Christmas came early this year for ADEC’s nursing team.

Registered nurse Katrina Vargas and licensed practical nurses Lynn Guthrie and Sarah Ten Have could barely contain their excitement on Wednesday as they tore open cardboard boxes and ripped through plastic wrap to unveil items they hope to never use.

The nurses were opening and assembling their new first responder kits, purchased with a grant from the Goshen Health Foundation’s Community Benefit Fund.

The nurses previously relied on a hodgepodge collection of first aid supplies they had collected over their years at ADEC, but the new Lightning X kits provide more tools and more organization. The kits included everything from stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs to monitor vital signs to tourniquets and neck braces to respond to traumas.

Although the nurses hope they will never need to touch many of the supplies included in the kits, having them by their side at all times is like a security blanket.

The grant allowed ADEC to purchase five fully stocked first responder kits — one for each nurse when the team is fully staffed — and two smaller kits to be stored at ADEC Industries and ADEC’s new Gaining Grounds Center. The nurses will keep their kits in their cars so they can always be prepared for a medical emergency — whether it is one on the clock or one they encounter while driving on their personal time.

Although all ADEC vehicles and locations are currently equipped with basic first aid kits and supplies, ADEC’s nurses will now be able to assist with more severe accidents while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive. The additional kit at ADEC Industries is an important preventative measure because of the light manufacturing work that is performed there.

The Goshen Health grant also provided funds for ADEC to purchase a fully automatic AED for the Gaining Grounds Center. Previously, if a cardiac event were to occur at ADEC’s administration building, someone would need to run across the parking lot to grab the AED from ADEC’s Day Service at Bristol or wait for EMTs to arrive after calling 911. Because the building is now more heavily trafficked by both ADEC clients and members of the public because of the new Gaining Grounds Coffee Shop and conference space, ADEC and Goshen Health chose to invest in an additional machine.

A study done by John Hopkins University showed that 1,700 lives are saved annually from bystanders using AEDs, and there is a greater likelihood of survival (67 percent) when a bystander uses an AED versus waiting for emergency medical services to shock the heart (43 percent).

ADEC serves more than 1,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities across 21 locations in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties, and ADEC’s nursing team is responsible for helping all stay healthy while in ADEC’s care. The nurses spend their weeks checking in on the nearly 200 adults receiving residential services from ADEC in group homes or through supported living, as well as the more than 300 individuals who attend day services or work at ADEC Industries.

“We get to build a level of trust and relationships with the people we are caring for,” said Katrina Vargas, ADEC’s health services coordinator. “When you work in a traditional nursing role in a hospital or other medical setting, you only see patients when they are in need of medical assistance. At ADEC, we get to know our patients on a much deeper and more meaningful level. When they do need our help, they feel much safer and comfortable knowing they can count on us to help them feel better.”

ADEC is currently seeking two more licensed practical nurses to join #teamADEC, and Lynn Guthrie wants potential job applicants to know what a special place ADEC is to work.

“Where else do you get paid to fall in love? Being here just changes your whole mood,” she said. “We have the ability to do the little things, to provide the tender, loving care. It’s getting back to the roots of what nurses were in the first place.”

Are you an LPN or know of one looking for work? Learn more about the open nursing positions at