Susie Cummins and her husband, Tom Cummins, do all they can for their son who is 40 years old and developmentally disabled.
There are adults in New Braunfels like J.D. who struggle because they are no longer in school and their parents work.
Based on their personal experience, the Cummins decided to create the Camp Cummins Activity Center for developmentally disabled adults to socialize, participate in hobbies and learn job skills. The center, part of the Cummins’ nonprofit assisting developmentally challenged adults, will have paid employees and volunteers helping out.
“We want to continue to help them mentally as well as physically,” Susie Cummins said. “We also want to free the caretaker up to do things.”
The Cummins bought a building, previously a Sprint Store, on 241 I-35 Business Loop in January 2018. They got the permits on Feb. 10, several months after they first went to the city.
They also hope to attract people from Guadalupe and Hays counties.
The building will be remodeled to include a commercial kitchen with a large serving window. It will also have raised gardens outside, a music room, workout room and retail store selling crafts the clients make.
To make it more friendly, Susie said the building will be bright and colorful, with a fence outside painted different colors.
“It’s going to be so colorful that when you drive by you’re going to be like, ‘What is that?” Susie said. “We want it cheerful, we want it happy. That’s just something we just have to have.”
Susie said she hopes the center will have community events, such as inviting the city to breakfast, to raise money and connect the clients to the community.
The Cummins also plan to teach clients how to cook and bake treats to sell, with the proceeds going back to the center. They also want to prepare the clients for jobs, and will teach them skills such as working a cash register, stocking items and learning how to interact with customers.
They will be paid for all of their work and the center will connect them to job opportunities in the area. Susie said places which have hired developmentally challenged adults include Chick-fil-A, Rudy’s BBQ and Montana Mike’s Steakhouse.
Tom said if anyone prefers specific work to do, they will try and get them those resources, from walking dogs to busing tables.
“I heard the other day that the dog shelter needs dog walkers, well we can walk dogs,” Tom said. “I’ve purchased some buses and I’ll take 10 or 12 people and we will walk dogs. We want these people to be out.”
Susie said they will be careful with how much they pay clients because they may lose their disability benefits if they exceed a certain amount. She said she wants to help them get jobs because many of them tend to stay at home bored and lonely.
“These clients would love to do work a couple hours a day,” Susie said. “It’s nice to see their faces when they get a check.”
Clients will also learn other skills such as exercising, making art and gardening.
Susie said with New Braunfels growing, more developmentally disabled students are graduating and need a place to go. According to New Braunfels ISD, about 10% of the district’s students are in special education.
Lisa Reddam is the executive director for Arc of the Hill Country, which assists those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Reddamn’s daughter, who is 33 years old, has developmental disabilities and needed a job.
“When she graduated, I took her back to all those places and no one was ready to hire, and they didn’t have anything for her on their payroll,” Reddam said. “That’s kind of sad there’s not more things to do.”
Reddam said she is glad the center is opening since many parents need assistance and there is a lack of services in the area.
The Arc of the Hill Country needs more volunteers to keep up with New Braunfels’ growth.
“New Braunfels needs so many more choices,” Reddam said. “It’s growing, and just because they’re disabled doesn’t mean they can’t do other stuff.”
Since the Cummins received their remodeling permits months after they approached the city, they lost thousands due to the building’s mortgage. They are seeking grant funding, and they plan to have fundraisers and reach out to other nonprofits.
Tom said he will approach people with his “hands out” asking for community support, since they want to do all they can for the many developmentally disabled adults in the area.
“We will try anything, it’s called failing forward but we are going to try,” Tom said.