Peoria resident Christopher Allen has been attending ACCEL’s Adult Service Program since May 2011.
ACCEL is a nonprofit organization serving children and adults who have developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, cognitive disabilities and behavioral disorders.
Allen came to ACCEL in 2011, working in the T-shirt department within the Adult Service Program. There, he learned new core skills that would last long beyond his time printing and organizing shirts.
“I categorized, folded and put away the shirts by size. I also worked on the printing of shirts,” Allen said.
“The shirts were dried in an oven at 328 degrees, so following the rules for safety were mandatory, and I can say that this is where my salesman skills first emerged.”
Once his salesman skills began to shine, Allen continued to adapt as he worked in ACCEL’s different departments.
Following his time in the T-shirt department, Allen spent the next couple of years outdoors, where he would pick up and recycle trash, before he found his true calling at ACCEL’s coffee shop in February 2014.
In addition to his work at the coffee shop, for the last several years he also worked at St. Mary’s Food Bank, AASK and Mark’s Model Mart.
“I just love to do things that make others happy,” Allen said. “During my time in the coffee shop, I used sales pitches to encourage the sales of our bakery items. It worked more often than not.”
Throughout his time with ACCEL, Allen gained the confidence and skills that would propel him to chase his ultimate dream career: a monster truck curator at the International Monster Truck Museum & Hall of Fame in Auburn, Indiana.
“At ACCEL, I learned the different behaviors and skills of the workplace, including money handling, communication skills, and the importance of being on time and following directions,” Allen said. “ACCEL made me the person that I am today — hardworking and unstoppable.”
His family is moving to Indiana so Allen can assume his new role at the museum.
“I will be giving tours, explaining the history, keeping the trucks and display cases clean, giving speeches, and writing for the museum’s newsletter,” Allen said.
Allen credits his confidence to ACCEL and the staff that continued to lift him up during his time in their programs.
“Without ACCEL, I wouldn’t be giving speeches, tours or have these other skills,” Allen said. “And I am forever grateful to them for that.”
For those who may be exploring opportunities within ACCEL, Allen highlights the many ways that ACCEL helps its members grow and mature.
“ACCEL isn’t one size fits all,” Allen said. “They customize treatment for all, including treatment for people on all ranges of the spectrum, including those who are high on the spectrum like myself.”
ACCEL’s impact on Allen’s life will not be forgotten, as this isn’t a “goodbye” but a “see you later.”
“I certainly hope that I have left an impact on ACCEL, as they have left one on me,” Allen said.
“Many people tell me they will miss me after I leave, and I will miss them, too. This is not the end. I will be writing to my friends at ACCEL and plan to Zoom in whenever I can.”
Allen has also promised the ACCEL team a virtual tour of the International Monster Truck Museum & Hall of Fame.
For more information about ACCEL and its programs, visit accel.org.