CASS COUNTY, TX (KSLA) - For Matthew Nichols, a Cass County, TX. native, selfless service has always been a way of life. Now, he’s hoping to turn a dream into reality.
Nichols is the founder and president of the Rock Collective, a new nonprofit with a mission to provide housing and occupational opportunities for those with disabilities in East Texas.
“The hardest part is the start up," said Nichols. “The first year is always going to be the hardest because you’re just really starting from scratch.”
Nestled on a sprawling 23 acre piece of East Texas heaven, the Rock Collective is still finding its footing. The nonprofit is in the meticulous process of clearing out dense foliage to make room for a fully functioning farm.
“We’ll have animals to take care of, we’ll have crops to tend to, to pull and to harvest,” said Nichols. “We’re growing the food here, it’s going to stay here and we’re going to provide for our community right here - not abroad.”
Currently, the Rock Collective is home to two horses, a number of roosters and hens, a greenhouse, and an operational bee apiary. Not to mention, Nichols is always shadowed by a Great Pyrenees puppy named Mel, his future herding dog.
“Cass County doesn’t have 30 thousand people in it," said Nichols. “But, the need is there.”
For years, Nichols has been a special education teacher at Hughes Springs High School. He said the students he works with are the impetus behind the inception of the Rock Collective.
“Parents started coming to me saying, ‘what options do we have here?’” said Nichols. “We don’t have to send our kids to the coast or to the big city, we can keep them right here.”
Nichols stated he’d like around 20 to 25 people to be living and working on the property when the nonprofit is totally up and running.
“We have the demographic to support our own right here and right now,” said Nichols.
Although many in the community are very supportive of the Rock Collective and its mission, some living nearby the property are concerned about public safety.
Brin Wisdom, a co-founder, said the Rock Collective’s advisory council has a “stringent assessment criteria for residents."
Wisdom added potential applicants can have no felony record or criminal history. As well, all employees and residents will undergo rigorous background checks, mental health evaluations from a licensed practitioner, and reference checks.
The Rock Collective hopes to be fully operational by the end of 2019. If you want to volunteer at the Rock Collective or donate, click here.