If you were to hop in a car and take a ride through Elkhart County with Mike Hedrington, he could tell you stories about most of the businesses you pass along the way.
Mike has spent the past several decades helping individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities find and keep jobs in those businesses – from factories and offices to restaurants and retail locations.
One of ADEC’s four core values is “employment”, and for 35 years Mike has been helping fulfill the mission of helping individuals with disabilities find dignity and meaning through work. He has seen the look of pride spread across someone’s face as they accepted their first job offer, and he has watched as they received their first paycheck.
The "E" in ADEC stands for EMPLOYMENT
ADEC’s name represents our four core values:
- A life of their own: The people we serve deserve to make their own choices, pursue their passions and learn new skills.
- Dignity: The people we serve are entitled to respect and professionalism and protection from exploitation and abuse.
- Employment: The people we serve should have a chance to find dignity and meaning through work.
- Community: People with disabilities should be embraced by and included in the local community.
Mike first was hired at ADEC while he was on a summer break from college — but what started as a temporary job turned into a lifelong career.
He spent the first decade of his ADEC career as a group leader at ADEC Industries, where he supervised a group of clients as they performed tasks like shipping products and operating a forklift.
“I really enjoyed helping them gain skills so they could move on in their careers and land jobs in the community,” Mike said.
As some of his clients moved onto jobs in community employment, so did Mike. Ready to tackle a new job at ADEC, Mike moved into his current role as an employment consultant near the turn of the millennium.
Mike’s role with ADEC is creating job opportunities and providing on-the-job support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He said he enjoys showing local businesses that the people ADEC serves can make valuable additions to their team.
“You can’t put limits on the people we serve,” he said. “A lot of the times they are capable of a lot more than we think, it is just a matter of giving them an opportunity.”
He also enjoys watching the people he serves develop as employees and as people.
Larry Kime is just one of the hundreds of individuals Mike has worked with through the years. Through ADEC, Larry was able to find a job with a local apartment complex delivering important notices to residents in the community. Mike checks in with Larry regularly, and Larry said he is thankful for the support.
“Michael is a great listener and a great friend,” Larry said. “He has been very helpful in reminding me to double check my job path and to make sure my notices are delivered accurately to help me keep my job.”
A family affair
Mike Hedrington is the proud father to two daughters: Kayla and Erin Hedrington.
Kayla followed in her father’s footsteps by working at ADEC while on a break from college. Although she is no longer employed at ADEC, the job helped her uncover a passion for working with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Read more: Working at ADEC deepens father-daughter bond
Susan Faltynski, ADEC’s employment services coordinator, said she appreciates Mike’s commitment to all of the people he works with — from ADEC clients and their family members to his coworkers at ADEC and the employees at the businesses he works with.
“His dedication to ADEC’s mission is apparent in all that he does; his passion and purpose shines bright,” Susan said. “You can feel the care Michael has for those that he works with when he talks about their progress and successes.”
Mike hopes to retire from ADEC eventually, and will likely spend his free time riding his Bianchi road bike across the country or exploring new trails on his S-Works mountain bike.
“I am lucky to say I thoroughly enjoy what I do here,” Mike said. “I feel really good being able to support others as they discover what they want to do with their life. The people I work with and the people we serve, I’ve come to see them as family.”