Deb Koopman joined the Great River Homes team in July of 2017. What a breath of fresh air she has been! Great River Homes, Inc. is so fortunate to have Deb on our team. If you talk to Deb, she will tell you that she loves her job and wished she would have known about it years before. Deb has a positive enthusiastic personality paired with a smile which are a dangerous combination for those who are having an off day. Deb has a great working relationship with her co-workers and has brought new and fresh ideas to the table in order to foster positive forward thinking growth for all. By utilizing a “can do” attitude, Deb looks at things with the mind set of how can this be achieved vs we can’t do it that way. Deb is continually thinking of ways to be inclusive with all.
Deb is a natural at nurturing people in fostering as much independence as possible. She analyzes situations and is able to see how to connect with others in a more efficient and effective manner. She is a person who can make others feel at ease in the most stressful of situations. Deb provides direct support to several individuals whom receive services through Great River Homes, Inc. One person spoke very little before Deb came into his life. This person attended an ARRM Day at the Capital Rally this past year and lead our group of 32 in a chant. A chant that he came up with, but one he would have never felt comfortable enough or empowered enough to lead us in if it hadn’t been for Deb’s reassuring nature to give him enough confidence to use his words.
Not only does Deb provide supports to multiple people at multiple locations, but she brings integrity, creativity, and a person centered approach to each person she works with. When you walk into a space while Deb is working, it is likely you will hear laughter, music playing, see some dancing and witness those whom she is there to support actively and enthusiastically engaged in activities of daily living. Each year for Christmas, Deb and people she provides support to make personalized homemade crafts for businesses, family, friends, and neighbors. The gifts are warmly received by all and proudly placed on display in homes and many of our local businesses because the stories that go into making each one are priceless.
Deb has assisted several of the individuals she provides supports to in coordinating and hosting many parties no matter what the occasion (neighborhood cookouts, birthday and sporting event parties, holiday gatherings, etc.) as she realizes these types of social engagements are important. Music and food are things that seem to bring people together so there is never a shortage of either when Deb has been a part of the planning.
Deb also knows the people she provides supports to enjoy giving back to their communities. Finding ways for people to carry out civic responsibilities (participating in fundraisers, community clean ups, food shelf collections, etc.) is important to both Deb and those she supports.
When someone is experiencing medical concerns, Deb is the first person to contact the needed people, leave notes for others and to offer to go above and beyond to ensure proper care. Deb has a big heart and we are grateful for all that she brings to Great River Homes, Inc.
It felt good to give back and help others in our community. Great River Homes, Inc. donated 127 pounds of food to the Wabasha Food Bank before the Christmas Holiday.
Great River Homes, Inc. is a private non-profit organization which has been part of the Wabasha community for the past 42 years. Established in 1975 by a group of local citizens who were charged with developing and operating community-based residential alternatives to institutional placement for persons with disabilities in Wabasha County. Great River Homes, Inc. is dedicated to assisting and empowering others to live as independently as possible in the community in which they live. We feel honored and blessed to be able to do the work that we do and be a part of such a supportive community. We look forward to what this new year will bring and our wish for you is a happy and healthy 2019!
Bob and Diane Scheel Received A Good Neighbor Award
Bob and Diane Scheel of Wabasha were recognized by Great River Homes, Inc. as Good Neighbors for the nurturing and kind rapport they have with the people who shopped daily at Scheels Super Valu. The award was presented at the Providers’ Network Annual Good Neighbor Awards Banquet held at the Rochester International Event Center on November 7, 2018.
Bob and Diane Scheel owned and operated Scheels Super Valu in Wabasha for the past 22 years. The store has been owned by the Scheel family for over 49 years until it was recently sold. The Scheel family has supported the mission or Great River Homes, Inc. since 1976 when Great River Homes, Inc. began providing services. The Scheels have supported our fundraisers including the Great River Homes, Inc. Benefit Golf Tournament, The Grumpy Plunge, the Tootsie Roll Fundraiser and the Direct Mail Fundraiser. Bob and Diane Scheel have also provided a discount on groceries. Beyond their financial support, the Scheels have always made everyone associated with Great River Homes, Inc. feel accepted as valued members of the community.
Shopping is an essential activity in people’s lives. On any given day when you walked into Scheels Super Valu you could have heard people visiting in the aisles, sharing future plans or activities in the checkout lanes, and leaving the store feeling better than they did when they went in. The Scheel family did an amazing job connecting to people served by Great River Homes, Inc. They knew people on a first name basis, what they are looking for, and would go above and beyond to ensure everyone had a satisfactory shopping experience.
Cari McCann began employment as Executive Director of Great River Homes, Inc. on October 1, 2018. Cari replaces Michael Weinandt who is retiring after 42 years as Administrator of Great River Homes, Inc.
Cari has a teaching degree and 17 years of experience with Home and Community Options in Winona, MN. Cari was most recently Director of Human Resources for Home and Community Options. Cari lives in Wabasha with her husband and three children.
Cari’s office is in the Central Office of Great River Homes, Inc. at 611 Broadway Avenue in Wabasha. Cari invites employees, family members and the community to stop by to meet one another. Cari looks forward to knowing everyone associated with Great River Homes, Inc. and continuing the tradition of quality person-centered services.
Michael Weinandt Plans to Retire from Great River Homes, Inc. after 42 Years
Michael Weinandt of Wabasha has announced his retirement after 42 years of employment as Administrator of Great River Homes, Inc.
Great River Homes, Inc. is a private non-profit organization established by a group of local citizens to develop and operate community-based residential alternatives to institutional placement for persons with disabilities in Wabasha County.
Great River Homes, Inc. established the first residential program in Wabasha County in 1976. Great River Homes, Inc. started with six employees, serving eight people in one home with a budget of $64,000. Today, Great River Homes, Inc. has seventy-six employees providing services to seventy people and has a budget of $3.2 million. The growth has been in response to community needs.
“It was very exciting to start providing services in 1976 because of the need to deinstitutionalize and because there were elderly parents who had adult children living with them and they were concerned about their future,” said Weinandt.
Sheryl and Michael Weinandt started working for Great River Homes, Inc. on August 2, 1976 and have both worked for the non-profit ever since. Sheryl has worked as a Licensed Practical Nurse. Michael had a teaching degree and was a licensed nursing home administrator. Michael’s career began by providing direct service on a part time basis while in college in Worthington, MN in 1971.
After graduation from college they saw an ad for the job in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and thought the opportunity to work together and develop services was an opportunity just right for them with their backgrounds. They were sold on the job when they encountered the genuine compassion of the board members during the interview.
Sheryl and Michael began their careers with Great River Homes, Inc. as live-in staff, which gave them a great opportunity to know and meet the needs of the eight people they lived with. Michael said, “It was more of a lifestyle than a job. We thoroughly enjoyed the people and enriching their lives with new and fun experiences. Sheryl has been phenomenal in her dual role of direct service and nursing. It has been a great journey we have shared together. The opportunities for people with disabilities are so much greater now than in the past.”
Their fondest memories are of the people. The people receiving services, family members, employees, volunteers, board members and the community. “We have been surrounded by caring and supportive people. It truly has been a privilege and honor to have this career. I have always believed the reward of working for Great River Homes, Inc. is working for Great River Homes, Inc.,” said Weinandt.
Michael is quick to point out the success of Great River Homes, Inc. during the past 42 years is the result of quality services provided by dedicated employees and support from families and the community.
The immediate plans for Michael are to help train the new Executive Director who will start work on October 1, 2018. Retirement plans include more time together as a couple, more time with their three children, their spouses and eight grandchildren. They plan to continue to make a difference in the lives of others as parents, grandparents and volunteers. Although Sheryl has not set a definite date for her official retirement.
Great River Homes, Inc. held a Pizza Party celebration with people receiving services and their families, employees and their families and board members and their families on September 13, 2018.
The celebration was in conjunction with National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week held the week of September 9-15, 2018. The Pizza Party was held at Round Hill in Arkansaw, WI and featured brick oven pizza with more than 100 people in attendance.
Great River Homes, Inc. recognized the sixty-five employees who provide direct support to seventy children and adults. “The success of Great River Homes, Inc. during the past 42 years is the result of quality services provided by dedicated employees and support from families and the community,” said Michael Weinandt, Administrator.
“Great River Homes, Inc. would not exist without caring and compassionate employees. Direct support is one of the most challenging and rewarding occupations. A special thank you is extended to our employees and their families for the sacrifices you make to be there to provide essential support. Your work is appreciated this week and every week of the year,” said Michael Weinandt, Administrator.
Dan Schaefer, a board member of Great River Homes, Inc. took the opportunity to recognize the importance of the trust and respect between direct support staff and individuals. Dan also said, “We need to keep telling the story of Great River Homes, Inc. to increase public awareness, understanding and support”.
Employees of Great River Homes, Inc. receive special recognition after five years of employment and every five years thereafter. Longevity of employment is valued because of the experience and accumulated knowledge. The 2018 milestone employees of Great River Homes, Inc. are: Shelly Kopp (5 years), Susan Hermann (10 years), Tom Grable (15 years), Kim Pyle (15 years), Jim Newman (30 years) and Mitzi Ryan (35 years).
Round Hill donated the brick oven pizza. Tim Kriese of Lake City provided musical entertainment at no charge. Kwik Trip donated bottled water.
Great River Homes, Inc. is a non-profit organization with a mission of improving the lives of people with disabilities in Wabasha County by providing person-centered services.
Darcy has lived in Lake City, MN all of her life. She went to school at Lincoln High School and began working after graduation. Darcy chose to live independently in her own apartment in Lake City soon after beginning to work. Darcy was encouraged by her family to have choice and control over her life. She was supported in her decisions to work and live independently by her family, support staff of Great River Homes, Inc. and staff at her worksite in Red Wing. Everyone uses supports to make decisions and individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities need supports to make choices in their lives just like everyone else.
Darcy and the people who support her help her make both large and small decisions about her life. Darcy chose to take care of her health by learning about her conditions and the medications that help her manage her health. This was a large decision for Darcy who now is able to package her daily medications and take them in the correct doses at the correct time. Darcy also discovered that she enjoys giving back to her community by sharing her time and talents with the residents of the Lake City Care Center. Darcy states that the people there make me so happy. She feels valued and accepted there. Darcy’s family and support providers supported and encouraged her decision to try volunteering and she loves it!
Like everyone, Darcy has not always made the best decisions for herself, but each time has learned from those mistakes. Her family and support providers respect Darcy’s right to make decisions for herself even if they don’t always agree with them. Darcy is empowered to live the life she chooses for herself by making informed choices and decisions.