TradeWinds History

TradeWinds is defined by a strong foundation of people – those we serve and those who champion our cause.


The Lake County Association for Crippled Children was established to provide speech and occupational therapy services.  


More families received services with sites added in church basements, schoolrooms, YMCAs, and rented storefronts.

Director Ted Dombrowski inspired volunteers from labor, business, and civic organizations to come together and make history.  


The “Labor of Love,” a new 15,000-sq-ft facility in Gary, earned a Presidential Commendation for being the largest rehabilitation center built entirely by volunteers in the United States.

A group of generous business leaders, who were later officially named “Pirates”, donated operating funds. Now an elite fighting force for children with special needs, Pirates, Inc. has contributed more than $4 million in ongoing support since 1966.

Brunswick Elementary student Greg Corwin won a 1966 naming contest for the nonprofit agency, which propels people with special needs to a better quality of life just as the “TradeWinds” propel sailors on the seas.

TradeWinds officially incorporated in 1967.  


New for adults, the opportunity to earn a paycheck through Pre-Vocational training/Industries, and three new wings were added to the building to accommodate the agency’s growth.  


Sewing Industries contracted with the United States Department of Defense to produce garments for the Army & Navy. More jobs added in Industries/Pre-Vocational Services (sewing manufacturing, small parts assembly, pack and ship) and computer recycling.

Adult Day Activity Program & Training (ADAPT) was introduced.

Residential group home living debuted in four locations.

Employment Services are offered, supporting both workers and community employers with job placement and follow-along services.  


More children served with new Child Care and Summer Camp programs.

More jobs were created with the establishment of TradeWinds’ Sign Shop and outsourcing opportunities in Package, Assembly & Order Fulfillment departments.

Supported Living services added for community residents.  


Two more residential group homes opened.

ADAPT 2 classroom was added.

Respite for community caregivers provided for a minimum of 3 hours to overnight in TradeWinds’ apartment or their homes.

More jobs created through outsourcing, which includes Saco Industries in Lowell, expand skills training.  


After a 2-year comprehensive study led by TradeWinds’ Board of Directors in partnership with the management team, TradeWinds renovated a substantially larger building in Hobart/Merrillville, provided by a generous donor, moving to this new location in 2014.

Also in 2014, Deaf Services partnered with TradeWinds bringing interpreting, advocacy, and case management services for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing; and additional community outreach with American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf Sensitivity & Awareness classes.

As capacity grew, within two year’s we added two more ADAPT (Adult Day Activity Program & Training) classrooms, and in 2018 added a 5th ADAPT classroom. An additional 10,000 sq. ft. of space is leased and eventually purchased across the street to accommodate the nearly 40% increase in service provision since moving to the new facility.

The Chicago Lighthouse partners to provide monthly Low Vision Clinic services at TradeWinds facility and bi-annual product shows for new technologies.

In 2017, TradeWinds celebrated 50 Years of serving the Northwest Indiana community. TradeWinds pirate ship, “Winning Spirit,” was “launched” at our annual Gala and set sail at many community parades.

New Supported Living apartments were acquired in Hobart and Griffith, and in 2018, 21 additional ground-floor Supported Living apartments in Hobart was purchased.

In 2018, TradeWinds began the first garden project with patio gardening at the main facility. These activities are educational for adults and children, learning about gardening and healthy eating. The following year, in addition to the accessible patio gardens, a larger garden was created to provide more fresh produce for residents in our homes.

In March 2018, TradeWinds Sign Shop joined the Allied Printing Trades Council Local #67. We continued to grow and serve more individuals with varied abilities and the community in our Pre-Vocational Industries with Packaging & Assembly, Sewing Manufacturing, Sign Shop, and Employment Services departments, providing training and opportunities for employment.

In 2019, TradeWinds’ and Gary SouthShore RailCats partnered to provide a new Sensory Room at U.S. Steel Stadium available for those in need of a quiet place.


In 2020, the addition of a Functional Skills Summer Camp for ages 13-17 to provide hands-on experiences for older youth with mild/moderate intellectual disabilities.

At the end of March 2020, the Sewing Manufacturing team pivoted to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic producing PPE for 49 local hospitals, medical offices, and First Responders in 4 regional states. In the first 3 months, the sewing team produced over 212,000 PPE gowns and thousands of masks; and they continued to meet garments quotas for the U.S. Department of Defense. Our Sewing Manufacturing department never shut down.

As an essential service, TradeWinds Childcare services remained open throughout the pandemic to serve families as they worked in our community. We modified our Summer & Functional Skills Camps for local children of differing abilities with social distancing activities, and the CDC & State of Indiana recommended health & safety protocols.

In June 2022, TradeWinds Community Pantry opened to serve residents of Lake & Porter County who struggle with food insecurity.



“Today TradeWinds is home to training and production operations that are a living testament to what the human spirit can accomplish.”

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TradeWinds provides services for children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities

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Established through philanthropy and volunteer support, your donations, time or talents to TradeWinds helps people with disabilities achieve greater independence, dignity and personal freedom.

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