School’s out for two ADEC staff members! Mitch Walorksi, CFO and Vice-President, and Don Wierenga, director of adult habilitation and assistive technology, graduated from the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce Leadership Academy on May 13 at the Lerner Theatre.

According to the Chamber of Commerce’s website, the Elkhart Leadership Academy is a nine month community immersion experience designed to build servant leadership skills for up and coming leaders in Elkhart County businesses and nonprofits. Each class is limited to 30 individuals who are nominated to participate.

During the nine month period, the participants attend an overnight team building retreat to kick off the program and then a full day workshop experience once a month. These experiences involved delving into local culture, meeting community figureheads and touring the county. The Leadership Academy curriculum is capped off with a group project for local organizations.

Here Don and Mitch take the time to share what they learned from their Leadership Academy experience.


The best part of it was learning about Elkhart County. I live in St. Joseph County so I’m much more familiar with that area. But working in Elkhart County, it was nice to make so many connections with leaders and learn about services offered here –all of the not-for-profits .

My favorite part was Amish Day – we went to a camel’s milk farm. They sell it for $100 a gallon. We went to a buggy maker, Yoder’s and then we had an Amish lunch. It was in an Amish home. It was interesting to learn about the Amish community-the cultural side of it. Especially since we have clients who are Amish, I can understand it so much better now.

A couple of times , they had panels of entrepreneurs. That was really interesting to me. I like the entrepreneurial approach when you’re working for an employer – there’s a lot to learn. We also learned from a brewer (who brought samples!) and the owner of a second-hand store.

Networking was important too.  Not just learning what people do, but really getting to know people and working as a team. It gave ADEC the opportunity to share what we do and make connections that could pay off in the future. Overall, it was worthwhile. I enjoyed it.


During the last nine months in the Elkhart Leadership Academy, I had the opportunity to learn more about our local communities, leaders and businesses – with a focus on gaining Leadership skills. The Elkhart Chamber continues the tradition of offering this program for many years now, benefitting current and prior employees of ADEC. The program was one day a month, covering different broad subjects such as Ethics, Diversity, Conflict Resolution, Arts and Culture and Entrepreneurism.

There were many eye openers, including visits to Amish area businesses and schools and an overnight retreat at a camp complete with out-of-your-comfort-zone outdoor activities.  I met interesting business leaders, entrepreneurs and politicians and spent time learning about local not-for-profits.  I participated in a small group project creating a marketing video for RETA, a local not-for-profit. Most importantly, I got to know 21 other participants from many walks of life and employers in the area. Being a part of the Leadership Academy was a time of great memories and great people. And I was proud to represent ADEC.

Whitney Craig | Communications Specialist