the distinctively safe, loving, faith-based community for individuals who could never fully provide for themselves. This home would be the answer for parents, like themselves, who confront the question, “Who will care for my child when I am gone?”
Then, without warning, within six months, Jean lost both Robert Sr. and her son, Robert Jr. Alone, overwhelmed, and grieving, Jean wondered how she would make the family’s dream a reality without the help of her husband and her eldest son, Jimmy’s only other sibling. With no other living relatives, urgency accompanied the gut-wrenching question that haunted her day and night: “What about Jimmy – who will care for him when I am no longer here?”
A courageous heart and deep-seated commitment drove Jean
to approach Dr. David Dykes, her pastor at Green Acres Baptist Church, about
the feasibility of building a home for those with IDD. At an East Texas meeting
of pastors, Dr. Dykes met BCFS System President and CEO Kevin C. Dinnin, who
happened to be travelling through the region. Kevin was returning to Texas
after assessing sites around the country to research and create a facility that
met the needs of individuals living with IDD. It seemed a moment of divine
irony that the two men might meet and that their goals could be achieved in a
Pastor Dykes took Kevin to Mrs. Breckenridge’s house, where she shared with him her vision, and conveyed her sense of urgency to Kevin.
Kevin describes meeting Jean as fate.
“I would love to say I was just in the right place at the right time, but it was more than that,” Kevin says. “At that time, the BCFS System had no experience with building or managing a facility like Jean described, but her story truly moved me. I believe it was a miracle that Pastor Dykes led me to her.”
With a willingness to give all she had to make her dream come true, Jean donated the 78-acre lush parcel of East Texas real estate as the site for Breckenridge Village. With Kevin’s leadership and the partnership of the Texas Baptist Men (TBM) Retiree Builders, construction of the Village began in the fall of 1997. The TBM and their supportive wives, with RVs and construction machinery in tow, converged on the property with the mission of “Building for the Glory of God.”
“It was truly a sight to see,” Kevin recalls. “It was a big deal, like when you were kids and the fair would come to town. The TBM volunteers arrived by the dozens and set up an enormous tent as their headquarters. There were RVs surrounding the site, along with picnic tables and impressive cooking facilities where meals were prepared. It was monumental; inspirational.”
Sounds of hammers, saws, and drills interrupted by
shouts of conversation and laughter filled the air as dirt moved and concrete slabs
became the solid foundation for buildings and homes. In less than seven months,
the construction of six beautiful homes, a vocational building, and an
administrative building transformed the East Texas landscape from a grassy
field to a beautiful community.
On April 4, 1998 which also happened to be Jimmy’s 35th birthday, the official Grand Opening of Breckenridge Village of Tyler celebrated a day Jean Breckenridge had dreamed of, prayed for, and helped make a reality. When 24 individuals with IDD moved into the newly constructed homes just days later, BVT officially began its enterprise of service.
Since its opening, the BVT campus has expanded to
include more buildings and property improvements. In April 2000, the beautiful 7,684
square ft. Robert M. Rogers Memorial
Chapel was built. This chapel, featuring a stunning 25 ft. cathedral ceiling with
a cupola of natural light windows, includes a boardroom, two classrooms, a
kitchen, and a state of the art exercise room. However, the focal point of this
picturesque building is the 20 ft. cross, donated by Jean Breckenridge for the
chapel’s dedication. Since then, over 300 unique and exquisite crosses have
been added and now fill the walls of this amazing worship center. These crosses
provide inspiration to all who enter and to the residents as they gather to
begin their day in praise and worship.
Today, the Village features a medical clinic which allows nursing staff to provide quality medical support and supervision to those who reside at BVT or attend its programs; a handicapped-accessible swimming pool, donated by the late Dr. Ernest & Nita James; the Steve & Cheryl Plybon Pavilion, the center of campus recreational activities; and a beautifully stocked fishing pond.
But this breathtaking, state-of-the-art campus is more
than just brick and mortar. It is about a dream. It is about the people who
live there, the staff who care so lovingly, and the individuals from the
community who visit the campus on a daily basis. BVT is about Jimmy, Julie and Linda
H., whose parents are no longer living, but who now have a family and a home at
BVT with friends and staff who love, support, and encourage them to be all that
God intends them to be.
It’s about Alex, Clay, and Deborah, who have the opportunity to live self-sufficiently away from their families and grow into their own independence. It is about Tanner, Michele, and Alison, who come from all over the East Texas area each day to participate in the host of daily programs offered at the Village, and who hope to one day call BVT their home. BVT is about Jill and Dayne, whose parents, after prayerfully searching all across the nation, uprooted their families from New Jersey and Tennessee to move to East Texas, so their child could participate in BVT’s day programs while waiting for permanent placement at the Village.
Over the past 20 years, BVT has taught us that one truly
is “more blessed to give than to receive.” As such, the Village has become a
source of formidable volunteer effort for the Tyler community.
Five days a week, vans and buses are filled with BVT residents and other volunteers passionate about helping their community. Whether delivering meals to the homebound with Meals on Wheels, packaging food for the needy at the East Texas Food Bank, sorting donated clothing at Cornerstone Assistance Network, or assembling the bulletins for their local church, BVT residents enthusiastically serve those around them.
Their volunteer efforts also reach an international
scale of service when, each year, BVT residents hand knit more than 300
brightly-hued, toasty winter caps to send to orphaned children in Moldova, one
of Eastern Europe’s poorest countries. Their service is given every year in
partnership with Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI), an
international interest of the BCFS System.
Under the care of dedicated and committed staff, BVT residents are encouraged and challenged daily in their personal growth through elective opportunities, life skills training, active treatment, exercise, and field trips. Each semester and summer presents new chances to choose and participate in classes such as art, hand bells, sports, culinary arts, choir, candle-making, and horticulture, just to name a few.
Life skills and active treatment are ongoing training
opportunities that encourage personal growth and independence of BVT residents.
Staff lovingly guide and gently direct the development of social and coping
skills, household responsibilities, community safety, health and hygiene skills,
and much more.
Health and exercise are vital components to daily living at BVT. Whether exercising on equipment especially designed for their needs, working out in “sittercise,” or walking with others in the popular BVT Walking Club, residents are encouraged toward a healthy lifestyle. The hard work of physical fitness and the choices for healthy meals pays off during the teamwork and comradery of Special Olympic activities that take place throughout the year.
BVT residents participate in a host of wonderful,
memory-making opportunities as they attend local community engagements as well
as fun-filled field trips beyond the Village. Outings to the theater, symphony,
and various museums enrich their lives through the arts. Whether attending the magical
“A Night to Shine” (prom for adults with special needs), traveling to Arlington
to cheer for their Texas Rangers, enjoying the sights and sounds of the East
Texas State Fair, or reveling in beautiful, seasonal music at various Christmas
programs, BVT enjoys exciting occasions every year.
For its residents, BVT provides the security of a loving home with caregivers who respect their individuality and encourage their independence. Each resident has their own bedroom to personalize and customize to their liking. A large kitchen, open dining room, and spacious living room create a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Here, residents can interact with their housemates and share their day while playing games, putting puzzles together, or enjoying television. Housemates Brien, Jonathan, and Bubba are often seen taking an afternoon ride on their bikes around the campus. Residents enjoy a meaningful life at the Village, filled with enriching activities.
While BVT has impacted the lives of many, the need for
service is constantly growing. BVT continues to grow with that need in the
hopes that the many individuals with IDD who desire the quality of life that
BVT can provide receive all that they need and more. Each new or potential
member of the Breckenridge community deserves the same opportunities of home,
love, security, and friendship that BVT offers.
It is notable and worthy of celebration that for twenty years Breckenridge Village of Tyler has offered what many places cannot: a Christ-centered community providing “hope, love, and home” for adults with IDD. It is a special place where residents are making true, lifelong friends, often for the very first time in their lives. BVT continues to offer parents and guardians of those with special needs peace of mind and the answer to the same question that the Breckenridges asked themselves more than twenty years ago: “Who will care for my child when I am gone?”
Thank you, Jean and Robert, for sharing your dream and
allowing us to carry it on. May you rest peacefully knowing that your vision
for a loving, safe, and nurturing place for Jimmy and his many friends is
manifest daily at BVT.
Happy 20th Anniversary Breckenridge Village of Tyler! It truly is an anniversary worth celebrating.
Featured in the 2018 annual BCFS together magazine. To read more stories like this one, click here for our magazine archive.
Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT) was one of several winner’s in a local roofing company’s campaign to give back to their community. AVCO Roofing in Tyler, Texas, saved one percent of their proceeds on all residential projects, setting aside $150,000 that was then split among several local charities based on votes obtained and through social media and the AVCO Roofing website.
For BVT, that support through voting – from BVT employees,
BCFS System employees, friends, family, and community members – was strong
enough to help them finish in the top five!
The result was a donation of over $17,000 at a giveaway
event held at the AVCO offices, where Steven Campbell, Executive Director of
BVT, and Linda Taylor, Associate Executive Director of Advancement at BVT,
attended and accepted the award on behalf of the residents, staff, and
supporters of Breckenridge Village of Tyler.
Learn more about BVT’s daily work providing for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities here.
The rain may have poured but it did not dampen the spirits of the over 330 individuals who attended this year’s 10th Annual Robert L. Breckenridge Men’s Breakfast at the beautiful KE Bushman’s Celebration Center in Bullard, Texas. Some classic car owners braved the rainy conditions and brought their memorable vehicles to the car show despite the inclement weather. Meanwhile, the guests who stayed indoors enjoyed hot coffee while listening to classic songs performed by East Texas’ own, Dale Cummings, otherwise known as The “C”.
KTBB Radio personality, Bill Coates, began the program with stories of his days broadcasting high school and college ball games. He then had the privilege of introducing Elijah McCown, Luke McCown’s eleven-year-old son, to lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance. Dr. Tony Black followed the pledge by singing the National Anthem.
Throughout the event, attendees lined up to bid on the wide variety of wonderful silent auction items provided by local businesses and individuals. After bids were placed, the guests took their seat at football-themed tables to enjoy a delicious breakfast provided by The Diner and served by the BVT staff and Ladies Auxiliary. The room was filled with men – both young and old – enjoying friendship and fellowship with one another.
As the meal started to wind down, an exciting and animated live auction began. This year’s live auction item was a craftsman-style rocking chair built by Bob Holsomback – longtime friend, donor, and supporter of BVT. The stunning chair was made from walnut wood and featured a calf-skin cushion. It took Bob over 200 hours of work to complete. The starting bid was $1,000 but the price quickly grew as men sparred over the coveted, custom-made rocking chair. To the cheers of everyone in the audience, the exquisite piece sold for a final bid of $6,000!
Once the bidding came to a close, Luke McCown, an East Texas native and former NFL quarterback, shared stories from his football career. In his 13 years of experience across seven NFL teams, Luke’s path did not always go the way he planned. However, he knew from his life verse in Proverbs 16:9 that “A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps” (NKJV). Luke passionately encouraged his audience to “stand up and be men” who are firm in their faith, strong in their leadership, present and caring in their homes, and honest in their relationship with God. Luke continued, “Men should be the spiritual wind that blows in the sails of our families.” When Luke concluded his message, the audience gave a standing ovation in appreciation for his message of encouragement and wisdom.
Special thanks goes to the Kiepersol family for their faithful support of Breckenridge Village and their generosity in offering the beautiful KE Bushman venue for this event. BVT is also very appreciative of Luke and his family, Bill Coates, The “C” Dale Cummings, the many businesses and individual table sponsors, the auction donors, the BVT Staff, the Ladies Auxiliary and the employees of The Diner. The day was a spectacular one all in benefit of the special individuals at Breckenridge Village.
Brad Ezell joined Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT) in the Spring of 2014 as the Maintenance Supervisor, servicing the maintenance and grounds of the entire campus. Under Brad’s leadership, the 12 buildings, 75 acres, three irrigation ponds, and pool that make up the campus not only look phenomenal, but are also up to par with all safety and regulatory codes.
When Brad began his tenure at BVT, he brought with him expertise and experience that made him the right fit for the job. What wasn’t obvious at the time was Brad’s depth of experience in building homes, and why that experience might matter.
In 2016, when BVT began a mission to expand their campus with three new homes (to be completed soon), Brad extended himself as the Project Manager for the construction project. It was a moment of divine intervention for BVT, one of many in the organization’s history of Christ-inspired service.
Brad came to us with home-building experience before we even knew that we would be building more homes,” notes Steven Campbell, Executive Director at BVT. “He has been instrumental in ensuring these homes are built not only with quality craftmanship, but also in accordance with plans and building safety codes.
The BVT construction crew and volunteer workers who have helped in the campus expansion plans will be responsible for building three 7,000 square foot homes in a year, despite numerous weather setbacks during construction. Brad has been a substantial part of that expansion.
Even before campus expansion was such a significant part of Brad’s contribution to the BVT culture, Brad prioritized parts of BVT’s mission of service and care in ways that were unique to his perspective. Throughout his years at BVT, Brad has maintained quality relationships with the local Fire Marshall and Life Safety Inspectors, offering an approach that understands the value of community resources.
Brad has been paramount in leading or encouraging many projects over the years. His contributions to the campus have varied greatly in scope and consequence, but they have always managed to make an impact that benefits the health and quality of BVT’s facilities. Brad’s alterations to the Tyler campus may go unnoticed to those who don’t see BVT very often, but for the staff, residents, and their families who interact with the campus on a regular basis, it is clear to see the many accomplishments that Brad has introduced to the community at Breckenridge. In light of what he has offered to the campus over the years, through service and experience, the BVT leadership has awarded Brad with a new position in the BVT family.
“As of September 1, we are promoting Brad to Director of Facilities,” says Steven. “We feel like a promotion is well-deserved for not only his proven track record and service at Breckenridge, but also because of catapulting BVT to a new level through his work during expansion – he has proven to be a leader and fully capable of that role.”
In many ways, Steven admits, Brad’s title is finally catching up to the numerous aspects at BVT that he’s overseen. In other ways, Brad’s new position as Director of Facilities is a sign of what is to come for the life and legacy of BVT. “With increased growth comes increased responsibility,” Steven says.
When asked about what he looks forward to in his new role, Brad notes his expectations for the current expansion project as well as his hopes for the future construction of a new day habilitation facility. In each new project, a simple guideline illustrates the quality of what Brad strives to create. “I look for ways to make the campus safer while still keeping the feel of a forever home.”
Breckenridge Village of Tyler Salutes America at Eighth Annual Night to Remember
More than 700 guests sang, danced and laughed at Breckenridge Village of Tyler’s (BVT) Eighth Annual “A Night to Remember” on Friday, February 24, at the KE Bushman’s Celebration Center. Red, white and blue décor, a Statue of Liberty replica, and flags representing each branch of the Armed Forces accented the event’s patriotic theme, Stars, Stripes and Lots of Laughter.
Event headliner, comedian Jeff Allen, brought the laughs with his family-friendly, side-splitting brand of humor. Allen has performed his comedy for audiences for more than forty years, drawing from his experiences as a husband, father and grandparent.
“People are still calling and saying they hadn’t laughed that much in years,” said Linda Taylor, BVT Associate Executive Director of Advancement.
Warming up the stage for Allen were musical performances by George Faber & Friends, Casey Rivers (star of TV show Nashville Star) and Texas’ all-women quartet, Shake Rattle & Roll. Shake Rattle & Roll, known for performing their repertoire of oldies in beautiful harmonies, offered their rendition of The Shirelles’ 1962 hit, Soldier Boy, in serenade to Mr. Ardene Hendley, a World War II veteran and BVT volunteer who attended the event.
“The highlight of the evening was definitely the residents – from kicking off the show with the prayer and the pledge, down to wearing their lighted hats and proudly waving an American flag in their grand finale performance, to a standing ovation from those in attendance,” said Taylor. “All their beautiful smiles and happy faces reflected their genuine love for God, family and country.”
A young woman who lives at BVT, Erin, led the audience in prayer at the start of the show, and Jesse, a participant in BVT’s day-program, led the Pledge of Allegiance. Later in the program, BVT residents donned illuminated patriotic hats and marched down the center aisle singing the century-old patriotic march “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”
“They’re always awesome,” said Taylor of the BVT residents, “the people were on their feet!”
Donors and community partners who helped make the annual event possible include the de Wet family of Kiepersol Enterprises, Sandy King, and Chick-fil-A sponsors, Jeff & Debra Johnston and Ikey & Allison Eason. All proceeds from A Night to Remember benefit the residents and day-program participants through the scholarship fund at BVT, a faith-based community for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For more information about BVT, visit BreckeridgeVillage.com.
By Aubrey Parke
Featured in the 2016 annual BCFS together magazine
In November of 2008, Diane Stone stepped into a sparse but tidy supply closet in the recreation room of an East Texas group home and stumbled across a couple of plastic looms. Nearly eight years and 2,400 hats later, she and nine other women have knitted their way across the Atlantic Ocean, connecting two organizations in the BCFS system in a meaningful way, and most importantly providing warmth and compassion to orphans in Eastern Europe.
Diane has served as a day program leader at Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT), a residential community for adults with disabilities, for almost a decade. When she first found the Knifty Knitter looms, Diane thought, “Maybe the residents could learn how to make hats with these!”
In the first year of knitting, Diane’s group created 200 hats. The number has grown every year since, reaching 370 hats in 2015.
All of the hats are sent overseas and distributed to orphanages in Moldova in Eastern Europe every December by Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI), the international branch of BCFS.
Remarkably, BVT has not had to purchase yarn for any of the 2,400 hats they’ve created since the knitting group began. According to Diane, volunteers collect trunk loads of yarn donations from their churches.
Arts and crafts have always been a part of BVT’s day habilitation program, but it was important to Diane that the residents “use their time and talents to serve others, and feel the joy that brings.”
By making hats, BVT meets a very real need. Not only are Moldova’s winter temperatures gravely cold, but utilities and energy resources are scarce. It is difficult to keep buildings warm when the sun goes down, so the children can wear BVT’s knitted hats all hours of the night and day.
When the first batch of hats arrived in Moldova, the CERI team sent a report back to Tyler, Texas, thanking BVT villagers profusely. Eight years later, tears still well up in Diane’s eyes as she remembers what they told her.
“The kids don’t ever get a choice in what they wear,” she said. “They just wear whatever they are given.” But, in this case it was different! CERI workers laid out the hats, with their brilliant array of colors, almost as many shades and patterns as there were hats, and let them pick!
“The kids didn’t know what to do. Orphanage workers had to take them by the hand and show them how to make a choice.”
Diane’s knitting group has expanded to become an official class at BVT. But the core group of nine knitters continues to meet every morning, sharing life and ministry with each other.
“We are just one big family here at BVT,” Diane says. “I have never been anywhere with an atmosphere like this.”
Community service has always been a part of the lifestyle of BVT residents and day program participants. Staff and residents are involved with Meals on Wheels, the East Texas Food Bank, Jesus Closet Clothing Ministry, and other local nonprofits.
Expanding their local volunteer efforts to have a global impact was a logical – and inspiring – next step.
“When you retire from your regular 40-hour-a-week job, you can’t just sit and do nothing,” says Marjorie Lee, a cheerful, gracious woman who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Marjorie shares this advice as she recalls happy memories of years spent in “retirement” with her late husband Frank Lee.
“Frank was doing that to begin with… and wearing out the carpet between the recliner and fridge. You’ve got to do something,” Marjorie says. “When you give to the Lord, you get back more than you give. You get the blessing, too.”
Their desire to stay active long into their golden years inspired Marjorie and Frank to take the path less traveled and join the Texas Baptist Men serving in volunteer projects across the country. Frank and Marjorie joined their first work crew with Texas Baptist Men in January of 1990.
“We were helping churches get new buildings or additions and other construction jobs. Doing that work helped us ‘old people’ too, because if we had to sit in our easy chairs and twiddle our thumbs the rest of our lives it wouldn’t have helped, and it wouldn’t have been as much fun. We got the benefit as much as the churches did. It was a two-way street,” says Marjorie.
For seven years, Frank and Marjorie joined every project they could with the Texas Baptist Men.
“Frank just loved it! We both loved it. I was still working as a nurse at the time, so he would go to job sites close to home so I could join him on the weekend. It was like a family reunion every month, and we all loved the experience and felt so blessed. The group came from all over the state, between 100 and 200 people. They ran three jobs each month and you’d choose which you wanted to do. About 30 people worked each job, and you never knew which people you’d run into,” Marjorie recalls.
In October of 1997, Frank and Marjorie and dozens of other volunteers drove a caravan of RVs into an open field in a small, east Texas town called Tyler. With the help of these selfless volunteers, lots of hard work, and of course divine intervention, this empty field would soon transform into Breckenridge Village of Tyler, a residential community where adults with intellectual disabilities receive loving care and support that helps them develop physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
“When we arrived in our campers and RVs, it was nothing but a huge empty pasture. There wasn’t a tree or bush or building,” says Marjorie. “We were making our own road and set up our RVs all in a row. We had water and electricity. Then shortly after we arrived, they put up a huge circus tent with picnic tables where we ate our meals and worshipped on Sunday and gossiped through the week.”
Frank and his crew were assigned Cottage #1 – the very first structure at the Village. While Frank worked hard on his cottage, Marjorie and the other women served meals and manned the first aid tent.
“Frank was up in the rafters, helping set trusses and climbing on scaffolding, doing the tape and float on the drywall – loving every minute of it. We had a ball doing those things. By the time we left that job, the cottages were put together enough so we could see how it was going to be setup. The whole group was excited about it.”
Over the next several weeks, the crew erected six cottages, which still to this day house adults with developmental disabilities. While Frank worked diligently, neither Frank nor Marjorie knew his health was rapidly deteriorating.
Sadly, just two months later, Frank Lee passed away from cancer with Marjorie and their three daughters by his side, a few days after Christmas.
The very first cottage at Breckenridge Village had been Frank’s final project, after seven years of faithful service and countless lives touched working alongside his loving wife and the Texas Baptist Men.
For the years that followed, Marjorie felt drawn back to Breckenridge Village of Tyler and recognized it was a special place not only for her family, but for adults with disabilities and their families.
“We sensed right from the beginning what a marvelous concept BVT was,” says Marjorie. “And being in nursing myself, I knew there was nothing like this for adults with mental disabilities and I sometimes pondered, what do families do when they are getting too old and the caretakers won’t be around a long time?”
On a blustery spring day in 2015, Marjorie, her three daughters and other family members all gathered at Breckenridge Village for an interment ceremony honoring Mr. Frank Lee. A tree was planted in Frank’s honor and a plaque lovingly placed where Frank’s ashes were interred.
“I always wanted Frank to go to the Village and be interred there. When BVT said they’d be pleased to do that, it just thrilled me to death. I’ve put this off for almost 18 years since he died.”
Today, Marjorie is still busy at work for the Lord. Occasionally, she goes on short-term mission trips to use her nursing skills, but there are plenty of volunteer opportunities close to home in Colorado Springs. She created several libraries in churches across Texas and Colorado, including the church she now attends. She established a library in a facility for people with physical handicaps in central Texas, and she helps manage the library in the local county jail. Some of the groups she serves have affectionately dubbed her “the book lady.”
Lee Family’s Legacy of Service: Ever since Cottage #1 was erected by Frank and his crew in 1997, many adults with disabilities have called it home. Since then, BVT has expanded into a thriving, 70-acre campus complete with 6 homes, a chapel, a greenhouse, a vocational center, a pool, a health center, fishing pond, an activities pavilion, and a prayer garden.
About Texas Baptist Men: The mission of Texas Baptist Men is to assist Texas Baptist Churches as they lead men into a “Love” relationship with Jesus Christ that will thrust them and their families into a lifestyle of missions and ministry that fulfills the Great Commission. Texas Baptist Men operates in cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention: Baptist General Convention of Texas and associations; Southern Baptists of Texas and associations; and with other Great Commission Christians. Texas Baptist Men is a 501-C3 non-profit organization.
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Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT) is part of BCFS’ global system of health and human service non-profit organizations. BVT is a faith-based community for adults with mild to moderate intellectual and developmental disabilities. Located on a tranquil 70-acre campus just west of Tyler, Texas, our community offers exceptional residential and day enrichment programs to meet the needs of the persons entrusted to our care. We are dedicated to serving a group of amazing people—God’s Forever Children—in a warm, safe, family-like setting that seeks to empower each resident as he or she develops spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially in a safe, loving, and closely supervised environment.
Each week, the residents of BVT attend a variety of activities at the Boys & Girls Club of East Texas. The residents are offered an assortment of recreational and educational activities that promote social skills, life skills, and even vocational skills. Most recently, the Boys & Girls Club of East Texas partnered with Aquaponics and Earth, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping make orphanages and children’s homes self-sustaining in underdeveloped or poverty stricken communities and countries.
The Tyler Rotary Club also partnered with the organizations to provide monetary support to build a small version of the Aquaponics system at the Boys & Girls Main Club facility in Tyler. The system is used as a pilot project and has caught the eye of several local and regional groups interested in building a system of their own.
The system is designed with various tanks full of tilapia; the waste from the tilapia serves as a rich fertilizer for plants, vegetables, crops, etc. The system carries water from the fish tanks, up to the garden for irrigation, and eventually drains back into the water tank. Rather than soil, the plants are grown in small pebbles making the system virtually maintenance-free. If desired, the plants can be pulled out of the system and planted elsewhere to provide additional growth and space for even more vegetation. The system produces plants at an accelerated rate, due to the rich fertilizer produced by the fish.
Mitch Erwin, Executive Director of Camp in the City at the Boys & Girls Club of East Texas, was thrilled to have the Aquaponics System at their facility. Several people from around the area have come to visit this ‘one of a kind’ system. Erwin said that he hopes one day to expand the system to a whole new level and possibly even develop a “mini-market” in which BVT residents could become involved in. Mr. Erwin stated that it was his intention for the BVT residents to take an active role in the system and to assist in the development and management of the growing and selling of crops.
For additional information regarding the Aquaponics System, you may contact Mitch at the Boys & Girls Club of East Texas.