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Non-Profits: Gears in developing a Workforce

MAY 2015 Update:

     In the April issue of Leading Business, we focused on ADEC, Goodwill Industries, and Junior Achievement – how these organizations impact the greater Elkhart area by providing services to local manufacturers and training for the adult workforce, an injection of cash into the local economy, and financial literacy guidance for our youth to prepare them for real-world finances.
     These barely scratch the surface of how nonprofit organizations in the area make such significant and positive impacts.
Darren Bickel, Vice President, Community Impact of United Way of Elkhart County, notes that there are so many other organizations that they could not be sufficiently explored in one, two – or even several articles. However, it does seem important to include a follow-up to mention just three more. These are all organizations supported by United Way.
     LaCasa, Inc. ( is a nonprofit housing agency based in Goshen, with programs to help clients achieve financial stability, find a new home, prevent foreclosure, and find affordable rentals, get home repair assistance, immigration counseling, and neighborhood engagement.
     Livability in a community adds to the growth of a workforce. LaCasa helps by coordinating with the local government in finding the right neighborhoods to build new affordable housing and assisting in the establishment of neighborhood organizations.
     Church Community Services 
(, Elkhart, assists people “wrestle through issues that may have caused them to get tangled up in tough situations,” says Bickel of one program in particular, Men Alive. Men Alive is an empowerment program for men, teaching job and life skills through a strong, supportive environment. It challenges and equips men to overcome difficult life circumstances, moving them to a place of health and strength spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.
     Also, Habitat for Humanity of Elkhart County ( builds houses in partnership with qualifying partner families and sells the houses at no profit with zero percent interest mortgages to those families. The program also prepares partner families to become successful Habitat homeowners.
     “The kids stop getting bounced from school systems because their family keeps having to move,” tells Bickel. “Habitat helps families make real changes and not just put out a fire.” 

Here is the April article:

     Non-profit organizations are not the economic engines of a community. However, they can play a major role as gears - developing a workforce, educating youth in “real-world” finances, and in easing the social challenges of many working adults - to create a better local economy.
     “I fell in love with Goodwill when I realized the opportunities we had to work with people to transform their lives,” says CEO and President of the local non-profit, Debie Coble, pictured above with Elkhart team leader Hal Spratt, Re-Entry Coordinator Reggie Scott, and Vice President of Mission Advancement Guy Fisher. 
     “We don’t transform lives for people; they have to do that, but we get to be the agent of change by giving people the opportunity, the support and encouragement needed to take those hard steps towards change, leading to prosperity,” says Coble, who started her career with Goodwill 25 years ago at a store on Nappanee street that has since moved and multiplied into several area locations.
     When you think of Goodwill, if you are like most people, your first thought is a great thrift store! While that is true, do you know the story behind the store? 
     Goodwill Industries was started in 1902 by Edgar Helms, a Methodist Minister, who was charged with assisting the immigrants in Boston, MA. Times were tough and the immigrants were in desperate need of assistance in gaining work skills and finding employment. Rev. Helms gathered the discards of the community and taught those in need how to mend/re-purpose and sell these items, thus providing a steady income for the immigrants as they became gainfully employed. 
     Let’s move to 2015. The core still holds true. Goodwill Industries of Michiana (GIM) serves 15 counties in Indiana, part of three counties in Illinois and the City of Niles. In Elkhart, there are three stores: Elkhart North, Jackson Blvd. and Concord. There are two workforce development services offices providing assistance to individuals with barriers to employment, including but not limited to the disabled, the unemployed/underemployed and the 
     In January, the non-profit opened an Industrial Services Division, which provides relevant work experience to people needing to demonstrate to employers they are able and willing to work hard and be an asset to their company.
     The mission of GIM is to provide jobs, training and placement services to people with barriers to employment. The organization accomplishes this mission by working with people to address those barriers, connecting with other agencies that specialize in working on challenges that are not vocational in nature, teaching soft skills that address the underlying problems that can surface at work. The employees get paid work experience, job seeking skills, resume and application writing, and interviewing skills.
     Connections are made with employers who are seeking individuals that match the participants’ skill sets. GIM then provides follow along services to ensure there is a smooth transition.
     Last year, GIM assisted over 1,200 individuals in finding employment and starting a new life! However, without community support, these individuals would continue to be blocked by barriers and would struggle to make the changes necessary. Coble and Fisher both remind people whenever they get a chance, “When You Shop, When You Donate - YOU CHANGE A LIFE!”
Goodwill’s impact in Elkhart County
People Employed: 61
Wages Paid: $995,501
Taxes Paid by GIM: $ 91,863
Individuals finding employment through GIM’s Workforce Services: 92
     Find more information at
     When making the decision to live in a certain area, there are many considerations ranging from employment and career opportunities, family and friends, faith, education system, entertainment and arts, health access and many other social fabrics, reflects President and CEO of ADEC Industries Donna L. Belusar, Ph.D. 
     “I believe one consideration that can really define a community is the strength and breadth of the non-profits which drive the social entrepreneurial spirit,” she says.
     ADEC, a non-profit, has been a pillar of strength for over 63 years in Elkhart County. The services provided are the basis of human dignity, respect, potential and possibilities. When looking at how ADEC serves and includes those who are most vulnerable through every step of community life, one sees the true measure of a great service organization to enhance its community. A great community will attract more families, more employers, and more opportunities for growth. It’s a smart business model.
     A solid, financially strong, ethically governed, broad-based service organization like ADEC is simply fantastic to the extended communities throughout Elkhart County. To have ADEC in Elkhart County is just smart business. It may not be common to link ‘business’ and ‘non-profit’ in the same description – but in ADEC’s case we should, says Belusar.
     “First, we employ nearly 500 dedicated people, most of who live throughout Elkhart County. Wages and health benefits alone exceed $12 million,” she explains. “These wages have a significant money multiplier effect right here in Elkhart County. Their wages are earned here and their wages are spent in our local communities.”
     Next, the services ADEC provides are vital to the lives of over 1,100 individuals and their families, adds Belusar. For nearly all of its clients, these services are continuous for a lifetime. The programs range from residential, employment, training and vocational support, to unique family and therapeutic services. All its services reach across the entire county and for many, ADEC is their only life-line and gives individuals the ability to be part of their communities. For many families, because ADEC provides transportation and programs during the day, these working families can in turn continue their own jobs or schooling. Other services fill an urgent need in the community, such as guardianship, when there are no other options.
     “Third, ADEC contributes to the local economic impact by patronizing local service providers, stores and utilities right here in our own community,” she says. “Annually, we spend $3 - $4 million for supplies, food, training materials, equipment, property rent, utilities and fleet expenses – all local. We are also spending on capital projects for major purchases for construction and significant repairs that will sustain the agency well into the future and we choose local contractors. We have found that local contractors take a special pride in partnering with ADEC and as a result ADEC’s major spending stays right here in our local community. Combine this with the volunteering of time and talents of our employees and clients – you have a community that is stronger.”
     For more information go to
     Complementing the services provided to adults and families through Goodwill and ADEC, the re-generated presence of Junior Achievement sprouts throughout Elkhart County in combination with Lemonade Day since 2013. This group is engaging younger generations for an improved workforce of tomorrow. 
     Focusing on inspiring entrepreneurship and teaching financial literacy, Lemonade Day/Junior Achievement of Elkhart County utilizes professionals and career-focused adult volunteers to visit classrooms to offer students a “real-world” view of the economy. 
     Every JA student learns how to bridge the gap between what is taught in the classroom and their future. This is about balancing a checkbook, creating a budget, saving for unexpected needs, spending responsibly, and giving to charity. Each of JA’s programs is in line with the values of local business. Whether it’s teaching hard work, developing a skill set or freeing the entrepreneurial spirit, JA’s curriculum brings it all to the table.
     With this mission, JA reached over 600 students in 2012-2013. They accomplished this working in seven school corporations in Elkhart County. In July 2013, JA partnered with Horizon Education Alliance to lay the foundation for Financial Literacy in the community. The national JA organization brings its 100-year financial literacy track record to the table. Between JA, HEA and Elkhart County schools, young men and women will graduate workforce ready, financially literate and demonstrate an entrepreneurial mindset.
     “JA is the longest running non-profit organization that teaches children about financial literacy and allows them to truly own their economic success,” says Elkhart County Director Menessah Nelson, noting that the Elkhart program resurfaced in 2012.
     The program is not about making and selling small items as was the case in the 1950s and ‘60s.
     “Lemonade Day is a concept easily recognizable to most; building a stand, selling lemonade, and giving to charity,” says Nelson, noting that this year’s event is slated for May 2 throughout the entire Elkhart County.
     Last year there were 287 lemonade stands throughout Elkhart County which included over 800 engaged youth and the help of 50 adult volunteers.
     Go to for more information.

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