The My ADEC Story series continues with this entry from Sara Howard, Senior Manager of Community Employment. // Photo by Rod Tackett

Did you know that the “E” in ADEC stands for employment? Employment is one of ADEC’s core values. ADEC believes that clients who want to should be able to:

  1. Find dignity and meaning in work
  2. Make productive contributions to the community through work
  3. Contribute to the well-being of our society by being tax-paying citizens

As Senior Manager, I oversee community employment which is comprised of 10 employment consultants and a program manager. The community employment department provides employment services to individuals with disabilities and other barriers.  The services range from benefits analysis, to vocational testing and assessments, to job development and placement, to supported employment and follow along, and everything in between; and we do this for over 250 clients in Elkhart and St. Joe counties!

Some of the clients we provide employment services for live in ADEC group homes and supported living, work at ADEC Industries, and attend day program. But, we have a duty and a goal to provide choice and possibility through employment to even more of our ADEC clients because we believe that anyone who wants to work, should be able to. This is where we want partner with all of you; the staff who know our ADEC clients the best.

Maybe there is a client in your program who has a desire to explore community employment, or obtain a job. Maybe they tried before and it didn’t work out, but they are ready to try again. Maybe you don’t know how to help them, or where to start. Please feel free to contact me, and I will be happy to answer questions, give you information, and partner with you to help our clients reach their employment goals.

There have been ADEC clients who have had amazing successes and achievements in community employment including Dion McField landing his dream job at Electric Brew, and David Schrock obtaining employment at Elmer’s body shop.

I would like to share a little about my personal journey through employment because I think that it will show a connection to why I am so passionate about helping others achieve their employment goals. I started thinking about this recently when I saw a poll being share on Facebook that posed the question, “What were your first 7 jobs?”

I began working at the age of 14, so I thought all the way back to the summer before my freshman year of high school (a long time ago) to compile my list. It was a lot of fun to reminisce.

  1. Parking lot attendant at the 7-11 that my friend’s parents owned
  2. Sandwich Artist at Subway (back when they still cut a u-gouge in the bread, who remembers that?)
  3. Jewelry clerk at Meijer (and several other positions)
  4. Sales Associate at Best Buy
  5. Ticket Taker/Clean-up crew at Movies 14 (free movies any time I wanted)
  6. Server at TGI Fridays
  7. Cashier at Walmart

After leaving Walmart, I had a few more jobs including working in the banking industry, and then multiple positions at a local college. My last position with the college was as a career services advisor for students and graduates.

The choice and possibility I have experienced with employment from early on really helped to shape my professional interests and goals, which eventually led to my current position as Senior Manager, Community Employment. I have been fortunate along my journey to have a lot of support and encouragement from my friends, family, and professional network.

I never questioned if having a job or a career was an option for me; I was never told I couldn’t work for whatever reason; I was never treated as if I was incapable of doing any certain job that I wanted to try. I take pride in my current job, my work history, my professional accomplishments, and in contributing to society by being a productive tax-paying citizen. I also feel good about setting a positive example for those around me by having a strong work ethic. These are universal things that I believe most people, including our clients, want to experience, and should be able to experience; ADEC believes that too. It’s one of the many reasons I am proud to be a part of the ADEC team.