Keri Cada was introduced to HCO by her future husband, who was working at the Saehler Drive Resource Home. She and her husband have two little girls, ages 6 and 3. Keri, an Early Childhood/Elementary Education major at Winona State University (WSU), thought that working there would be good training for her future career. She started part time at Saehler in 2007. Little did she know that her future career would be at HCO.
After graduation from WSU in 2009, Keri taught at a childcare center in Rochester, but soon found that the drive from Winona and home again was pretty grueling. HCO was hiring a full-time Primary Counselor at the Saehler Drive program. Since she had enjoyed her time working there previously, she decided to apply and was hired as the Primary Counselor. Keri was a primary counselor at Saehler for four years, then applied and was promoted to Coordinator for 1055 and 1117 (now 1301) programs in 2014.
The women at 1055 all work at DAC or ORC. Keri compares their relationship to that of college roommates. They get along well and when there are conflicts, they work them out. They have been together about 7 or 8 years. The men who live at 1301 actually arranged for themselves to be roommates. They were in other houses, but each wanted to find a better fit. They struck up a conversation, then approached HCO about becoming roommates. They get along well and have an active life.
Keri’s teaching training has been a perfect background for her job at HCO. Part of the job of the support staff is to teach skills that will make the home lives of those they support run more smoothly and be positive experiences. Those in the homes have to understand that they all have their own needs, and they often need to be able to compromise to accommodate others’ needs. The staff also try to teach the individuals techniques to deal with conflicts when they arise. Keri says sometimes that can mean either walking away or keeping their comments to themselves.
Keri enjoys teaching and mentoring staff, both new and experienced. People don’t necessarily come to the job with the confidence to deal with the challenges they are met with each day. Teaching staff how to provide choices and alternatives to individuals so they have autonomy in making the best choices for their health and wellbeing, while also meeting their wants/needs is an important talent to have, says Keri. If an individual asks for a candy bar, for instance, when the time is not right, it is better to say, “Would you like a candy bar after supper?” instead of, “No.” Keri says all staff need mentoring in such redirection, which serves to prevent problems before they arise.
Oftentimes during the first six months, Keri says, new staff are trying to figure out how to take charge of their situation. Then something clicks, and they see that the techniques they have learned are working.
Keri is a member of the Training Committee, which is responsible for setting up agency trainings and making sure that paperwork is in compliance with licensing requirements of Minnesota’s Human Services Department. She is also a new hire trainer.
In addition to teaching and mentoring, Keri is responsible for staffing. There are about 20 staff in her programs, three of which are full-time. She said she likes to involve the staff in making sure that all of the shifts are covered and was gratified with how well they worked together to make sure that the holidays were properly staffed. Still, there are challenges in staffing when the unexpected happens, and they all have to adapt quickly.
Because of the number of part-time and student staff members, HCO is constantly seeking new applicants. Keri looks for certain qualities in applicants that she knows from experience will contribute to a more successful experience at HCO, such as patience, commitment to the job, compassion, the ability to care about people, and the ability to ask questions when needed.
She encourages people to get involved with HCO if they want a fun place to meet fun people. She says it is a good way to learn about the community, since staff are out in the community so much with the individuals they work with. They also get to participate in special activities such as professional sports games, camps, weekend trips, the musical, and other outings.
Keri has seen community support for HCO grow over the years and says it is gratifying to see the interaction between the community and HCO individuals. She feels lucky to be a part of it.