This September, HCO Program Services Director, Mary Jansen, retired from Home and Community Options.

Mary first started her career with HCO in the spring of 1976.  She was initially hired as a Primary Counselor and became a Program Coordinator in 1981 when the agency opened a second home. In 1987, Mary became a Program Services Director and she has continued in this capacity for the past 34 years.

As HCO’s longest-termed employee, Mary has experienced every transition the agency has had as services and needs have changed over the years. She worked with the county and HCO’s Executive Director, going to regional state hospitals to find people who were originally from Winona or had family here, and was able help families transition their loved ones back into the community. Over time, the need for more personalized support and flexibility in services became apparent. Current service models and larger homes were unable to accommodate so programs that were designed to support 10-12 began to shift to move people to live in homes of four. Mary worked together alongside state and county representatives, and other providers in the region, to find better ways to measure service quality and provide a more person-centered approach to individualize care.

Mary’s passion for ensuring that people with disabilities are able to lead the lives they want to live has been at the forefront of her work throughout her entire career. She was integral to the development of HCO’s initial Respite Care Program, developing over time into HCO’s two Resource Homes for children and young adults living at home with family. She worked with MN Department of Human Services (DHS) and Winona County to provide services to children with autism through HCO’s Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) program, and also worked with DHS to establish the first remote monitoring site in Minnesota. Mary has also been an agency leader (and a knowledgeable resource for coworkers) in HCO’s 245D licensing and policy requirements.

Looking back on her time with HCO, most of Mary’s favorite memories are times when she has worked directly with individuals to help them acquire skills of independence. “Being able to work with many individuals HCO supports and community members and see the natural relationships that have developed has been great,” Mary shared. “I have acquired many professional and personal relationships over the years that I will cherish. I can only hope that I have given individuals I have worked with (and the agency as a whole) as much as I have learned from them.”

In retirement, Mary is planning to spend her free time completing home projects, sewing, and resuming other creative activities that she enjoys. She is looking forward to spending more time with her husband, Ron, and dog, Casey, and enjoying time with family and friends.

Thank you, Mary, for being a guiding hand that has steadily moved the HCO mission forward for the past 45 years. You truly embody HCO’s mission and work – your sense of humor, experience, and dedication to those we serve are irreplaceable and you will be forever missed.