Breaking Through Barriers with Kindness and Compassion

Elel Williams faced many physical, medical and cognitive challenges during his life, one being a difficulty pronouncing words. Elel was hard to understand, which created a barrier that was difficult to overcome. These situations could bring anyone down – but not Elel. “He was one of the happiest people I had ever met,” says Pat Sellman, the Community Services Director of The Arc of Greater Boone County. “He was our hero.”


Elel’s story is one of perseverance, kindness and compassion. The entire Arc of GBC family was incredibly saddened to learn of Elel’s passing in January of 2017. “He went out of his way to be helpful and accepted everyone for who they were,” Pat says. “He was such a brave and gentle spirit.”


During his younger years, Elel never had the stability he needed to reach his full potential. He shifted between various apartments and worked several short-term jobs with support. Due to his increasing challenges, he had to stop working and transitioned to a group home.


It was an employee at Elel’s group home that saw something special in him and referred him to the to the Arc of Greater Boone County (GBC), a United Way partner agency which provides services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He realized success rather quickly, emerging as one of the best employees at Mainstreet Enterprise, the manufacturing division of the Arc of GBC. Elel always asked for more work and refused to let his disabilities get in the way of the job.


With the help of the Arc’s literacy classes, Elel learned quickly and made strides with his communication skills. He began to break through communication challenges, creating friendships he never had before. “He cared about everyone and would comfort anyone,” Pat says. “He was a good role model to all of us and did not let any of his challenges stand in his way.”



The kindness Elel displayed inspired others daily. He was always in tune with the residents of the Arc, watching out for anyone who needed help. Pat recalls that one of Elel’s co-workers was unsteady on her feet due to cerebral palsy, and she could be a bit grumpy at times. “Elel always put a smile on her face, though. He would watch and then come over to assist her as soon as she would get up out of her chair.”

“We are very fortunate to have known Elel,” Pat shares.



We hope Elel’s spirit of strength, kindness and acceptance inspires you. Thanks to the Arc of GBC and United Way, Elel found the support he needed and made an impact on the lives of everyone around him.