She graduated in 2010 from Georgetown High School and, while her friends were going to college or seeking career paths, her parents wanted Gracie to find her purpose too. After visiting the original Brookwood Community in Brookshire, Texas, Erin found what they had been looking for.
Modeled after the Brookshire home, Brookwood in Georgetown, or BiG, is a vocational community for special needs adults that encourages its citizens to create art and hand-crafted products—such as soaps, jewelry and candles—which are then sold on-site in the BiG gift shop, cafe and greenhouse.
BiG began in 2011 with eight adult participants and now, as the program celebrates its 10th anniversary, has grown to over 80 special needs citizens spread among three campuses, two in Georgetown and one in downtown Austin.
“The work done at BiG gives its citizens purpose,” said Conni Thoms, the volunteer and special events coordinator at Brookwood. “They want to feel fulfilled, and they want to do something that matters.”
Those sales at the gift shop and other locations help fund BiG, along with donations made through its website. All of the proceeds from the BiG Shop go to encourage and sustain independence for the citizens in the Brookwood community.
BiG’s goal is to eventually provide a residential community for 80 residents to live independently with staff available to take care of day-to-day needs. Grace Place, a new facility in Weir, Texas, will be located eight minutes from the BiG location and have six large homes, a tiny home village and duplexes for residents to live independently. Grace Place will have its own income-producing ventures, such as a pet resort, special events venue and drive-in movie theater, all run by residents of BiG.
Gracie Kiltz—for whome Grace Place is named—was born with Down Syndrome and later diagnosed with leukemia. When she was 3 years old, Gracie flatlined for 20 minutes, causing severe brain damage that left her non-verbal and in a wheelchair. Despite her challenges, she was crowned homecoming queen and graduated from Georgetown High. Her life and journey were the inspiration for Brookwood in Georgetown.
She passed away in 2018 at the age of 26.
“This is the next step for those special needs adults who don’t go to college but want something like a purpose,” Thoms said. “This place is special, and with the building of Grace Place, we’re going to need more volunteers and donations.”•
BROOKWOOD IN GEORGETOWN
905 N. CHURCH STREET, GEORGETOWN
SHOP & CAFE: 512-943-8430
Monday-Thursday; 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Friday – Saturday; 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
BiG CAFE Monday-Saturday; 8 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.