People who have known Marceil Lauppe since she started working at Douglas County Visiting Nurses Assn. back in 1968 just can't imagine the place without her.
"It'll be different. Of course, Marceil tells us that it will be good," said Janice Johnson, VNA human resources director. "But it will be sad. It will be a big adjustment for a lot of people."
After 34 years, Lauppe is retiring from Douglas County VNA, the nonprofit organization that provides home-based care to area residents, often regardless of their ability to pay. At an open house Friday afternoon, friends and colleagues offered Lauppe hugs and goodbyes and welcomed Douglas County VNA's new director, Jan Jenkins.
Lauppe played many roles during her tenure at VNA, serving as a staff nurse and assistant director before becoming director in 1980. She said health care had changed tremendously since the 1960s and that VNA now cared for people who are much sicker than when she started.
Though Lauppe, 67, said she was sad to be leaving, she said it was the right time for her and the agency.
"Being a part of VNA has really been a gift to me," she said.
Those who attended Friday's open house browsed through scrapbooks documenting VNA's activities through the decades. One of the books filled with letters, cards and well wishes for Lauppe included a note from VNA's founder, Lyn Rothwell, who thanked Lauppe "for making my old dream of care for every Douglas County home actually come true."
Hilda Enoch, a Lawrence resident who knows Lauppe through mutual community involvements, said the outgoing director had been indispensable.
"She has just been so dedicated and has such compassion and caring and has fought so hard to build this organization," Enoch said.
Fighting right alongside Lauppe for several years was Jenkins, who served as VNA's director from 1977 to 1980 before moving to Topeka to work with United Methodist Homes and Aldersgate Village for the past 21 years. She's been working with Lauppe since May 1 to make the transition back to Douglas County VNA.
"I'm taking over the wheel again, although the wheel has really changed and gotten bigger," Jenkins said.
The staff of Douglas County VNA made more than 53,000 visits to 1,200 patients in 2001. That included the agency's one millionth visit in July 2001.
Jenkins noted that, in the coming months, she and VNA board members and staff would have to address pending cuts in state and federal funding. However, she's confident the agency is prepared to confront those issues and is excited about the opportunity to work for Douglas County VNA once more.
"It's like coming back home again," she said.