By: Jeff Z.

YWCA located at 223 Center Street in Winona, that formally provided childcare services and programming, is once again filled with laughter and play. In July of 2019, Partners in Excellence moved into the newly renovated YWCA building completing the transition to their now permanent location. Prior to relocating into the YWCA, Partners took up residence in the old Knitting Mills building on East Second Street, which was originally built as a wool mill. Knitting Mills turned off its lights in late 2000, but since then, it has been repurposed into leasable commercial space. In June of 2017, Partners opened its fifth location on the main floor of that old wool mill.

Deb and Bruce Thomas founded Partners in Excellence, a center-based autism treatment program, in 2001. Primarily servicing the Twin Cities Autism community, they grew from their original location in Burnsville to Minnetonka and then to North St. Paul. Then they expanded to their only center based in Wisconsin (La Crosse) before finally opening the Winona Center. Partners is built on its five core values of passion, creative problem solving, positive attitudes, doing the right thing, and working hard. Partners prides itself on these core values and is the kind of company that tries to help you become who you want to be.

Knitting Mills held similar values for the many years it was in business. Proof of these values can still be seen in the break room on the upper floor. Pictures of co-workers with their arms around each other laughing and eating at company parties can still be found hanging on its walls. Many in Winona found their first job with one of these organizations. Originally looking for a paycheck, employees left with a sense of pride in the work that they were doing. Passion can take you all over the world but it’s something special when it keeps bringing you back to the same community.            

Communities anguish the loss of such iconic landmarks as the Knitting Mills building and the YWCA but they can take solace knowing that Partners exemplifies the same values once held by these organizations. Although still in its infancy, the Winona center currently provides services to nearly 30 families in Winona proper and its surrounding communities. Our communities change like the seasons but the values they hold will endure the test of time.