When Gail Vance’s husband worked at ADEC, one of the individuals he served was in a car accident. Gail was always willing to bring Tylenol, often enough that it was like she worked there.

A simple joke turned into a lifetime of employment.

“I jokingly told him, ‘Next time, I want to get paid,’” Gail says “I wasn’t ready to start working. Suddenly, I found myself on the relief roster for group homes.”

In December, Gail celebrates her 35-year anniversary with ADEC and works as a group leader at ADEC Industries. That’s a long time, but working with the individuals ADEC serves has made it go by in a flash.

“I really love seeing what the people we serve can do,” Gail says. “The adventure has kept me here this long.”

ADEC wasn’t her first job, but it’s been her favorite. After graduating from Northwood High School, she was in the quality control lab at Mogul Rubber. She briefly attended Purdue University and worked at Goshen Rubber and Kline’s Department Store.

Once she was with ADEC, a female group leader went on maternity leave. Gail was asked to fill the position temporarily but was hesitant. After some thought, she decided to take the  position, knowing it was temporary.

A sheltered workshop, ADEC Industries allows clients to work a multitude of jobs at a pace that’s right for them. It allows individuals to interact with friends, give back to the community and earn a paycheck.

The woman never came back. Gail, realizing how much she enjoyed the job, applied for the full-time position and the rest is history.

Well, 35-year history.

“I’ve been impressed that I’m not always the teacher, sometimes I’m the pupil,” Gail says. “I learned how to crochet from a client, and I made it very clear to everyone that she taught me.

Ivy Pritchard, a production manager for ADEC, has worked with Gail for six years and watches her interact with clients all the time. She’s impressed with how easily Gail bonds with those under her supervision at ADEC Industries.

As a group leader, Gail is responsible for making sure the work of the individuals she manages is done at a quality level; she trains them to do the work they have and teaches them life skills they need to succeed in the community.

One of her favorite things about working for ADEC is building bonds and relationships with individuals served When she started, she met a young man coming out of high school with low self-esteem. When he got his first paycheck from ADEC Industries, she saw his self-esteem rise and eventually, he worked with community employment to get a job outside of ADEC Industries. With the help of community employment consultants, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities work with ADEC to find meaningful employment in the community.

“He was so proud and happy to be bringing home a check, just like his father and brother do,” Gail says.

During down time, Gail and those she supervises play games like Yahtzee and other dice games. She teaches them how to cook and made a vegan chili with them. She’ll garden with clients in a garden behind ADEC Industries and they’ll use those vegetables to make recipes.

“She’s so knowledgeable in so many areas, and she’s always been flexible,” Ivy says. “She’s always willing to pick up an extra shift or go beyond what’s been asked.”

When she isn’t working with clients or giving them a new cooking lesson, but clients know when October rolls around, she’ll leave for a week, and for a good reason.

Her true love is camping, and October is when she takes a week to go camping in southern Indiana once a year. It sticks in her mind all year, usually making an appearance in April when the weather starts warming up.

“I start joking in April that I’m getting camping fever,” Gail says. “They laugh because a few times I went camping, I got really sick. So, they’re like ‘Yeah, camping fever is real.’ I succumbed to it.”

Gail added that it’s hard to imagine not working with ADEC’s clients, who can always put a smile on her face.

And after such a long run, she has a little advice she to her younger self.

“You are going to have such an adventure with the people you work with, both staff and clients,” Gail says. “You’re going to see things you never thought possible.”