We are so excited to spotlight one of our incredible staff members, Angel Reese, Performance Improvement Specialist. Angel is a pivotal part of our team who has been with MOKA for over 15 years! Angel’s hard work and commitment to MOKA is awe inspiring and we can’t wait for you to get to know more about her and her journey with MOKA.

Thank you to Hannah Kater, Executive Assistant, for capturing Angel’s journey in the following interview and a huge thank you to Angel for sharing your story. We are so grateful to have you as part of the MOKA family.

When did you start with MOKA?

I started with MOKA in April of 2006.

Can you tell me what you do in your current role?
I oversee a lot of our quality process and I help to ensure that those things are happening. I am very instrumental in the overall direction of our accreditation activities with CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities). So I am the one who helps to set the stage and make sure that we have everything in a row for our evaluation. I do a lot with stakeholder feedback; satisfaction surveys, a lot of data collecting, program evaluation, looking at overall performance improvement and our outcomes map management. I’m also the Corporate Compliance Officer.

What previous positions have you held at MOKA?
I started out as a front desk receptionist for MOKA and I was in that position for about six months. Tom (Zmolek, former MOKA Executive Director) told me when I was hired that there is a lot of room for advancement with MOKA. From my receptionist position I became an Administrative Assistant in what was called the Employment Answers Network, which is now Community Supports. I did that for a while with a really big emphasis on CARF and connecting with the administrative assistants and supports to try to get them training. We were trying to have a way of reconnecting as an administrative group, because it’s a group that doesn’t get to interact except for when it’s needed.

The position that I’m in right now is Performance Improvement Specialist. MOKA created this role for me because of the unique things that I have done. My move to Performance Improvement Specialist created more opportunities for administrative positions. There were always opportunities at MOKA administratively, so I’ve never felt like I was ever just stuck in one position.

You’ve gone through a few different transitions, can you tell me more about why you stuck with MOKA through all those role changes?
Before I started with MOKA, I had a previous relationship with the organization. In my previous employment, I was a trainer and programmer for phones. This included being behind the scenes and talking to people in the inside. You see a lot of a company’s culture when you are behind the scenes, because a lot of times that persona or the image you see at the “front door,” that’s kind of where it stops. One thing I appreciated when I walked beyond MOKA’s “front doors” were that I never felt like it was a toxic environment. It was always pleasant; you could just see the positive culture there. People seemed happy to be at work. I was like, “this is awesome.”

Our company had to downsize and I was laid off because of the economy. They didn’t have enough work or new customers, so I was let go. I was getting ready to have a baby at the time so I was thinking “how am I going to ever get another job?” I’m very pregnant, I couldn’t hide my pregnancy in an interview, so I thought “I’ll just wait until after I have the baby and we’ll just go from there.” I happened to see a posting from MOKA and thought “oh, well, this is interesting.” The initial posting that I applied for was the Executive Assistant to the Executive Director. I didn’t get job. Thankfully, I was recommended another position with MOKA by the Executive Director himself. He told me “I know it’s not exactly the Executive Assistant and the pay is not the same. But I know at least within six months, I’m sure you’ll be promoted because there’s definitely room for advancement.” So I went ahead and applied for that too and I got the job!

During this whole transition, I saw that what I had encountered before actually working with MOKA wasn’t just my imagination. The culture made you feel like you wanted to be there. People really wanted to do their best. In the beginning I didn’t have a lot of direct connections with people served. But I started to make those relationships and those connections within six months. I found that it was so rewarding to make those connections – you see the progress being made, the care that the staff has for everyone, it’s above and beyond. It’s like, “wow, this is really, really great.”

That’s such a neat back story. The fact that you were able to see MOKA while you were working for another company. That just speaks volumes to the culture itself.

What is the most meaningful part of your job?
I know in my role that things that I do make a difference. Even though I may not be in a direct care role, one on one, I know that in my role, I can build relationships with the people we serve. I get to hear the success stories and that alone is rewarding because I know I’m working for a good organization and the things that I do help to impact that and make this organization even better. I feel like my role is to help us move to the next phase or to be a support in that. That’s really rewarding because of the mission that we have here. I truly believe that everybody’s role is so instrumental in what we do regardless of if you’re providing direct care, which is key, but also if you’re one of our administrative supports. We’re kind of like the behind the scenes team. I think just being able to be a part of something bigger than myself is probably the most rewarding piece of it.

Tell me about a specific time when you knew you made a difference..
I didn’t even know I had made a difference at the time, but it was when I was at the Kent County annual picnic. This was before COVID, so we were able to be out and hold events in person. This was the first time I went to one of residential’s annual events. While we were there, Tracey (Hamlet, Executive Director) said, ‘there’s somebody who would like to meet you.” I said, “OK, this is great, I’m game.” The person I met was so excited to speak with me because she had seen me on our identifying fraud flyer. There was a picture of me and our previous IT manager on there, and everyone is supposed to have it posted in their locations. She was thrilled that there’s someone that looks like me that works at MOKA. So when she saw me, she made me feel like a celebrity. I felt like I had an impact on someone’s life just because I was in the picture and that my representation mattered. I never thought in a million years that would ever happen. My cheeks were probably hurting from all the smiling I did, but it was really good interacting with her. It’s really about making those connections.

What makes you proud to work at MOKA?

One thing that make me proud are that people that do know about MOKA talk about all the great things we are doing. No matter if it’s coming from a parent or guardian, the information that I see when I get the satisfaction surveys in the comments are really thoughtful. They recognize the quality of our services, that we go above and beyond, that we’re not making this up as we go along; we really do work with the people we serve. And I really do appreciate that. I feel proud to work for an organization, although not widely known, that I know is a great company. When someone asks me about it, I’m really happy to tell them what we do, especially when people say it’s a coffee and I’m like, “No, I’m not a barista.”

I am also so proud that we have had two great Executive Directors, with great leadership; that is something a lot of people don’t get to have where they work. I’m proud to be able to be a part of that. Tom picked a very great successor. I can see the movement and the things that we’ve changed and have cultivated just within the transition to Tracey. So I’m proud of that and I’m proud of our community leaders and our funders who recognize our value.

I am proud that we don’t take things at face value. We will find out more information about things. We don’t just say, “well, the funder wants us to do it this way…”.  We kind of have some pushback. We’re not afraid to take some risks if we know it is the right thing to do. I appreciate that, because we could be saying “yes, we’ll do it this way or that way,” and we’re not going to get anywhere because we have to comply with so many different agencies and people. I’m glad that they’ve kept that focus on the people we serve, on the employees and on us as an organization while still meeting those needs and the requirements that are asked of us.

MOKA is a great company, and unfortunately, not everybody knows about us. I’m proud to be on the team that is working on MOKA’s community awareness. It’s something we’ve been needing to do for a long time.

Thank you so much for your time, Angel. We are proud to have you on our team.