Gaining Grounds Conference Center | Art By ADEC | Gaining Grounds Coffee House | Silver Linings Trash Bags

Working for Good

Ever wish your shopping could help buy a better world? A social enterprise is an organization that uses commercial business strategies to address a social problem or an unmet need. Social enterprises work for a cause, not just to maximize profits. ADEC runs three social enterprise programs: Gaining Grounds Coffee House, Art by ADEC, and Silver Linings trash bags. These programs may seem different, but they are united by a common mission: providing ADEC clients with meaningful employment and a sense of purpose. ADEC’s social enterprise division also welcomes visitors to the main Bristol campus through events at the Gaining Grounds Conference Center.

Cherri Peate, vice president of community outreach, says that ADEC’s social enterprises address a huge need in the disability community. “People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are 66% less likely to be employed than people without disabilities. ADEC’s social enterprise programs help to bridge this employment gap by creating meaningful job opportunities for people with disabilities where they can pick up valuable skills along with their paychecks.”

Gaining Grounds Coffee House

Gaining Grounds Coffee House is about more than just a caffeine boost. Getting your morning cup of java at Gaining Grounds helps ADEC employ people with disabilities as baristas.

Gaining Grounds has two locations: inside Gaining Grounds Conference Center located in Bristol and in downtown Goshen. The Goshen location is temporarily closed due to concerns over COVID-19. Missy, a barista at the Goshen location, transferred to Bristol to continue working during the pandemic.

Missy recently celebrated her 10-year anniversary at Gaining Grounds. Over the years, she has seen Gaining Grounds develop new drinks, grow in its foot traffic, and attract many new customers. She credits ADEC’s employment services with helping her build her skills, gain personal growth, and develop valuable work experience.

Missy has a deep passion for being around other ADEC clients and the one-to-one connection you can get by serving customers. She says, “it’s very meaningful to be able to have that impact on those that we serve.” Her favorite part of the job is getting to know new people, both the customers and coworkers. “I’m a people person. I love being able to help in any way I can to the best of my ability.”

In addition to serving up fantastic drinks, ADEC also uses Gaining Grounds as an art gallery to display the artwork created by clients from ADEC’s day and residential services.

Art by ADEC

Art by ADEC is more than a decoration. Buying a painting or ceramics from Art by ADEC gives artists with disabilities a paycheck and pride in their work knowing that people find value in the items they create.

Art by ADEC began in 2012, with art sales at Gaining Grounds starting in 2015. Artists produce a wide variety of works including needlepoint, quilts, paintings, ceramics, mixed media, wood burning, wreaths, soap, candles, jewelry, and much more. ADEC’s art programs also include a cooking class where clients can learn new recipes or try their hand at making ADEC’s popular line of organic Bow Wow dog biscuits.

Denine Caldwell has worked with Art by ADEC clients for nearly three years. She supports clients’ work and encourages them to pursue their artistic interests, even if that means getting messy with some finger painting. She describes her work as being a kind of therapist. “You have to really get to know the clients and love them for them to open up, and then you can find the diamond in the rough.”

Many ADEC clients live on a limited income. Art by ADEC provides them with financial support and a sense of accomplishment. According to Caldwell, “they get their own paycheck. It gives them independence, that sense of gratification. That’s their job, what they are learning to do. It’s a real accomplishment. It gives them a sense of purpose and belonging. It’s something to see when you can connect with that client and bring their light out.”

Artists like Alex appreciate the program for the extra income and the friends they have made. “The staff helps us make art. I get paid for it.” Alex enjoys creating art with superhero or Star Wars themes and seeing his finished creations on display. He was one of the featured artists for ADEC’s art challenge video for the Picture Possibilities virtual event. “I did Yoda for the video.”

In addition to Gaining Grounds, art from ADEC artists has been seen at the Art Walk in Elkhart, the Rhapsody in Green Festival, the career fair at Goshen College, Goshen’s First Fridays, and many other art fairs and public events. Thanks to a generous donation by the Hall of Heroes, Art by ADEC even went to Comicon, where its popular booth nearly sold out its entire stock of art.

Art by ADEC creations can also be seen online at The gallery is constantly changing, with new pieces added every week. Shoppers can purchase art at the website and pick it up in person at the Gaining Grounds Bristol location.

Silver Linings Trash Bags

Silver Linings is ADEC’s longest-running social enterprise. The program has run for over 23 years and currently employs five people to manufacture trash bags.

According to Michelle McGuin, vice president of non-residential operations, the program “is very important because those individuals are in competitive employment.” Competitive employment refers to work in an integrated setting that offers the same pay and benefits the employer would pay individuals without disabilities. “That’s the goal for all our individuals, to be in the community and working and receiving a paycheck. It’s just been really successful.”

Silver Linings trash bags are used by universities, school districts, medical facilities, and Indiana state government offices. They are also available to the general public and can be purchased online through Ability Indiana.

More Than Just Shopping

Buying from ADEC’s social enterprises isn’t just shopping. Picking up a coffee, a painting, or a case of trash bags also provides someone with disabilities a job and a sense of purpose. When you shop at ADEC’s social enterprises, you help make someone’s life more meaningful. Why not get your next latte with a side of self-actualization? That’s quite a combo!