By Danielle McCarthy Everett
For Bell County resident Margaret Chadwick, working with people with disabilities and special needs is both a passion and a calling. On a given day, you may find her alongside young adults with special needs, encouraging them to hone important vocational skills like cleaning, watering plants, doing laundry or providing customer service. Currently a special education teacher for Belton ISD, Chadwick works with young adults who are a part of a program in the district called Delta. The post-secondary program provides job training opportunities for young adults with disabilities who have completed their high school requirements. Students typically begin the program at age 18 and will age out of the program during the school year in which they turn 22.
Several area businesses participate in the program, including Chadwick’s husband’s business, Eldred’s Nursery, Gifts, and Collectibles in Belton. There, the young adults who work with Chadwick are able to get outdoors and learn the ins and outs of running a garden center. Chadwick and the students first started coming to the nursery to work in the fall of 2016 when it was Bourland’s Nursery.
“We showed up there every single day, no fail, and watered all the plants there, pulled weeds, repotted plants and just did all kinds of things you need to do in a nursery,” Chadwick said.
Their work there opened a discussion between the nursery owner and the Chadwicks, leading to Rob Chadwick taking over ownership of the nursery as of January 1.
“Owning and running the nursery has been a learning experience because the purpose behind it was to expand into the community what I have been working to do with the school district,” said Margaret Chadwick. “We have hired one student and we are actually hoping that, over the long haul, we can expand what we’re doing and actually have students growing more of the product we are selling.”
Chadwick said she also wants to use the business to allow more Delta students the opportunity to learn how to work with money, checks, deposits, keeping inventories and more – all opportunities that are typically not available to students through other businesses in the community.
As Chadwick looks to the future, she has several dreams and plans of using the nursery to create new job training and learning opportunities for young adults in the community with special needs. It’s part of a vision Chadwick has long had for a more inclusive community.
“I just have this inclusive spirit that says, ‘Let’s do programming and encourage people to be aware and learn and make friends within the community,’” Chadwick said.
To learn more information about the Delta program, you may reach Belton ISD at 254-215-2000.