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BrightStone takes another step toward fulfilling longtime dream

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BrightStone officials on Saturday held a groundbreaking ceremony for the first phase of an estimated $25 million building project on property dubbed “The Land of Dreams” and also commemorated 20 years of providing a God-centered, caring community environment in which intellectually disabled adults can thrive.

The first phase of the project will cost $12 million and includes paying down the remaining land debt. 

“This is a wonderful, wonderful day,” said Brenda Hauk, BrightStone founder and CEO, during a brief ceremony. “God has blessed us with this land, this beautiful land ... and now we’ll be able to offer a plethora of programs for our adults.”

The new BrightStone campus is on 138 acres along Columbia Pike south of downtown Franklin. When all phases are completed, a combination horticulture, equestrian, fitness and therapeutic aquatic center will provide additional job and health training. A 22,700-square-foot center for learning, art and enterprise will feature classrooms, a dining hall, administrative offices and a health clinic until the second and third phases are completed and separate spaces for administrative services and a cafeteria are created. 

A free-standing student enterprise store will provide space for students to sell products they produce on site. 

“Special-needs individuals are often forgotten, but not here in Williamson County,” said Don Stinnent, chairman of the board of directors for BrightStone and a father of a BrightStone student. “Parents of a special-needs adult worry about what’s going to happen when they are no longer able to care for them. This is a beginning to the answer — and it’s not available everywhere."

Upon completion of all three phases, the adult all-day program will be able to increase its student population from 40 to 120. There also will be 20 homes, allowing 80 students to live on campus. A chapel for worship will also be on the campus.

“This is going to be a gorgeous facility catering to the needs of special-needs adults,” Hauk said. “It’ll be the first in the state and potentially the finest in the country and a national model.”

Dick Wells, a former board member, said, “This is so much more than a place to go, it’s a place for life to happen. It’s a chance for these individual students to thrive and enjoy the possibilities in their life."

Hauk was a special-education teacher until she felt called to open a center for adults with intellectual disabilities. In 1999, she began providing a year-round education and job-training program with minimal funding.

She started in a free space provided by what is now The Church of the City, four students and faith that the rest will happen. From the beginning Hauk dreamed of having a facility with residence homes. 

“It’s taken longer than expected,” she said. “We are building something so important, the first of its kind in Tennessee. Hurting, scared families will now have hope.”

Randy Elliott, director of advancement, said that the first phase is expected to be completed by the spring of 2021. After the move, the facility along Southeast Parkway will be sold and the money invested for the future.

Meanwhile, BrightStone is working to raise the remaining $5.4 million needed for the first phase. To learn more about BrightStone go to www.brightstone.org or call 615-790-4888. Be prepared to be invited for a visit.

Carole Robinson may be contacted at crobinson@williamsonherald.com.

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