By MIKE MYERS
The Eldred’s Nursery Foundation is the recipient of a generous donation of a single-family home from an anonymous donor.
The property is located at 107 W. 13th St. in Belton. According to public records, the 572-square foot home was built in 1952 and sits on a 7,792-square-foot lot. The donation creates more space for the foundation to continue supporting their passion for helping adult individuals with learning disabilities and cognitive delays—to transition into the workforce.
Margaret and Robert Chadwick own Eldred’s Nursery at 1220B Main St. in Belton. The nursery and the donated house share the same plot of land, although they have different addresses. Bourland Landscape Supplies owned the nursery before it was purchased by Robert and Margaret Chadwick five years ago. In 2017, Chadwick’s request for the nursery to operate as Eldred’s Nursery Foundation was approved.
Chadwick worked for the Belton Independent School District for 10 years. In her last three years working for BISD, Chadwick was tasked to help develop the school district’s Delta 18+ program. The program was designed to help graduate students who have learning disabilities or cognitive delays. Disability and cognitive delays can be caused by a birth defect or a medical catastrophe such as a stroke or head injury. A condition that affects the brain interferes with the growth and mental ability of an individual to do even the simplest tasks in life.
Programs are available through schools and foundations to help the less severe individuals learn the skills to be productive in life and the workplace.
Eldred’s Nursery Foundation has a program to prepare adults who have a learning disability to enter the workplace.
Chadwick said, “When we’re teaching, we aren’t teaching them to work in the nursery. The individuals here are trainees.”
When a student with special needs leaves high school, they typically have problems with adaptations. They haven’t had the necessary exposure to work skills that employers are looking for.
Eldred’s Nursery gives trainees a five-hour block of work time a day. During that time, they work on skill sets such as time management, how to build good work habits, and coping skills with other people.
The nursery is a place where the students learn how to clean a work area, take care of the plants, help customers, and other essential jobs to keep the nursery running. They learn how to appropriately express their needs. Most of the time it takes longer than a year before he or she can make an attempt to enter the workforce.
Kelsey Milberger was a trainee at the nursery before she became a paid contractor.
Milberger said, “It’s amazing being able to go to work and know that your work is purposeful.” Dalton Guthrie is 19 years old and a trainee. He likes that he can tell his parents he is “doing a great job at the nursery.”
When Guthrie is ready to go into the workforce, he wants to “have two jobs, as my mom does,” he said.
Jillian Ramirez is 34 years old and has been a trainee for a year. During the interview, Ramirez and Guthrie were both separating pecans and preparing them to be taken to an outside location to be shelled. Ramirez said that when she is ready to get a job, she “Just wants to be able to work like she does here.”
Eldred’s Nursery is not a large training facility. Now, thanks to an anonymous donor and the Fikes Foundation, Eldred’s Nursery can expand their education to include cooking skills, doing laundry, self-hygiene, and learning business skills in a structured environment. They have more space to work on communication skills, self-awareness, and self-confidence.
Eldred’s Nursery Foundation contracts with schools and employers to get adults with special needs into the workforce.
“So many people don’t understand that adults with disabilities are often the best employees. If you have a situation where someone truly wants to work, then they’re going to show up and be the ones you can depend on. We have individuals who want to have a paycheck. They want to be able to do the things they see other people their age doing,” said Chadwick.
The foundation has 17 trainees who have entered the workforce in the five years they have been running the nursery.
Teaching adult skills and what it means to be an adult is all part of the growing process. “They’re not babies,” Chadwick said.
Eldred’s Nursery Foundation works closely with the Heart of Central Texas Independent Living, Texas Workforce, and Central Counties Services to ensure that individuals and families are receiving the services they need.
The Eldred’s Nursery Foundation is a nonprofit organization and is run by volunteers. Robert and Margaret said they appreciate all the volunteers, master gardeners, and all the organizations that have donated to their foundation.