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The 'BEE Community': changing lives with work and belonging, one artisan at a time

Posted at 6:09 PM, Jul 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 11:56:32-04

BRYAN, TEXAS — One community in the Brazos Valley is providing meaningful work and lifelong relationships through craftsmanship.

Brazos Employment Enterprises or the 'BEE Community', is a non-profit showing purpose behind the purchase.

It's a place to shop with a purpose.. as well as work and belong.

"This is more than just a workplace or coworkers. They are my family. I don't have very much family left," Adam Sparkman, a Bee Community Artisan said.

For Adam Sparkman, it's more than just song and dance.

"I love doing this job... There's nowhere else for me right now," Sparkman added.

He's coming up on almost three years as an artisan of the BEE Community, one of the non-profit's first.

"I'd be on the streets right now if I didn't have the BEE Community or anything like that so... at the time I was desperate to find a job too. I kept failing over and over because of my disability," Sparkman said.

A space providing meaningful work and belonging for adults with disabilities.

"As a public school special education teacher, I started to see the reality for life after high school for my students and others in similar situations and learned that up to 80% of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities are unemployed nationwide... the BEE Community wanted to step into that with a long-term hope-filled sustainable solution, Taylor Ellerbrock, Executive Director of the Bee Community said.

Fifteen 15 artisans with different abilities are employed at the Bee Community, experiencing dignity and worth that comes with work.

"Having mutually benefiting friendships and relationships...But even more beautiful than that... Seeing those untouched by disability.. Our volunteers, our customers and donors whose lives are being changed because of our artisans. Having an opportunity to utilize their strengths and gifts to impact the community," Ellerbrock added.

Each purchase directly affects the livelihoods of the artisans and by supporting their work, Ellerbrock says, the narrative shifts to one of dignity and capability for adults with special needs.

"Because they are good and not out of pity who made them. Our artisans work really hard at their craft to meet those high expectations," Ellerbrock added.

"Without them, I wouldn't have a job. I would be stuck at home... Other than the gym I work out at...," Sparkman said.

"We see the need is very great. We want to step into that and create as many opportunities as we can, but we want to do that well and so we have taken a slow growth approach where we able to really get to know each individual and their unique gifts and skill sets and their families and come alongside of them," Ellerbrock said.

The BEE Community's retail shop is located at
3829 Old College Road in Bryan. You can also shop online at thebeecommunity.com/store

There are a handful of shops in the Brazos Valley that currently sell items from artisans at the BEE Community.

If you like to have them at your place of business, email the Bee Community for more information at info@thebeecommunity.com