by Suzanne Horstman, Executive Director, Home and Community Options, Inc.
2020 was a difficult year for us all, and COVID-19 continues to have a tremendous impact on our lives and community. However, the start of a new year always brings with it the promise of change, growth, and opportunity. As we have moved in to 2021, the news of vaccines to protect against COVID-19 are a welcome next step to bring us closer to normal life.
During the months of February, March and April, Home and Community Options (HCO) is typically gearing up for our annual fundraising musical. Volunteer groups would be gathering to build sets, teams would be meeting to develop plans for sewing costumes, and dates would be booked for those we serve and the community to gather for auditions. Unfortunately, gathering to prepare for a musical and filling the seats in an auditorium is still unsafe for our community. For these reasons and with a sad heart, Home and Community Options has made the difficult decision not to present our annual musical in 2021.
When we decided to postpone our musical in back in March of 2020, the full scope of impact that COVID-19 would have on our lives was still unknown. The vaccination process is a slow-moving one, and the steps we all must take to keep ourselves and each other safe have not changed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The health and safety of those we serve, our staff, volunteers, friends, and neighbors as a whole is our top priority.
For over 20 years, we have been proud to put on a show that creates true integration for people with disabilities into the arts, and it is disheartening that we are unable to bring a musical production to the Winona community for a second year. Our stakeholders and the Winona community are critical partners in our work, and HCO continues to need your support:
• Consider a new or sustaining financial gift to support the programs and services of HCO. Each year, approximately $150,000 worth of in-kind and financial donations are received through our annual musical. Donations from our annual productions are essential for many of our programs to continue. Funds raised often cover basic personal needs like medication, clothing, handicapped accessible equipment, and more. Health care providers like HCO are also finding themselves with new and increased expenses due to COVID-19, like personal protective equipment or addressing additional staffing needs for those we serve. You can find out more information or donate online via our website at www.hco.org/donate.
• Our community often donates materials and supplies for HCO’s productions like lumber and paint, fabrics, gift certificates, advertising and promotional materials, and more. In-kind gifts are still a great way to show your support for HCO, even without a 2021 production. For questions or to donate a material gift, please call our main office at 507-452-1021.
• Have some free time and crave connection with others? Do you have unique skills and abilities and want to give back to others? Consider volunteering your time and talents with HCO. For more information, head to our website at www.hco.org/volunteer.
Looking back on the challenges we have faced together in the past year, I feel so blessed to be a part of an amazing agency in such a strong, tight-knit community. On behalf of all of us at Home and Community Options, thank you for your support of our mission and work, and for the role each of you continue to play in supporting each other as we continue to navigate this pandemic together.