Updated: Dec 28, 2021
Geri Francisco-Wyant is retiring after nearly 30 years with AWARE. Simply put, she has made a lasting impact on the organization. While she will soon be enjoying new-found free time for things like golf, fishing, and enjoying the backroads of Montana with the top down, her legacy will remain a driving force as AWARE moves into the future.
Throughout her history with AWARE, Geri assisted in growing and diversifying AWARE from a staff of 20 to a current roster of more than 700. As the chief financial officer, Geri worked to ensure the organization was financially responsible, achieving glowing financial compliance reports, and steering AWARE toward sound fiscal accountability. Geri has always prided herself on not being a “typical” accountant. She strived to understand the impact services had on the people we serve instead of only focusing on numbers.
Geri’s influence on AWARE is truly amazing. In addition to providing endless laughs and making people feel comfortable in her presence, she made her mark on AWARE’s physical spaces as well. Because of her, office buildings appear both welcoming and functional with small touches such as greenery, unique canvas prints, and furniture arranged just so. These special touches bring a sense of sophistication and finesse that is most welcome in our field.
Geri was instrumental in ensuring that AWARE’s group homes were truly “homes.” She worked with field staff to purchase furniture, dishes, linens, beds, and other home décor. Staff reported that many residents said out loud, “I get to live here?!” Geri encouraged residents to decorate their bedrooms and yards with items of their individual tastes, remembering that their home at AWARE was – at times – their first home out of an institution.
Under Geri’s leadership, AWARE’s fleet was created. AWARE’s vehicles were purchased and cared for, ensuring that all employees and clients felt safe, vehicles were seen throughout the communities in good condition, and clients were proud to be passengers.
Geri’s extensive experience in accounting practices, cost analysis, contract administration, and statistical analysis has allowed AWARE to grow from an organization with an annual budget of just over $500,000 to the current budget of $41 million. In addition, Geri has been responsible for steering AWARE and its financial team through financial hardships. AWARE has been asked countless times to share “our secret” as it relates to billing, audit compliance, and/or the creation of allocations and cost centers. Geri only allowed us to say that we take her advice to “efficiesize.”
Matt Bugni, Chief Executive Officer for AWARE says “words cannot fully express the admiration and gratitude I have for Geri. She is a staunch protector of AWARE’s assets and a joy to work with. I am honored to be called her colleague, and I will miss her dearly.”
AWARE’s Chief Operating Officer, Leighann Knight says “I enjoyed my time working with Geri - - there was never a dull moment. I learned so much from her; admiring her tenacity, problem solving abilities, and humor! Geri made a tremendous difference at AWARE, impacting systems for the better. Her knowledge and personality will be missed! May this next chapter of her story be all she wishes it to be.”
As demonstrated above, Geri is leaving quite the legacy at AWARE. Her commitment to assisting AWARE, staff, students, residents, clients, and families is noteworthy and admirable in assisting the well-being of all involved.
From all of us at AWARE, thank you Geri! Enjoy your retirement – you deserve it.