On April 7, 1952, a brave group of parents from our community gathered together and decided they wanted something more-something different- for their children with disabilities. At that time, it was the norm to place people with intellectual and developmental disabilities away in institutions. But ADEC’s founding parents decided to forge their own path. Not only did they keep their children at home and start a school for them, but they dreamed of their children becoming a part of the community. The very first employees at ADEC were the parents themselves as they worked to give their children opportunities no one has thought possible. Now, more than 65 years later, many of these children are now senior citizens who still receive ADEC services. As they have grown, so has ADEC.

ADEC Finds a Home

Concerned about the future of their children, ADEC’s founding families started conducting classes in the basements of their homes. They were determined to provide the same quality of education as everyone else was receiving in public schools- where their children were not allowed to attend. In 1955, they purchased this home in Elkhart. It was ADEC’s first official Facility.


ADEC Goes to Work

The area’s first sheltered workshop was organized in 1958. The workshop, which started in a leased space on Garfield Avenue in Elkhart, provided vocational training and work experience for adults with disabilities. Through the 1960’s and 1970’s the workshop also focused on rehabilitation for individuals who were blind. A grant in 1983 helped the sheltered workshop build a new space, now known as ADEC Industries.

ADEC Starts a School

Friends, family members, and community supporters launched a countywide capital campaign to fund the construction of a new school for children with disabilities. The dedication and open house for Aux Chandelles, located on Hively Avenue where CAPS now operates, was held in 1966. It would still be another decade before public schools were required by law to provide special education programs to children with disabilities. Aux Chandelles is French for “into the light.” The name aligned with ADEC’s mission to bring people with disabilities out of institutions and to help them shine. With the name came ADEC’s current logo, a flame within triangles.

ADEC Learns to Ride A Bike

Community support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the organizations serving them began to grow through the 1970s. In 1972, ADEC hosted its first Ride-A-Bike fundraiser. The bike ride, which is still running strong four decades later, is the longest-running bike ride in northern Indiana.

ADEC Moves to Bristol

When public schools assumed responsibility for the education of children in the 1970s, they purchased the Aux Chandelles building. But there was still plenty of work to be done beyond school in helping individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities lead lives full of choice and possibility. ADEC moved to its current headquarters, a parcel of donated land near Bristol, in 1974.

ADEC Turns a House Into a Home

Always a leader among organizations serving individuals with IDD, ADEC opened the first licensed group home in the State of Indiana in 1974. ADEC now operates 14 group homes throughout Elkhart and St. Joseph counties, providing around-the-clock care for up to 8 residents.

ADEC Goes to Camp

While public schools were working with children with disabilities during the school year, families struggles during the summer to balance work with care for their children. In 1977, ADEC started offering a summer camp designed for children with disabilities. In addition to fun field trips and games, the children continued work on their social and academic skills through the summer. Camp continues through this day and now serves more than 50 campers each year.

ADEC Focuses on Family

Receiving a diagnosis can be overwhelming as parents are asked to navigate a maze of forms, government agencies, and local resources. ADEC formed a new division serving family and children in 2002. Through therapists, summer camp, and after-school programming, ADEC serves more than 300 children and their families each year. Families now count on ADEC to prepare children with disabilities to be successful adults who lead lives full of choice and possibility.

ADEC Reimagines Day Services

In 2006, ADEC shifted the focus of its day services from education to vocation. ADEC now operates five day service locations: Bristol, Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury, and South Bend. More than 250 individuals attend ADEC day services to learn new skills and discover their true potential. Clients who create art, dog treats, or other products sell their work in ART by ADEC stores to earn a paycheck.

ADEC’s Gaining Grounds Coffee House opens

The Gaining Grounds Center, built in late 2018, is a coffee shop and gathering center designed to showcase the abilities of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities while fostering further relationships and inclusion. A coffee shop- like the ones in Goshen and Middlebury- serves as training grounds for baristas with disabilities. A retail space puts a spotlight on the creations of ADEC artists.