26 Miles for 26 Jobs

By Steve Germani
ADEC Staff

It’s impossible to enjoy life without taking much of it for granted. I get up early in the morning four days a week to train for the Chicago Marathon. All it will take is a pulled hamstring or a sprained ankle to prevent me from being able to perform the simple task of running and training. Several years ago I tore a tendon in my right index finger. Do you have any idea how important your right index finger is? Well, I learned pretty quickly how I much I rely on that finger. I took it for granted until it was stuck in a splint for eight weeks.

We certainly can’t spend all of our time appreciating every little thing in life, or wondering how our life would be different if our health or career was no longer as stable as it is today. But working at ADEC has certainly made me appreciate how important our services are to our community. In Elkhart County, ADEC is synonymous with people with special needs. We’re most often associated with people who are experiencing the challenges of living with a developmental or cognitive disability. However, people often don’t realize that our Employment Services are not limited to people with cognitive disabilities. Anybody could need our services at any time. We can never predict what the future holds for us.

My third year at ADEC I met an Employment Services client named Bill. His story has always stuck with me. Bill was a successful businessman in Elkhart County for many years. One day he suffered a stroke. The stroke changed his life forever. His cognitive abilities remained as strong as ever. However, the stroke took away his ability to speak. As a result, he was no longer able to perform the duties of his job in the business world. After several years of physical therapy, Bill turned to ADEC Employment Services for assistance in re-entering the workforce. Before the stroke, he had grown accustomed to wearing slacks and a button-down shirt to work every day. His preference was to work in an office environment, where he’s most comfortable. Obviously, that was a challenge for our staff, as most office jobs require an ability to communicate with co-workers and/or customers. It took some time and hard work, but our team of employment specialists was able to find a job for Bill at a local business. To this day, Bill files papers and manages office documents for a local financial institution. He is happy, productive and earning a paycheck.

Bill’s story resonates with me because it illustrates that our services are not limited to people who are born with a cognitive disability. ADEC’s Employment Services staff could help me, a family member, or even a close friend find employment in the community some day. It’s impossible to know what the future holds and when supports and services will be needed to connect us to the often overlooked and taken for granted need for a meaningful and productive day.

I’m running the Chicago Marathon to raise awareness about the one thing so many of us take for granted — the ability to get and keep a job. For most of us, being employed is the first step to independence and a real life of our own.