Successful organizations with longevity employ dedicated staff members who also have longevity. Hoyleton Youth and Family Services was established in 1895, and, though we do not have anyone on staff who was working 127 years ago when it all began,we do have multiple members of our staff who have been part of Hoyleton for multiple decades.
Martina Taylor, who came to the United States from Germany, has been a big part of Hoyleton’s mission for 34 years. Her journey began as a call-in youth care worker in 1988, and Martina is presently the Program Manager at Main St. Cottage. “I think I have been the manager at every cottage but one,” Martina said. When asked about her 34-year career caring for developmentally delayed youth in residential care, her response came easy, “I am better for it,” she said. “Hoyleton has always been a good place for me to work. If you care about kids and are passionate about wanting to give them a normal life, Hoyleton is a great place to be.” Martina attributes the longevity of her career to the camaraderie she has had with co-workers throughout the years. She explained that they endured and grew up together because of many emotional experiences with the youth in their care. “This job takes patience, reassurance, and forgiveness each and every day,” Martina said. “I learned to talk to youth not at them. I also learned to be sincere while also being firm and realistic. You can’t make promises you can’t keep with these kids – they have been through too much.” As Martina looks to her official retirement in August, and reflects on her career, she said, “These kids gave me more than I gave them. Caring for special youth who battle trauma and hardship in their life taught me resilience and patience.” Martina says she has worked with many wonderful people throughout her time at Hoyleton. She also knows she helped to raise hundreds of children and, “Maybe a few staff, too,” she added with a smile!
Lehre House Program Manager, Devrolette (Dee) Fischer’s career at Hoyleton did not begin in direct care. She started as a part-time secretary, who was highly recommended to Hoyleton CEO, Chris Cox, by someone in the social services industry. Chris trusted and respected the woman who introduced him to Dee and after meeting her he agreed she was someone who had great potential. Chris knew early on that Dee could do great things for Hoyleton, so she transitioned out of administration and started gaining direct care experience as a youth care worker doing community outreach programs like after school care and the Youth at Risk program. “I’ve always had a passion for children,” Dee said. “So I took to the direct care work easily.” After 20 years with Hoyleton, she was offered the Program Manager position at Lehre House by Child Welfare Director Sharon Schultz. Dee knew working with the population in the foster care system came with a whole new level of challenges. However, Sharon assured her she would have support in the new role. ‘Miss Dee’ as her clients call her, said, “I just had to open up my heart a little more – like all the way open and I would be fine.” Dee possesses the right combination of nurturing and leadership skills to manage both the seven clients currently living at Lehre House as well as staff. She admits she gets lost in the work sometimes because there is always something happening in that environment. “You have to be prepared for anything!” Dee said. Dee recalls getting a wonderful compliment recently from a client who was transitioning out of care. He said, “I wish I could stay to see what you are going to do next because you are doing great things here.”
Office Manager Mary Kelly has been with Hoyleton for more than 20 years. In her position, she gets to know many of the foster care clients as they come to her office to check in before meeting with a clinician or case manager. One of the things she appreciates about Hoyleton is the open environment to discuss things such as spirituality – something very important in Mary’s life. As a woman of strong Christian faith, she once bought a bible for a client who told her “her heart was hurting.” As Mary interacted with clients who were experiencing hardship, she always showed them grace and compassion. Sometimes she runs into former clients out in the community that she remembers seeing in the office, and it makes her happy to see them all grown up.
“When you have worked for Hoyleton for over 30 years, it is hard to pinpoint a favorite memory,” said Residential Campus Office Manager Tammie Watts. “I have so many wonderful memories of our staff and youth that I cannot pick just one.” Tammie transitioned from the development office to the residential program nearly 13 years ago. “I enjoy working at the residential campus because there is more interaction with the youth,” Tammie said. She loves having the opportunity to watch them open gifts at Christmas or play games out on the ball field. “Sometimes the children just come to my office to sit and chat. It is so rewarding to witness the accomplishment they feel when they are ready to move on from our care.” When asked what it takes to dedicate 30 years of your life to Hoyleton, Tammie said, “You have to truly believe in the mission. I am proud to be part of an organization with so many programs to help people who need this type of care.” As a result of her commitment to the organization, Tammie is now certified in the TCI Train the Trainers Curriculum. “I have learned so much and I enjoy
training our staff about how trauma and crisis affect our youth and what we can do to help them through difficult times.”
Chris & Jennifer Cox
Hoyleton President and CEO Chris Cox has been with the organization for 32 years and often describes his career in social services as his ‘calling.’ “It has been a privilege to work side by side with some of the most caring and passionate people I have ever met,” he said. Chris met his wife Jennifer at Hoyleton when they were both youth care workers for the summer program during college. Jennifer said she accepted a position at Hoyleton because she thought it would look good on her resume and go along with her degree in social work. She had not planned to continue working at Hoyleton for the next three decades, and she never dreamed she would also meet her husband because of that summer program. Jennifer said the first summer at Hoyleton was eye-opening. “I had no idea what a residential program was really like. Everything I knew about residential care came from TV or movies. Working at Hoyleton removed the stigma surrounding mental health and trauma for me,” she said. When asked about the importance of this type of work, Jennifer shared a memory of a time she was working in the Independent Living program and had a close bond with a client. Jennifer’s client, Rachel, was given the opportunity to study aboard while in college. After about a week of being in Costa Rica, Rachel called Jennifer in the middle of the night crying because she was homesick and wanted to come home. Jennifer calmed her down and convinced her to try and stick it out a few more days before making that decision. As it turned out, Rachel finished the program and had a wonderful experience but again called Jennifer – this time to ask to be picked up from the airport when she returned. Jennifer went to the gate to meet her, and Rachel came running out to hug her. “It was at that moment I realized I was Rachel’s person,” Jennifer said. “It was very humbling when I realized I could be someone’s main person because they had no one else to depend on. I learned through that experience that Hoyleton was doing very important work.”
Being acutely aware of the struggles and challenges of the underserved population in the Southern Illinois region, the dedicated staff at Hoyleton has grown the organization to new levels, so they can provide the services needed to individuals in their communities. It is often said that people don’t go into non-profit social services work for the money, but it was also said by many of these dedicated employees at Hoyleton that they are richer for it. What began as an orphanage over 127 years ago continues to be a focused mission with dedicated staff who work hard every day to build stronger communities one child at a time.