Updated: Nov 25, 2022
“When I was five years old, I wanted to be a baker,” said Elizabeth Walker. “But no one ever encouraged that dream. And later, as a painfully shy introvert, I felt heard or seen only when I was around those with special needs.”
At the time, Elizabeth didn’t see how she could bridge the gap between her dream and her passion. But years later — God made a way.
“It started in 2017 when it felt like God was putting my life back together,” shared Elizabeth. “My life was a tapestry in a way — it may have looked good on the front, but the back was a mess. But it was around that time that God really began to change me and put things together. He was restoring my voice and renewing my dream.”
Elizabeth had always wanted to work with those with special needs, and after visiting a nonprofit in Texas, she began to see all the possibilities. “The time during COVID allowed me to envision the plan, and I began to put pen to paper…. To flesh out the ideas that had marinated for decades in my mind.”
Elizabeth worked for a recruiting business at the time, trying to help employers recruit staff. She noticed a conundrum. “On one hand,” Elizabeth shared, “we had the great resignation and had a very hard time getting people willing to work. On the other, we had special needs people who wanted to work but employers who were hesitant to give them opportunities.
“Through this, I found a way to bridge the gap. And in so doing, I found the words that would define My Big Dream — “hope.” “Purpose.” And “belonging.” Everyone needs to feel that they can contribute. Everyone needs to feel they are valued. And everyone needs a safe place where they feel they can belong.”
In May 2021, Elizabeth put out feelers and scheduled a meeting for special needs families to come together to discuss the launch of My Big Dream. “I had hoped to have 3 or 4 families,” Elizabeth said. “But God always shows up bigger than our dreams — over 20 families came, and the common concern they all shared was this: What happens to my special needs child if something happens to me?”
The group began to meet weekly, making various crafts and projects. Then, in late October, they had a pop-up shop of their handmade wares, which was sold out within an hour. “The pride on these kids’ faces was like nothing else! We had allowed them to be seen, and the community showed up!”
Elizabeth shared, “My Big Dream is based on the truth of Psalm 139 — God has knit every person in their mother’s womb, and He does not make mistakes. We tend to look at our special needs friends as if they are broken, but the truth is — they aren’t broken. And we have a lot to learn from them.”
My Big Dream is doing just that. Elizabeth brought her childhood love of baking to the special needs community while working with them weekly on various projects. “We have a cookbook for sale now, and we are partnering with other nonprofits, including the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, to showcase the talents of our special needs friends.”
The lesson in all of this is that if God provides the dream — He will make a way to fulfill the purpose.
Participation in My Big Dream is easy. The program is for those who are 16 or older and have developmental or intellectual disabilities. No cell phones are allowed; keep language and jokes clean; and ensure that the environment is a safe and welcoming space for everyone.
There are also volunteering opportunities: social media management, fundraising, grant writing, and serving on the board! Elizabeth welcomes participation because the long-term goal is going to require a village! “Long term, we not only want to provide safe housing to our special needs friends that will foster their independence, but we also want to expand our program to a four-day a week, full-day program.”
To learn more about My Big Dream, visit MyBigDream.us.
Elizabeth Walker was a guest on the Esther Tea Podcast, “Spilling the Tea with Tracey Ann.” Listen to their conversation wherever you listen to podcasts! “My Big Dream with Elizabeth Walker.”