A Legacy of Advocacy, Encouragement and Hope


The Early Years—After holding classes in the basements of family homes ADEC’s founding organization purchased its first facility, a home on East Jackson St. in Elkhart in 1955.

Throughout the years ADEC has continued its mission of working with persons with disabilities, just as its predecessor organizations and leaders had done throughout Elkhart County fifty years ago.  ADEC is a living tribute to the commitment and dedication of the many parents and special friends who came together in the early 1950s to form a group dedicated to enhancing the lives of their sons and daughters and friends and neighbors with disabilities. It was this inaugural group’s love, care, concern and advocacy that brought forth many opportunities for people with disabilities to fully experience all that life has to offer.

Today, the legacy of these early pioneers is alive and well at ADEC. It is a legacy that has always believed in possibilities – not disabilities. It is a legacy that works with families, friends and the community to help people with unique challenges dream dreams, set and achieve goals, and participate in their home communities. And, it is a legacy that continues only through the shared love, care and concern of many special partners and supporters in all of the communities ADEC serves.

  • 1950

    The Fifties

    A small group of parents, concerned about the future of their children with disabilities, began to meet to discuss mutual problems and to plan for their children’s futures. In 1952, this ambitious and compassionate corps organized the Council for the Retarded of Elkhart County Inc. Classes for children with special challenges were established and conducted in the basements of individuals’ homes.  The group purchased a home on East Jackson St. in Elkhart and moved all classes to that location in 1955.


    At the same time, a group of concerned women who had earlier organized a summer program for children with disabilities through the Episcopal Church began to rally their creativity and energies to create a rehab preschool class. With a focus on providing physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and hearing therapies and preschool for children with disabilities, the Elkhart County Crippled Children’s Society was organized in 1953. Construction of the Rehabilitation Center at 702 Williams Street soon followed.

    The Sheltered Workshop Inc. was organized in 1958.  The workshop, which was located in leased space on 330 W. Garfield Ave. in Elkhart, provided vocational training and work experience for adults with disabilities.

  • 1960

    The Sixties

    Special friends, family members and community supporters of the Council for the Retarded of Elkhart County Inc. began a countywide capital campaign to fund the construction of a new school for children with disabilities. The dedication and open house for Aux Chandelles, located on Hively Avenue in Elkhart, was held in 1966. Coinciding with the organization’s new name was the adoption of the three triangle and flame logo.

    In 1969 the Sheltered Workshop was merged with The Rehabilitation Center.  Services for the visually impaired were expanded to full-time.Seeking to expand its program of services, the Rehabilitation Center added part-time visual impairment services in 1967.   In 1968 Tipton House was donated to the Rehabilitation Center and used for programs for the visually impaired.



    The Aux Chandelles building on Hively Ave. in Elkhart was completed and dedicated in 1966. At the time the new facility served approximately 100 developmentally disabled students. The building is currently known as the Joy Rose Center of Child Abuse Prevention Services. Prior to the opening of Aux Chandelles classes were held in rented space at Roosevelt School where they had been since 1962.

  • 1970

    The Seventies

    Through the efforts of volunteers, good things were happening at the Rehabilitation Center with visual impairment services. In the early 1970s more formal programs, including a low vision clinic, were established with the development of a blind rehabilitation services contract with Vocational Rehabilitation Services.

    Adult program services were added to the Rehabilitation Center’s program of services in 1970 when the Rehabilitation Center merged with the Sheltered Workshop Inc. This move signaled the development of center-based services for adults with disabilities, an important event in the history of the organization. The merger prompted a change in the legal title to Elkhart County Society for Crippled Children and Adults Inc. Because people preferred a less complicated name, the “Rehab Center” had been adopted over the years.

    Public schools assumed responsibility for the education of children, ages 6 through 18, and purchased the building on Hively Avenue in 1973. Thanks once again to the generosity and support of the community, Aux Chandelles moved its headquarters to a parcel of donated land near Bristol in 1974.


    In 1974 Aux Chandelles moved to the current Bristol location.

    Always a leader among organizations serving persons with disabilities, Aux Chandelles opened the first licensed group home in the state of Indiana in Bristol in 1974.


    The first licensed group home in the state of Indiana was also opened on the same campus that year.

    Prompted by county officials and United Way, the Rehab Center and Aux Chandelles merged into the Association for the Disabled of Elkhart County on May 1, 1976. A joint commission composed of representatives from both organizations supported the proposal, believing it would result in a more comprehensive and less fragmented system to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities.

  • 1980

    The Eighties

    Endeavoring to improve and expand services for people with visual impairments and for infants and young children in need of early intervention services, the facility at Williams Street was renovated in 1983. A grant funded the improvement project. Within the same grant, facilities at 2700 Industrial Parkway were purchased and ADEC Industries was born. In its infancy, ADEC Industries offered vocational programs, adult daily living courses and personal adjustment classes.


    ADEC Industries was opened in 1983 at its current location on 2700 Industrial Parkway.

    Expansion continued within ADEC’s group home division in the 1980s. Eventually ADEC would grow to include 11 group homes. Answering to the needs of individuals age 55 and over who experience vision loss, Northern Indiana Independent Living Services (NIILS) was established. Grant funded to serve five north central Indiana counties, NIILS provides tools and training to older adults with vision loss. Previously, older adults with vision loss faced the difficult decision of depending on institutional care. With training and support from NIILS, they can continue to maintain their independence and live in their own home environment.


    ADEC’s Visual Impairment Services (bottom left) expanded after receiving a grant to provide services for seniors in north central Indiana. The Northern Indiana Independent Living Services (NIILS). NIILS continues service currently at the Bristol campus.

    In mid-1980s ADEC established a prevention office focusing on research and community education about preventable birth defects and disabling conditions.

  • 1990

    The Nineties

    The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, granting equality of opportunity for our nation’s more than 43 million Americans who experience one or more physical or mental disabilities. Considered the most sweeping piece of civil rights legislation in over 25 years, ADA extends protection to qualified individuals with disabilities in many key areas including employment, public services and transportation, public accommodations and telecommunications.

    In November 1990, in light of the emphasis on “people first” language and effort to recognize that persons experiencing disabilities are vital, contributing members of the community, a movement was started to change the name of ADEC.  Following input from individuals with whom we work, staff, families and the community, a decision was made to use ADEC as a name instead of an acronym.   A tagline was also added – “Resources for Independence.”  On May 23, 1991, ADEC’s 15th birthday, ADEC…Resources for Independence was unveiled as the new name.


    In the 1990s ADEC began to focus on delivery of service in the home or in natural community settings.

    Over the course of several months in 1996, ADEC staff and constituents discussed the organization’s direction for the future. ADEC’s plan reflected the watchwords of the day, “community inclusion,” which meant providing services that better connected individuals to their communities. ADEC’s plan was developed in part because the nature of services in all areas was changing, with the focus moving from working with children and adults in segregated, facility-based environments to working with children and adults in natural settings. Emphasis was also placed on an individual’s choice – the ability of families and persons served to choose what services they wanted and who they wanted to provide these services.

    Other forces at work in the mid- to late-1990s included a strong focus on the following: self-advocacy, the value of the contributions consumers make in their local communities, consumer choice and an increase in non-paid interaction between consumers and community members.

  • 2000

    2000 and Beyond

    The emphasis on self-advocacy, value of the contributions consumers make in their local communities, consumer choice and an increase in non-paid interaction between consumers and members of the community started in the 1990s spurred continued action in 2000. Consumers worked vigorously on integration and acceptance issues. Self-advocacy groups like Power for Independence grew in strength and numbers, giving people with disabilities a forum and voice in their local communities.

    All of the factors mentioned above contributed widely to a movement to provide services to persons with disabilities in their home communities rather than in segregated, facility-based settings. After carefully assessing its facilities, and noting that a growing number of services were being provided in the community rather than in these facilities, ADEC made the decision to sell the property at Williams Street. ADEC sold the facility to the Elkhart Community Schools in 2001. The services formerly located at Williams Street were not abandoned, but were shifted to existing locations in Elkhart and Bristol where space was available.

    ADEC’s focus on advocacy, self-advocacy and consumer choice continue to be key concepts and focal points as we move forward.  Person-centered planning is used to assist people with disabilities to realize their dreams and pursuits. Helping people to realize their dreams also means working with them to remove barriers – attitudinal, physical and financial – wherever these barriers might exist.


    The continuing change from facility to community-based services prompted ADEC to sell the Williams St. location in 2001. The current Bristol campus and Elkhart campus were recently renovated to accommodate all ADEC services.


  • 2015

    Introducing … The Story of ADEC

    If we don’t know where we’ve been, how can we possibly know where to go? This week, I’m introducing a new reoccurring feature for The Open Door – The Story of ADEC. In 63 years, we have come a long way. Technology has advanced, understanding has increased. However, ADEC’s underlying commitment and dedication to choice and possibility have been constant.

    In looking through some of our historical records, I realized we have been advocating for independence and choice long before it was the recognized standard. When others were still using the institution system, ADEC committed to offering education and employment training opportunities so each person served could have every opportunity possible to succeed.

    This is incredible history. Over the next few months, I hope to share stories, photos, annual reports and more with you so we can all gain a greater appreciation for the immense history of the organization we serve.

    In this first column, I’d like to touch on language and discuss some of the antiquated terms that will show up in ADEC’s history. Upon our original founding in 1952, ADEC’s name was The Council for Retarded Children of Elkhart County. At this time in history, the words “retarded” and “mental retardation” were the medical definition for intellectual and developmental disabilities not yet understood.

    Sometime in the 1960s, these terms began to be used as derogatory slang words. Also during this time, medical understanding of disabilities grew and terminology took on a more precise form. As we all know, these words have fallen from favor and there are whole campaigns dedicated to eradicating them from our daily vocabulary. You can learn more about the Special Olympics’ “Spread the Word to End the R-Word” campaign and sign the pledge here.

    In 2008, a young man named John Franklin Stephens wrote a very powerful editorial, Using the word “retard” to describe me hurts. Stephens happens to have an intellectual disability. In this editorial, which you can find by following this link, he writes,

    So, what’s wrong with “retard”? I can only tell you what it means to me and people like me when we hear it. It means that the rest of you are excluding us from your group. We are something that is not like you and something that none of you would ever want to be. We are something outside the “in” group. We are someone that is not your kind.

    I want you to know that it hurts to be left out here, alone. Nothing scares me as much as feeling all alone in a world that moves so much faster than I do.

    I share all of this to explain that we understand the challenges of vocabulary and to preface ADEC history with understanding and grace. While words we don’t appreciate will come up as we delve into the historical records, we know the people who founded ADEC did so with pure hearts and a constant dedication to what is right and good.

    In the coming weeks, there will be articles on the couples who came together to found ADEC, how ADEC Industries came into being, the three separate agencies who came together to form one special place, the beginnings of each agency and some of the clients and staff who have been with us for the long haul. Stay tuned. This walk down memory lane is about to get a lot more interesting.

    Pictured: Bristol Building 1 in the 1970s

    Article by Whitney Craig | Communications Specialist

  • 2015

    The Story of ADEC, Part 2

    Oftentimes when ADEC employees and clients represent ADEC in the community, someone will ask what ADEC means. In this installment of The Story of ADEC, we will dive deeper into our organization’s history and learn how we became known as ADEC and what the meaning is behind this moniker.

    ADEC traces its first beginnings to 1952 when a small group of concerned parents founded the Council for the Retarded of Elkhart County, Inc. These parents worked together to offer classes and deepen their children’s educational experiences. They soon purchased a home to use as a school building.

    Just one year later, a group of women passionate about education founded the Elkhart County Crippled Children’s Society. Through their efforts, the Rehabilitation Center, popularly known as “The Rehab Center,” was constructed and opened as a choice for therapies and classes in the community. Their signature program was a preschool.

    In 1958, parents from both organizations worked with community leaders to open the Sheltered Workshop, Inc. This precursor to ADEC Industries served as a place for people with disabilities to come to work each day and lend support to Elkhart’s burgeoning manufacturing community.

    In 1966, the Council for the Retarded of Elkhart County, Inc. opened a formal school for children with disabilities. During this time, they took on a new name – Aux Chandelles, “into the light” in French. This demonstrated the change in culture as people no longer hid away their loved ones with disabilities, but instead looked to provide them with the best life could offer.

    The Sheltered Workshop and The Elkhart County Crippled Children’s Society merged in 1970, resulting in a name change to The Elkhart County Society for Crippled Children and Adults.

    As public schools took on the responsibility of educating children ages 6 to 22 in 1973, Aux Chandelles transitioned to focus primarily on adult services. Leaders from the United Way and Elkhart County took note of this change and felt the two organizations would do well to combine efforts and offer a comprehensive array of services for people with disabilities in Elkhart County.

    As a result, Aux Chandelles and The Elkhart County Society for Crippled Children and Adults merged to form the Association for the Disabled of Elkhart County on May 1, 1976. For several years, the organization grew and prospered as new services were introduced and innovative approaches unveiled.

    The 1990s brought a wave of changes with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Focus shifted to “people-first” language and outmoded titles were re-examined across the country. ADEC’s leaders and supporters joined the movement and formed a task force to rename the agency.

    After realizing the Association for the Disabled of Elkhart County had a well established identity as ADEC, the task force decided to legally change the name to be simply ADEC. On May 23, 1991, in celebration of 15 years as a unified agency, leadership officially announced a new name and tagline – ADEC . . . Resources for Independence.

    In 2013, ADEC’s board of directors and leadership took a close look at ADEC’s name, mission statement and core values. During this process, the tagline “Resources for Independence” was discontinued, but the letters in ADEC took on deeper meaning as core values for us all to strive to achieve each day.

    So, finally, in answer to the initial question, when someone asks me what ADEC stands for, I speak to the history of the organization, but I point to these four values. To me, there’s no greater explanation of what we do and why.

    A Life of Their Own: ADEC clients deserve a chance to . . .

    Make their own choices
    Pursue their passions
    Learn new skills
    Develop healthy personal relationships
    Make a positive contribution

    Dignity: ADEC clients are entitled to . . .

    Respect and professionalism as their daily needs are met
    Protection from exploitation and abuse

    Employment: ADEC clients deserve the opportunity to . . .

    Find dignity and meaning in work
    Make productive contributions to the community through work
    Contribute to the well being of our society by being tax-paying citizens

    Community: As an active part of the community, ADEC . . .

    Connects clients with local opportunities when possible
    Is a catalyst for new client opportunities if they don’t exist


    Logo by Rod Tackett | Communications Specialist /

    Article by Whitney Craig | Communications Specialist

  • 2015

    45 Years of Awesome

    Cary-AwesomeWhen Cary Kelsey began work at the Sheltered Workshop in 1970, he planned to stay for a little more than two years to satisfy his alternative service for the military and then find a job teaching history.

    Today, 45 years later, Cary is still making a difference at ADEC. When asked why he stayed, Cary says, “I realized I enjoyed working with people with disabilities, so I stayed.”

    When Cary started working at the Workshop, he was one of only five or so full-time employees. As a result, he really got to know the founding families of ADEC. He knew their sons and daughters and he understood their vision. “Knowing what they had created, I felt in tune with the mission,” Cary explained.

    His challenge in this role at the beginning was figuring out how to make a contribution by teaching the clients the skills they needed to get a particular job done so they could earn a paycheck. When he accomplished this, his passion for helping people with disabilities took root.

    In order to better serve people with disabilities, Cary earned a certification in special education in 1973, and then a masters degree in 1977.


    From a 1973 newsletter, Cary gives Quinten Helmuth instructions for completing a job. (ADEC file photo)

    Cary holds the distinction of being the only ADEC employee to work for all three of ADEC’s parent organizations before they merged. He started off teaching employment skills and working with clients in what would become ADEC Industries. After a few years in that role, the Sheltered Workshop merged with the Rehab Center. Around this time, Cary began teaching functional academics and social skills to adults with disabilities.

    When public schools integrated people with disabilities, Aux Chandelles lost a good amount of its clientele. In an effort to learn to serve adults, a group of trainers, including Cary, from the Rehab Center went to work at Aux Chandelles and led functional academics classes. In 1976, the three organizations officially merged, forming the Association for the Disabled of Elkhart County.

    “In the 70s, lots of money came in with new programs, so there was a lot to learn,” Cary said as he reflected on the excitement of the era. “At the policy level, there was awareness of the need, and legislators were willing to make decisions.”


    Cary sits in his office in the 1980s


    In the midst of this tremendous progress, Cary was named Department Director for Developmental and Visual Impairment Services in 1978. In this role, he directed ADEC’s preschool program, developed a teenage parent care program, created ADEC’s day services programming, introduced and facilitated services for the blind, introduced First Steps programming and continued to serve as a functional academic instructor.

    Through these roles, Cary learned the importance of customer service at ADEC. “What I find rewarding is figuring out how customer service can be delivered,” Cary explained of his firm belief in the basis of his work. “Helping families figure out what they need, getting information to them. ADEC has done a really good job of helping families make connections. Now it starts with GPS.”

    In 2000, Cary began transitioning into a more executive role at ADEC. He served as Protective Services Officer for a year before becoming the Assistant to the President in 2001. In this role, Cary served in an executive capacity, overseeing policies, directing the guardianship program and working with the board on a regular basis. In 2014, he received a promotion to Vice President of Compliance and Guardianship, keeping the same duties. He continues to serve in this position today.


    Cary receiving his 20-year service award in 1990. (ADEC file photo)

    “I’ve always been fortunate,” Cary said reflecting on 45 years at ADEC. “I’ve gotten to work with great colleagues throughout the years. People move on, but then younger folks come in and pick up the work. ADEC has trained up a lot of leaders.”

    As Cary reflects on his time and roles at ADEC, some of his favorite memories have been connected to exit interviews. At the Rehab Center, people gave excellent reviews of the work he and his team had done. “That made me really proud.”

    In the vision program, which became a special passion of Cary’s through the years, he would often read reviews from people with recent vision loss who went through independent living services saying things like, “You’ve saved my life,” “You’ve changed my life” or “I’ve learned there’s still life to live.”

    “I think everyone’s job here is to be an advocate,” Cary explained. “Learn to be a good listener to clients and families. Only then can we understand advocacy.”


    Cary stands with ADEC CEO Donna Belusar during a party in his honor Wednesday, Aug. 5. (ADEC photo by Rod Tackett)


    “I think it’s important for people to see themselves in the bigger picture rather than day to day. Our programs have a lot of identities, but it’s really important to see ourselves as part of ADEC. Part of something bigger.”


    Cary’s dedication to his work at ADEC permeated into his home life, with his wife and son gaining an understanding and passion for the rights of people with disabilities. When his son, Christopher, was in preschool at the YMCA, he came home crying one day.

    The kids in his class were picking on another kid calling him an “ADEC.” Christopher said, “Dad, they don’t know anything.”

    Cary talked with his coworkers the next day, and they went out and did a community education program at the YMCA.

    Article by Whitney Craig | Communications Specialist
    Graphic/Photo by Rod Tackett | Communications Specialist
  • 2017

    For one employee, new position a chance for redemption

    For most people, a job offer signals validation, respect and the hope of new beginnings. It’s exciting to know someone feels you are worth the investment, regardless of whether you take the job. For Karl Kingsley, his most recent job offer meant more than this – it meant redemption.

    Karl worked at ADEC for 40 years, from 1972 to 2012. When he started out, he was in a position similar to today’s ADEC Industries Group Leaders at ADEC’s parent agency, Aux Chandelles, before the merger that formed the organization we are today. He was a high school math teacher who had taken some time to study at the Mennonite seminary, and he was in search of a position that met his varied strength areas.

    His path to landing this job wasn’t easy. He had five interviews, and he scored seriously low on a psychological test the CEO believed was the key to hiring good employees.

    “They called me after I took the test asked, ‘If you took it again, would you answer the questions the same way?'” Karl remembers. He assured them he would, as they voiced their doubts over his score. “I always liked that their ‘ideal person’ who had scored the best only lasted a year or two.”

    Once Karl was in, he was all in. He soon joined forces with ADEC legend Cary Kelsey as the agencies merged and he and Cary held similar positions. They worked with clients in both classrooms and on the floor, teaching employment skills, as well as academics. Eventually, it became evident to their supervisor both of these men had management potential and were going places at ADEC.

    He called them into his office and said, “I need one of you to work in the industrial side as a manager, and I need the other one to focus more on educational things. I don’t care who does what. You decide.”

    With that, he left Cary and Karl to make the decision together. Both of them remember it is a career-defining moment where they each knew immediately where they wanted to focus their efforts.

    “My life’s mission helping people,” Karl explained of his passion for the work. “But I like working with my hands. I majored in and taught math prior to ADEC. This job was such a good match in every way for me.”

    For 40 years, Karl grew and worked at ADEC Industries, forming it into the place it is today. He managed engineering and sales for AI for the bulk of his career. He developed bids, conducted time studies for jobs, created processes and meted pay.

    “In 40 years, I don’t remember a bad day here,” Karl said.

    In 2012, this work came to a sudden halt as Karl began to have headaches and just didn’t feel like himself any more. His wife and friends finally brought him to the emergency room.

    “The ER said it was a brain tumor,” Karl remembers. “They didn’t know what kind it was until it came out. It was the worst kind. The doctor said it’s considered terminal, and most patients don’t survive two years. I did radiation and chemo, but, well, I didn’t die. I’m still here.”

    For a while there, Karl thought his best days were behind him. Treatments left him weak and feeling ill most of the time, and his diagnosis hung heavy. He spent time with his wife, Karen, and tried to enjoy his children and grandchildren.

    But, from time to time, there was a nagging thought about his work at ADEC that had come to a sudden halt. He had no chance to wrap things up or share any of those details you collect in a lifetime spent in one position.

    Five years after his diagnosis, Karl is feeling good.

    “Some people may experience things on a new level [after cancer], but I had a very good life before, and I’m having a very good life now,” Karl shared.

    As of December, Karl is back at what he calls his “second home.” He’s serving as a consultant for ADEC Industries on a part-time basis, sharing from his rich store of experiences and knowledge as ADEC navigates changing legislation and new jobs for ADEC Industries workers.

    In Karl’s office, time studies lay scattered open as he researches processes, takes phone calls and works out of his old files. He’s clearly in his element.

    “Coming back here is  . . . I don’t know what the word is I’m looking for,” Karl pauses and thinks for a moment before smiling as he says, “Redemption.”

    Photo by Rod Tackett | Communications Specialist