SANDWICH – Employers looking to find good workers and to keep them might want to listen to Hannah Morkert-Kresl.
During the pandemic’s first summer, the young woman changed jobs.
“I wasn’t happy. I didn’t feel valued,” said Morkert-Kresl, a college-educated professional on a career path of helping people in need of therapy.
The Yorkville native lives in Oswego with her husband and had been working as the activities director of an area nursing home for about a year when the pandemic struck in March of 2020.
With the patients locked down in their rooms, Morkert-Kresl was working harder than ever.
“We were doing everything we could,” Morkert-Kresl said, bringing activities directly to individual patients. But she said she did not feel management appreciated her efforts.
“They told me I wasn’t doing enough,” Morkert-Kresl said. “I was doing the best with what I had.”
It wasn’t too long before Morkert-Kresl decided that she needed to make a change.
“I stuck it out for a while, but I wanted to be at a place where I was valued so I just started looking at job listings,” she said. “I didn’t want to be treated that way anymore.”
Before long, Morkert-Kresl had two job offers. One was from an area state-run mental health institution.
The other came from the non-profit Open Door Rehabilitation Center in Sandwich and seemed to be more the kind of place for which she had been looking.
“I could tell during the job interview that they care about their clients,” Morkert-Kresl said. “And they wanted to know about me.”
Not only did the job pay more than the nursing home, but it also came with some incentives.
Morkert-Kresl receives tuition payments for online classes, allowing her to advance her education and professional credentials.
Open Door also helps pay for gym memberships. Morkert-Kresl works out at Dominion Martial Arts in Oswego, where she trains in Muay Thai, a kickboxing sport.
“It’s a great stress reliever,” Morkert-Kresl said. “It’s nice to have an outlet.”
But the biggest incentive for Morkert-Kresl, she said, is that now she feels valued in her work.
Since August of 2020, Morkert-Kresl has been Open Door’s recreation manager, leading a staff that serves adults aged 18 and up with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Most of Open Door’s clients live in one of 10 group homes located all over the Sandwich community.
They come to the non-profit’s headquarters and recreation center at 405 S. Wells St. for programing, as well as a separate workshop elsewhere in the community.
“We want them to use everything they have to live their lives the best they can,” Morkert-Kresl said.
Activities range from exercise to games to socializing.
At the “West Workshop” they play foosball and air hockey, take self-defense classes and even learn about automobile mechanics.
The clients participate in fund-raising events to help other social service agencies. On a recent day Open Door was holding a food drive to benefit the Kendall County Food Pantry.
“We teach our clients what it is to give back to others,” Morkert-Kresl said.
Morkert-Kresl attended Yorkville High School and later graduated from Aurora Christian High School. She is skilled in therapeutic recreation, healthcare and expressive art therapies.
She graduated from Marian University in Wisconsin with a degree in art therapy and for a time worked at a mental health facility in West Virginia before returning to Illinois.
The pandemic was something of a catharsis for Morkert-Kresl to make the decision to look for a new position.
Now she serves on Open Door’s staff appreciation committee and works on the center’s newsletter, which is published every other month.
Most importantly, Morkert-Kresl feels appreciated for the work she is doing.
Asked for her advice to others, Morkert-Kresl did not hesitate.
“Self-care is the key. If you’re miserable, you’re not taking care of yourself,” she said. “I want people to know not to sell themselves short.”