For the past 15 years, in the heart of Castle Rock, Wellspring Community has been making a significant impact. Founded on the principles of love, inclusivity, and limitless potential, Wellspring has become a beacon of hope and transformation for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). In celebration of the first 15 years, we‘ll look back at the achievements of the Wellspring Community and their exciting plans to enrich lives while also building a more inclusive community.
A Community Like No Other
Nicole DeVries, the dedicated executive director of the Wellspring Community, radiates enthusiasm when she discusses the organization's journey. Nicole feels that Wellspring's greatest achievement is not just about the exceptional programs they offer but also the creation of a true community for adults with I/DD—whom they refer to as STARs. “While Wellspring has done so much to create great programming,” Nicole says, “I think the most important accomplishment is truly creating a community for adults with I/DD—a community where they are known, where they belong, and where they get to do all these cool things.” But, according to Nicole, most of the families will say what’s most valuable to their STARs are the relationships they have formed with staff, peers, and community members. “I believe that is what sets Wellspring apart from other day programs,” says Nicole. “We aren’t a program. We are a community.”
Wellspring’s Special Essence
Nicole says the palpable joy that fills the room when you visit Wellspring is what makes this community truly special. “Most people will say that they feel the joy in the room when they are at Wellspring, and I think that’s true,” she says. “But what underlies the joy is an understanding of God’s unconditional love and grace for each and every person.” This foundation of love and acceptance is the cornerstone upon which Wellspring's success and impact are built.
Pride in a Caring Team
Nicole proudly acknowledges the dedicated team of individuals who make Wellspring possible. “We have the most caring and thoughtful team of people on Wellspring’s staff,” she says. “They give their all each and every day, and I am very proud to serve alongside them. They live out our values in ways that elevate the I/DD population . . . not only transforming the lives of the STARs but also influencing the broader community positively.”
Engaging the Wider Community
Nicole invites everyone to become a part of their mission at Wellspring, but this is not a selfish request. Volunteering isn’t just about “helping Wellspring,” Nicole says. “It's a mutual transformation where individuals grow, learn, and change as they interact with—and share life experiences with—people with disabilities. We see life transformation happen every day for anyone who gets engaged.” And engaging with Wellspring is the easy part. “People can volunteer with us, become a community partner, become a pen pal to a STAR, support our work financially,” she says, “or simply pray for us.”
Online Learning Success
A remarkable aspect of Wellspring's journey is its STARs' success with online learning and engagement. While the COVID-19 pandemic posed significant challenges for many students, those at Wellspring excelled in the online learning environment. This success can be attributed to the dedication of Wellspring teachers who quickly adapted to engage participants, promoted physical activity, and offered much-needed social interactions.
“I have 5 children that all had to do online learning during the pandemic,” Nicole shares. “I watched Wellspring teachers, and then would watch my children’s teachers, and the difference was night and day. Truly. Wellspring teachers, in such a short amount of time, figured out how to engage each participant, get them up and moving, and provide a much-needed social outlet.
“The classes we offer online are colorful, creative, and more fun than anything else the participant could be doing at that moment. For some of our participants, they are able to relax because they are in their own homes. [And] some participants had to learn how to do things on their own (like unmute) where—when they were hands-on with a teacher—they could convince the teacher to do it for them. So, in a sense, our teachers learned where they were enabling, and our STARs had to grow in independence, which was good for everyone.”
Day Program Enrichment
Wellspring's Day Program is intentionally designed to engage participants in a holistic way—mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Their dedicated teachers create customized curriculum to meet each individual's unique needs, ensuring continuous learning, growth, and skill development. Each new trimester brings fresh opportunities for the STARs to explore and excel.
Meaningful Work Opportunities
Wellspring's Work Opportunities program, which started with baking cookies in a founder's kitchen, has evolved into a core function. The STARs now find fulfillment and pride in their work at Wellspring & Co. Bakery, Wellspring & Co. Art Studio, and the Castle Rock Collective. Receiving paychecks and dividends is not just about financial reward for Wellspring’s STARs; it's about the sense of accomplishment and contribution to society. In the next 15 years, Wellspring aims to expand these work opportunities further, ensuring that every adult with I/DD who desires employment can find meaningful work in accessible and adaptive environments.
A Bold Step Towards Independence
In 2024, Wellspring will embark on a new journey by offering residential services for adults with I/DD. Unity on Park, in partnership with the Douglas County Housing Partnership and Wellspring Housing, is an independent living facility that will enable adults with I/DD to live in the community while receiving the necessary support from Wellspring Community. This endeavor represents a step toward greater independence and inclusivity for Wellspring’s STARs.
The Next 15 Years
The next 15 years hold immense promise for Wellspring and its STARs, which Nicole likens to her own personal journey of discovering golf at 25—a sport she never thought she could join until her grandfather instilled confidence in her. Similarly, “Wellspring envisions a future where every STAR has access to the tools and opportunities that enable them to unlock their full potential. Whether through computers for creative endeavors, photography, or various other unexplored avenues, Wellspring is committed to helping adults with I/DD realize their capabilities and thrive.”
“We aren’t a program. We are a community.”
“But what underlies the joy is an understanding of God’s unconditional love and grace for each and every person.”