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Texas community for special needs adults is a model for others: 'A joyful place'

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“We all need more light today. We need more positivity. We need family and faith, hope and strength — that’s what these stories are all about.”

Those are the words of SQuire Rushnell and Louise DuArt, co-founders of the Godwinks brands and based in Massachusetts, who shared the following story with Fox News Digital.

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The couple specialize in what they call “Godwinks” stories — and believe that the Lord works in mysterious ways.

FLORIDA MOM-TO-BE GETS SURPRISE OF HER LIFE FROM HER OWN MOTHER: ‘WISH FULFILLED’

“Godwink is the new word of the language,” Rushnell told Fox News Digital. “It means an event that seems like a coincidence — but you know it comes from a divine origin.”

Read on to see what he means.

Nurtured by prayer & persistence

The Brookwood Community for Adults with Special Needs lies on 485 idyllic acres, a half-hour west of Houston, near the village of Brookshire, Texas. 

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The Brookwood Community for Adults with Special Needs Educators in Texas, just west of Houston. Educators have traveled from all over the world to learn how Brookwood has become a model of success. (Brookwood)

Educators have traveled from all over the globe to learn how Brookwood has become a model of success.

From a low-altitude aircraft, one might mistake Brookwood for a small college campus. A chapel steeple rises from a gathering of charming brick buildings, connected by orderly walkways and rolling green lawns, to homes like those in gated residential areas.

RHODE ISLAND POLICE OFFICER AND RESCUE PUP PAIR UP FOR RESCUE AND RENEWAL: ‘CAN ACHIEVE GREAT THINGS’ 

It may be difficult to imagine that the magnificent property of Brookwood Community grew from the seeds of tragedy — nurtured by the power of prayer and persistence.

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The Brookwood story began with its tall and straight-speaking founder, Yvonne Streit, the mother of a severely brain-damaged daughter, Vicki. 

Conventional wisdom told the mom that she’d better put her child away. 

As a child, she could neither speak nor move. 

Conventional wisdom told the mom that she’d better put her child away. 

But “oh no, that was not for me,” said Streit. 

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She found experts who suggested that children with special needs could do many more things than people thought they could. And that, like everyone else, they “needed to be needed” and yearned to have a purpose.

Yvonne & Vicki teen Photo Brkwd Community

Yvonne Streit, left, is pictured with her daughter Vicki. Streit found experts who suggested that children with special needs could do many more things than people thought they could — and that, like everyone else, they “needed to be needed” and yearned to have a purpose. (Brookwood)

Subsequently, after months and years of patient training, Streit taught her daughter how to grasp, lift and release an object in order to feed herself.  

Years later, when Brookwood was started, the girl’s simple skill allowed her to grasp a potted seedling plant, lift it into a tray — and release it. 

‘DOGWINKS’ ARE MAN’S BEST FRIEND BRINGING THE DIVINE INTO OUR LIVES WITH ‘GODWINKS’ 

To this day, Vicki Streit reportedly has repeated that process with over 15,000 plants in Brookwood’s horticultural enterprise. 

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So she’s significantly contributed to one of the largest annual crops of Christmas poinsettias in the state of Texas.

Like so many things in life that people start out to do — it often takes a good number of Godwinks to get there. 

Yvonne Streit recalled that when her daughter approached the age of 18, it became clear to her that while many places were teaching special needs children, very few facilities were providing life-skills training for special needs adults. 

That gave birth to Yvonne Streit’s dream of starting a place called Brookwood. 

FOR MOTHER’S DAY, A VIRGINA MOM’S STUNNING DISCOVERY REMINDS HER OF GOD’S LOVING PRESENCE

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Yet, like so many things in life that people start out to do, it often takes a good number of “Godwinks” to get there. 

Carefully articulated plan

An undertaking like that needed to begin with a carefully articulated plan. 

To create the blueprint for Brookwood Community, Yvonne Streit appeared before Rotary clubs, churches, and chambers of commerce — explaining to anyone standing still that she needed seed money for the necessary travel and study.

One night, her husband, Dave Streit, looked at his wife. Seeing the disappointment on her face, he asked how it went at Rotary that day.

Yvonne Strait Bwd Founder w_Citizens Photo Brwd Community

Yvonne Streit, founder of Brookwood, with several community members.  (Brookwood)

She shook her head and sighed. “One more speech with no takers.” 

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In her bedtime prayers, she choked back tears, she said later.

“God, I know you placed this desire on my heart. And I was sure you had given me the ‘Go’ sign. But, did I misunderstand you?” she prayed. “Because I’m ready to throw in the towel.”

A man was standing there with an envelope. He said, “Here’s $10,000 for you to study the idea of Brookwood.” 

The next morning, she got up and put on the face that many put on sometimes. On the outside, it signals to the world, “I’m good” — but it’s really hiding feelings of sadness, worry or fear that exist on the inside. 

VIRGINIA ICE CREAM SHOP PROUDLY EMPLOYS PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

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When she got to the office, a man named Frank was standing there with an envelope. He said, “Here’s $10,000 for you to study the idea of Brookwood.” 

She was flabbergasted.

Then a few minutes later, her assistant said someone had just called and was “sending over a check for $7,500.” 

Aerial view Brookwood central campus Photo Brkwd Community

An aerial view of Brookwood’s central campus in Texas, near Houston. Streit had been ready to throw in the towel — until a remarkable series of events took place shortly after her pleas to God.  (Brookwood)

What?

Then, at 10 o’clock, St Luke’s Church phoned. The church was sending a check for $25,000 “to study Brookwood.”                       

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And at 11 a.m., the Barrow Foundation called: “We’re sending you $30,000.”

                          

Streit couldn’t believe it. She now felt a string of hope, all stemming from her heartfelt prayers of the night before.

It was $72,500 worth of Godwinks — and definitely giving her the “Go” sign.

Long into the future

Today, the Brookwood Community is home to more than 250 citizens. 

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Some individuals paint pottery in stone casting that is then displayed in the gift shop, which looks like it belongs in the pages of a home and garden magazine.  

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle

Other citizens are servers or assistants in the kitchen at the Brookwood Café, a popular luncheon spot for the garden clubs of Houston. 

Here, reservations are recommended. 

After 24 years, Streit turned over the daily operations to her daughter, Vivian Shudde, herself the mother of a special needs child.

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48,000 poinsettas

Brookwood in Texas maintains a significant horticultural enterprise.  (Brookwood)

For the past 17 years, Shudde, with a degree in special education, has overseen an impressive expansion of the Brookwood campus, developed a succession plan and secured the evolution of the Brookwood Community philosophy long into the future.

“Our vision is to change the way the world thinks about adults with disabilities,” the community’s website notes.

Now, a new 20-minute docufilm produced by Crescent Moon Productions, “A Joyful Place – The Brookwood Community,” celebrates the culture of joy that springs from all those who visit the Brookwood campus. 

For more details and history — including a view of the new film — anyone can check out the Brookwood Community’s website at www.brookwoodcommunity.org. 

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Several stories about Brookwood are included in “Godwink Christmas Stories,” a book by SQuire Rushnell and Louise DuArt, while Yvonne Streit’s book, coauthored by Jana Mullins, “Everybody’s Got A Seed to Grow,” describes Brookwood’s story. 

Rushnell and DuArt are also working on a new book due out next year. Anyone can learn more about the Godwinks projects at www.godwinks.com

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Southwest

Illegals charged with murder, rape and kidnapping in a week of shocking crimes across the US

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Maryland and Missouri are not border states.

New York touches Canada, not Mexico. However, all three appeared in shocking headlines this week in connection with alleged kidnappings, murders or rapes blamed on illegal immigrants who attacked girls and women.

In Texas, two more illegals are accused of strangling a 12-year-old girl for motives that remain unknown.

The string of crimes comes as the Biden administration continues to struggle to deal with illegal crossings of the U.S.-Mexico border.

RACHEL MORIN MURDER: ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT FROM EL SALVADOR CHARGED WITH RAPE, KILLING OF MARYLAND MOM OF 5

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Victor Martinez Hernandez was extradited to Maryland on June 20. (Tusla Police Department)

Victor Martinez Hernandez, 23, faces charges of first-degree murder and rape after police allege he attacked Rachel Morin, 37, on a trail in Bel Air, Maryland, on Aug. 5, 2023.

Morin was not his first alleged victim.

“We all suspected that Rachel was not his first victim,” Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said after the arrest. “It is my understanding that this suspect, this monster, fled to the United States illegally after committing the brutal murder of a young woman in El Salvador … in January of 2023.”

Martinez Hernandez entered the U.S. illegally in February 2023, according to authorities. The following month, a woman and her 9-year-old daughter were attacked in a home invasion in Los Angeles. 

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A photo of Rachel Morin is posted on a tree along a hiking route

A photo of Rachel Morin is posted to a tree by her family last night along the Ma and Pa Trail in Bel Air, Maryland, Thursday, August 10, 2023. (Mega for Fox News Digital)

DNA collected in that case later provided a match to Morin’s. He spent 10 months criss-crossing the country until police arrested him in Oklahoma this week.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT ARRESTED IN BROAD DAYLIGHT RAPE OF 13-YEAR-OLD IN NEW YORK PARK

In New York City, the NYPD responded to a 1 a.m. 911 call earlier this week after a group of good Samaritans encountered a wanted rape suspect accused of tying two 13-year-olds together in a park, gagging them and raping one before stealing their cellphones.

Migrant is being led out of a police station being held by the arms by police detectives.

Christian Inga-Landi, 25, walks out of the NYPD 112th Precinct on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Inga is charged with rape, kidnapping of a minor among other charges stemming from the sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl in a park on Thursday. (Rashid Umar Abbasi for Fox News Digital)

They arrested Christian Geovanny Inga-Landi, 25, after the group of citizens cornered him and prevented his attempts to fight his way out.

He entered the U.S. illegally through Eagle Pass, Texas, in 2021, according to authorities. He was captured and released, but DNA collected at the time provided the match to the water bottle, prosecutors said.

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An immigration judge ordered his removal in 2022, but he remained in the country to commit the attack.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT SUSPECT IN TEXAS GIRL’S MURDER WERE RECENTLY CAUGHT BY BORDER PATROL, RELEASED INTO US

In Houston, police arrested two illegals from Venezuela accused of strangling a 12-year-old local girl and dumping her body in a creek. 

Video image of Johan Jose Rangel Martinez, 21, and Franklin Jose Pena Ramos, 26, and image of Jocelyn Nungaray

Video image of Johan Jose Rangel Martinez, 21, and Franklin Jose Pena Ramos, 26, left. They are suspected of strangling 12-year-old Houston girl Jocelyn Nungaray, right, and dumping her body in a creek. (Houston Police Department; Fox Houston Courtesy of the Nungaray family)

Johan Jose Rangel Martinez, 21, and Franklin Jose Pena Ramos, 26, face capital murder charges in the death of Jocelyn Nungaray, city police said Thursday. 

Both suspects illegally crossed the border through El Paso on separate occasions, sources told Fox News. Both had been captured by Border Patrol and released into the U.S.

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Jocelyn had snuck out of her family’s apartment to call her 13-year-old boyfriend, who told police he overheard two men’s voices. Surveillance video from a nearby 7-Eleven shows the men approaching her and walking her toward a bridge where police believe the murder took place.

Her body was discovered in the creek below.

In Missouri, state troopers on Monday arrested five illegals accused of kidnapping a 14-year-old girl in Indiana.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS CHARGED WITH KIDNAPPING INDIANA TEEN

illegal immigrant suspects

From left to right, the five illegal immigrants suspected of kidnapping an Indiana 14-year-old and bringing her to Missouri: Carlos Funez, Marlon Aguilar, Noe Guzman Hernandez, Daniel Ruiz Lopez and Arturo Eustaquio. (Macon County Jail )

The girl’s father reported her missing, and police located the suspect vehicle near one of her phone pings.

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Police found the girl unharmed in the back of the vehicle and arrested Mexican nationals Arturo Eustaquio, 41; Noe Guzman Hernandez, 24; and Daniel Ruiz Lopez, 19; as well as Hondurans Carlos Funez, 56 and Marlon Aguilar, 44.

All five came into the country illegally and were being held without bail on kidnapping charges.

In its monthly update Thursday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 117,900 encounters between ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border, a decrease of about 9% from the prior month.

Fox News’ Sarah Rumpf-Whitten, Bradford Betz and Louis Casiano contributed to this report.

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Los Angeles domestic violence suspect found dead by police after standoff

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Los Angeles domestic violence suspect found dead by police after standoff

An armed man accused of domestic violence was found dead following a lengthy standoff with Los Angeles Police on Thursday, the department confirmed.

Officers responded to a reported battery domestic violence situation around 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the 5700 block of Etiwanda Avenue, authorities say. The victim told arriving officers that her husband, 45-year-old Marlon Jimenez, had a history of domestic violence and that he was responsible for visible injuries on her body.

Jimenez was located in a bedroom inside the apartment. Officers directed him to step out of the room and into the hallway. When he complied, an officer firmly grabbed his arm and escorted him into the hallway, police said.

In the hallway police told Jimenez that he was going to be detained as the alleged domestic violence incident was investigated. That agitated Jimenez, authorities said, and he eventually retreated back to the bedroom and reached for the waistband of his pants, claiming he had a knife.

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Jimenez then barricaded himself in the bedroom, police said. SWAT and Crisis Negotiation teams were then called to the scene.

After several hours, SWAT officers eventually entered the bedroom and found Jimenez faced down on the floor underneath a mattress. He had a ligature tied around his neck, according to authorities.

Police found a loaded 9mm handgun next to him on the ground. The registered firearm had previously been reported as stolen, police said.

No officers were injured during the incident.

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Southwest

Jocelyn Nungaray murder: Illegal immigrant suspects 'lured' Texas 12-year-old, 'tied her up,' prosecutors say

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The two illegal immigrant suspects charged with strangling 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray to death this week had “lured” her under a bridge in Houston before tying her up and killing her, prosecutors allege in new court documents obtained by Fox News. 

Johan Jose Rangel Martinez, 21, and Franklin Jose Pena Ramos, 26, each face capital murder charges, and prosecutors are requesting that their bail be set at $1 million. 

“In this case the defendant lured a 12-year-old under a bridge, where he and his co-defendant remained with her for over 2 hours, took her pants off, tied her up, and killed her, then threw her body into the bayou,” Harris County Assistant District Attorney Michael Abner wrote. 

On Thursday, Fox News reported that the two suspects from Venezuela had entered the U.S. illegally before being released from custody. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson confirmed the news on Friday, saying in a statement that “Martinez and Pena both illegally entered the U.S. without inspection, parole or admission by a U.S. immigration officer on an unknown date and at an unknown location.”

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ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT SUSPECTS IN TEXAS GIRL’S MURDER WERE RECENTLY CAUGHT BY BORDER PATROL, RELEASED INTO US 

Franklin Jose Pena Ramos, left, and Johan Jose Rangel Martinez have been charged in the killing of Jocelyn Nungaray in Houston, Texas, on Monday, June 17. (Harris County Jail)

“On March 14, Martinez was apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol near El Paso, Texas. That same day he was released on an order of recognizance with a notice to appear,” the spokesperson added. “Pena was apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol on May 28 near El Paso. He was also released on an order of recognizance with a notice to appear the same day he was apprehended.” 

Investigators used surveillance video to track the movements of Rangel Martinez and Pena Ramos before and after the killing, Houston police Lt. Stephen Hope said. 

Earlier this week, Houston Mayor John Whitmire said that Nungaray had been at a convenience store, talking to her 13-year-old boyfriend on the phone after sneaking out of her family’s apartment. The boyfriend told investigators that he could hear Nungaray talking with two people. 

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TEXAS POLICE ARREST MAN WHO ALLEGEDLY ROBBED BANK WITH YOUNG CHILD IN TOW 

images of Jocelyn Nungaray

Jocelyn Nungaray, 12, was found strangled to death in a Houston creek this week. (Fox26 Houston courtesy of the Nungaray family)

Rangel Martinez and Pena Ramos, meanwhile, started their evening at a restaurant together on Sunday night, police said. 

They left the restaurant and then were seen meeting with Nungaray and talking to her for a few minutes. Later, Rangel Martinez and Pena Ramos, along with Jocelyn, walked to a 7-Eleven convenience store. 

Video image of Johan Jose Rangel Martinez, 21, and Franklin Jose Pena Ramos, 26, and image of Jocelyn Nungaray

Video image of Johan Jose Rangel Martinez, 21, and Franklin Jose Pena Ramos, 26, and an image of Jocelyn Nungaray (Houston Police Department; Fox Houston Courtesy of the Nungaray family)

 

Afterward, the three of them walked to a bridge, where investigators said Nungaray was murdered. Rangel Martinez and Pena Ramos then walked to the apartment they shared and left the girl’s body behind, police said. Police believe the pair lived in the same apartment complex as Nungaray. 

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Fox News’ Griff Jenkins contributed to this report. 

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