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AWARE Ink Newsletter


Knute Oaas Retires after 20+ Years of Service

Knute Oaas officially retired on December 15, 2022. A celebration was hosted in Anaconda at O’bella to recognize his 23 (and a half) years of service at AWARE.

As you can imagine, Knute has served people with disabilities in many capacities throughout the years.

He originally came to AWARE in July of 1999 to help out with developmental disability services. He previously worked at Montana Developmental Center in Boulder and had already built up a number of years of experience working in the field. It’s been his passion, and he’s made a lifelong career out of it.

Knute helped AWARE grow and build upon residential services for people with developmental disabilities across the state of Montana. He has a natural ability to connect with people in a fun and friendly manner that also allows him to help people reach their goals.

Over the years, Knute not only grew the service line, but he also grew himself within his various roles at AWARE. He started managing services in and around Butte and Anaconda and grew to directing all developmental disabilities (DD) services across the state. He had a knack for solving difficult problems and could find a way to operationalize nearly any idea if it was for the benefit of the people we serve.

Knute was instrumental in integrating people into community residential settings after previous placements in an institution. On numerous occasions he welcomed people into their homes as they transitioned out of Montana Developmental Center. He even knew most of the people through his previous job at the facility, which helped with smooth transitions.

Knute also championed special projects to serve people with the most challenging and intensive needs. He helped lead the way for new models of care and approaches to treatment. Check out AWARE’s Polk House story to see one example of how Knute and his team harnessed their creative energy to meet one individual’s needs.

Now that Knute has officially retired, you will find him spending more time with his family and grandkids. His ideal day will be spent skiing and soaking in a nearby hot spring with them. With any remaining free time he’ll get busy on house projects that were always lower on the to-do list.

Stepping into Knute’s role as DD Service Director is Cole Mack. Cole has been working alongside Knute for several months now and is a welcome addition to AWARE’s leadership team. With Cole’s expertise at the state level, DD Services at AWARE are in good hands and well-poised to continue moving forward.

Other recent changes to AWARE’s leadership team include Lyn Ankelman becoming the Education Service Director, Clayton Eastman becoming the Case Management Service Director, and Jake Henderson becoming the Community Behavioral Health Service Director.

Please join us in celebrating these significant milestones as AWARE continues to help people live independent lives!

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