Rosanne Kubicek joined the Board of Home and Community Options around 1977, when the organization was still called Group Homes of Winona. Though there were several events in her life that directed her path to the non-profit, it was Rosanne’s niece, Joanne, who became the final catalyst that brought Rosanne to HCO.
Rosanne’s sister, Florence, gave birth to Joanne (and her twin sister, Jan, who passed away 9 years ago) in August of 1944. Joanne’s father was in the service, so Florence and her twins lived with Rosanne and their parents. Joanne has developmental challenges, and it became evident fairly shortly after her birth that her life was to be different from her sister’s. Rosanne has always felt that the Lord blessed her by giving her Joanne to love and care for since Joanne has added so much joy and happiness to her life.
At that time, Rosanne recalls that expectations for Joanne’s future were not rosy. In many families, Joanne would have been institutionalized. Florence was adamant, however, that she would be kept at home and cared for by the family. When Joanne was about 14 years old, the public schools began offering programs for people with moderate disabilities. Joanne attended school until she was 18 before graduating to the Developmental Achievement Center.
Rosanne’s professional career began shortly after high school when she became secretary to the Academic Dean at the College of Saint Teresa, and it was there that she met Sister Yvonne Elskamp. Sister Yvonne was on the faculty of the Education Department, which was training women to teach special education. In addition to teaching, Sister Yvonne was also the first executive director of Group Homes of Winona. The organization had one group home established at the time; they were in the process of choosing residents for a second and were meeting with the neighbors to ease the transition of new residents to the neighborhood. After becoming familiar with Rosanne’s family, Sister Yvonne encouraged Rosanne to use her experience and talents on the organization’s Board of Directors. Rosanne and Florence had been very involved with the Winona County Association for Retarded Citizens, which at the time had a chapter in Winona, and it seemed natural to Rosanne that she should become involved with Group Homes, even though Joanne was not involved in the program at the time.
During the 1980s, Group Homes continued to grow and add services. Individual homes housed fewer people, giving them a more family-like feel. In 1987, the name was changed to Home and Community Options to better reflect its expanding mission. Since then, Joanne has been served by HCO’s various programs over the years while still living with Florence and Rosanne. Over the years, Florence has commented that she never thought Joanne would have the opportunities that HCO has given her to make her life so meaningful.
After the death of her mother, Joanne continues to live with Rosanne who is her legal guardian. The home consists of Joanne, Rosanne and their two dogs–Ava (a 4 year old Scottish Terrier) and Lovey (a 15 year old Poodle who came to live with them when Rosanne’s brother, Charlie, passed away two years ago). Joanne loves the dogs and helps taking care of them. She also helps Rosanne with a lot of household chores. “Joanne is very good at putting things away,” says Rosanne. “Charlie used to come over to fix things. He’d lay a hammer down, and when he turned around to pick it up again, Joanne would have already put it away.”
These days, Joanne attends the Benedictine Adult Day Center, which she loves. She attends Monday through Friday, and she enjoys the van rides to and from the Day Center so much that she is usually the last one dropped off each day so she can ride around town. On Wednesday afternoons, Joanne also works one-on-one with an HCO counselor at home. At the Benedictine Day Center, she enjoys trips to the casino and lunch at area restaurants. “She has a better social life than I do!” says Rosanne.
Rosanne has been an ambassador for HCO for many years, even recruiting other longtime board members like the late Stewart Shaw, whom she worked with at Winona State University. “It’s a working board!” she says. She held every office possible on the board except for treasurer. Though Rosanne has since retired from the board, she still serves on the Human Rights Committee, which meets quarterly and is a member of the HCO Production Committee. She also volunteers her time working on mailings for the organization and assisting with ticket reservations for the annual musical. “Before the musical,” she recalls, “we tried selling chocolates at the mall as a fund raiser. We didn’t do very well with that attempt.” Now, of course, the musical is a tremendous success.
Rosanne has seen many changes over the years, not only in the way the organization raises funds, but also in the way they’ve provided services. “People in Winona County don’t know how lucky we are to have an agency like HCO,” says Rosanne. She says when she tells people from other areas about Home and Community Options, they are amazed at the scope of the agency. She has great admiration for HCO employees and is always impressed with the organization’s phenomenal growth. “The staff is tremendous, very caring, and you can tell they love their work.”
40 years later, there is no need to ask Rosanne why she continues to volunteer at HCO. “What HCO has done for my family,” she says, “there is no way I can ever possibly repay them.”