Seventy years ago, a group of parents envisioned a more vibrant future for their children with disabilities, one where they played and learned alongside other children, where workplaces celebrated all different abilities, and where their children could live out their dreams as contributing members of society.

Public schools were not then legally required to educate people with disabilities and that only left the underfunded institutions that had been the norm for decades. Institutions took the burdens of care off the parents, but hid people with disabilities away from the public eye. Little attention meant little hope for improvements, and less then optimal conditions.

These founding families and first employees of ADEC dared to think bigger. They wanted their children to have opportunities for education and the possibility of a fulfilling future. They came together to create a school for children with disabilities on April 7th, 1952, teaching first in the basements of their homes, then in a purchased dedicated facility. These were the first steps on the path to a brighter future for those children and their families, and their bravery and audacity lit the way.

ADEC’s mission began to change hearts and minds throughout the area, and by the mid-sixties, friends, families, and community supporters in Elkhart County were able to launch a capital campaign successful enough to fund the construction of a new school, Aux Chandelles. Aux Chandelles is French for “into the light.” The name aligned with ADEC’s goals to bring people with disabilities out of the darkness of institutions, and to help them shine. With the name came ADEC’s current logo, a flame within triangles. The dedication and open house for Aux Chandelles was held in 1966.

Since the beginning, ADEC has innovated the way services and care are provided for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as how their families are supported and assisted. Our innovations, and expansions over the years have been direct results of the changing lives and needs of our friends and families. We are guided by those we serve, and that now includes people of all ages in both St. Joe and Elkhart Counties. Our list of programs is extensive and continues to grow, because ADEC is not your typical non-profit.

The families and staff of ADEC are committed to our goals and fiercely devoted to those we care for. So much so that when Covid hit in 2020, we knew that closing was not an option. Parents were able to keep working and families were able to continue to thrive because they knew that we were still here to care for and support their loved ones, while our friends with disabilities knew that they didn’t have to worry about disrupted schedules or feeling abandoned during stressful times. We made the necessary adjustments to keep everyone as safe as possible, but we also kept our programs going and our doors open.

Today, we see the founder’s original vision lived out around us every day, as our neighbors with disabilities work and volunteer in our community, learn alongside their peers in school, and build lives of their own choosing. The long-dreamt of future is now a vibrant reality and ADEC will continue to advocate and serve with the same vision and passion, providing person-centered programming so that everyone has the chance to pursue a fulfilling life. Empowered by the light of Aux Chandelles, the support of our communities, and the passion of our families and staff, we are paving the way for another 70 years of bright and exciting possibilities.