A few Saturdays ago, Dion McField treated his roommates to coffee and cinnamon rolls at the Electric Brew in Elkhart. While they enjoyed their breakfast, Dion gave the guys a tour, proudly showing them his lists and describing the tasks he completes when he works there during the lunch rush three days a week.

For 17 years, Dion has worked at ADEC Industries, dreaming of finding a job in the community. These years have been well spent as he’s worked to develop good work habits, learn how to prioritize tasks and be a productive employee.

People who know Dion McField describe him as a gentle giant. At 6’4”, Dion is a kind, talkative person. He always has something exciting happening that he wants to talk about with others. He goes to church every Sunday, keeps a regular Friday night out with his roommates and likes to spend his Saturdays kicking back in his chair enjoying some TV. If you ask him how he’s doing, chances are he’ll say, “Pretty good.”

ADEC’s Vocational Training Center opens the door

When the Vocational Training Center opened at ADEC Industries in October of 2015, Dion eagerly joined. This program was created to give client workers at ADEC Industries the opportunity to gain work skills, explore employment and grow in their careers.

The first unit was on goals. During class time, client workers and their instructor, Susan Faltynski, would talk about what it means to have a goal, how to measure progress and work on setting effective goals for himself. Dion thought it over and decided to share his big goal – he wanted to work in a coffee shop.

“I love to drink coffee at home,” Dion said. “I make coffee for me and my roommate at home. And I knew my friend Kevin used to work in a coffee shop in Goshen.”

With that, ADEC’s Community Employment staff worked with him to apply for a Vocational Rehabilitation referral. Dion’s employment consultant worked with him to do a work experience at ADEC’s Gaining Grounds in Middlebury. Kayla Ritchie, Middlebury Day team leader, taught Dion to make coffee drinks and perform busboy tasks.

He loved it.

Perfect match at Electric Brew

Soon afterward, Dion’s case was transferred to a new employment consultant, Daniel Crowder. Daniel knew there was a new Electric Brew location in Elkhart and decided to give it a shot.

When Daniel approached Electric Brew owner Myron Bontrager with the idea, Myron was immediately receptive. Myron used to live in Ecuador, where there is a government mandate that businesses hire people with disabilities. He internalized this philosophy and was excited to apply it in his own business.

“He does really well,” Myron said of Dion’s work. “He’s always smiling. It’s a good experience. We’re happy with him.”

Hiring Dion had personal implications for Myron, as well. His grandson has a disability, making Myron all the more passionate about making opportunities available for people with disabilities and exploring every possibility.

“People with disabilities have something to offer [in the workplace],” Myron explained. “It just takes a little more work.”

Dion started working at the Electric Brew in May. Daniel worked with Dion initially to make lists of his tasks – making change, putting orders in, washing dishes, food prep, clearing plates.

“What was really cool was how he came in and took the ball and ran with it,” Daniel said of the experience. “He just fit in right away. Everyone is very accommodating and inclusive here, and you don’t always get that.”

Dion still works ADEC Industries when he’s not on duty at the Electric Brew. He likes being able to do both jobs and is focused on saving up for a vacation to Mackinac Island now that he’s treated his roommates to a nice breakfast.

“You can see the pride in how he talks about it and carries himself,” Daniel said. “He literally cannot stop smiling, is doing an amazing job, and has been embraced with open arms at Electric Brew by the entire staff and customers alike.”

Photo by Daniel Crowder | ADEC Employment Consultant