As Mary Lou Fenton watched her daughter Emily grow up, the Castle Rock mother became increasingly concerned about what would become of her special needs child when she became too old to care for her.
That prompted her to start Wellspring Community, a non-profit organization that empowers adults with special needs.
“My husband and I spent a lot of time praying about what to do with Emily after high school,” Fenton said.
Over the last 10 years, Fenton and her staff have created a variety of programs aimed at empowering and engaging developmentally disabled adults. But what Wellspring really needs is funding to pay for a residential program for the people it serves.
“We have parents from their 50s to their 80s who are scared about their children’s future after they’re gone,” Fenton said.
Wellspring got its start in Fenton’s kitchen in 2008. She had visited a facility that serves the developmentally disabled in Texas that recommended starting with teaching her daughter and a few friends how to bake cookies to sell in the community.
From there, Wellspring has grown and now serves about 70 adults with special needs, which the non-profit refers to as STARS — Specially Talented Adults Raising Standards. Its enrichment program provides classes such as dance, art, sign language, drama and social skills.
There’s also the Wellspring Workshop Artbeat that offers STARS the opportunity to learn and master woodworking, ceramics and assembly work while creating artistic products that are sold at the Emporium in Castle Rock and other area outlets. Wellspring also operates the Best Buddies Bakery & Cafe at the Emporium, where trained staff and volunteers work alongside adults with special needs to give them the support they need to be successful in hosting, serving and bussing tables.
And it’s stayed true to its roots with the Best Buddies Bakery, where participants learn kitchen safety and all aspects of baking and packaging. They even go on marketing calls and deliveries to area businesses, including Centura Health, Regis High School and Tony’s Market.